If you’ve ever served on the race committee (RC), you know that it can be challenging. There are lots of “moving parts” to put in place for a fair course and on-time start. Although RCs rarely complain, we all know that sometimes competitors contribute to the challenges. Here’s a fun article from Sailing World about a sailor who begins to see things from the RC perspective.
We asked Larry Krause to share some thoughts about how the competitors can help. Larry is a certified club race officer and has much experience in regional and national level regattas.
Off Season Preparation
As the racing season approaches, the RCs selected for each regatta are busy writing the sailing instructions and making needed changes due to new rules or input received from the fleets.
RCs work with the host clubs to inventory all of the equipment needed for competition, and recommend the purchase of new equipment where needed. This includes buoys, flags, boats, motors, anchorage, starting systems, radios, and RC staffing.
With all of the preparation completed, it will soon be time to sail! While at the regatta, here are a few things you should consider that may ease some of the frustrations by the race committee.
Read them! They contain everything you need to know about how the races will be managed. They are usually provided well in advance of the regatta and include the starting procedure, courses, buoys, etc. I’m always amazed at the number of sailors who don’t read them.
Attend it! The briefing will provide any last minute updates to the SIs, as well as some general regatta information that may have changed since the NOR/SIs were prepared.
Be on time to the start
The race committee is usually on the water an hour before the start of the first race of the day. I don’t know of any RC member who likes to start a race when they see a boat just leaving the dock when it is a mile away. When races are sailed back to back, sail back to the starting area immediately after finishing the first race so the next race isn’t delayed.
Be sure to have a VHF radio with you while racing. It is used as the main communications tool with the RC. Most RCs will be on the radio for countdowns to the start of each race, and to keep you informed on what is happening. A good radio costs about $100.
Breaking a rule on the water
If you break a rule on the water, exonerate yourself as soon as possible by doing your circle(s). Do this even if nobody protests you. Race committees routinely see rules being broken by a competitor who simply keeps sailing and doesn’t do the right thing. If you are a competitor and see a rule being broken by a boat who doesn’t exonerate herself, file a protest.
Some classes allow the use of a GPS device to help them know where the starting line is at the start. In a large fleet, the starting line is between the flags on the designated RC boats. The RC boats have a long anchor and can move a great deal during the starting sequence. The deeper the water, the more they move. Plus, those GPS devices are only accurate plus or minus ten feet. Keep that in mind when starting the race.
Challenge Yourself with the Race Signals Worksheet
Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020: Conduct of a Race: Rules 30 – 33
Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020: Rules 21-24: Exoneration, Taking Penalties, Avoiding, Interfering