Saturday, July 14, 2012


Just back from being Principal Race Officer at the National School Sailing Association Regatta at Weymouth. We were the last event in before the place locked down for the Olympics and, if you stood still for too long on the last day, you were either pressure washed and cleaned or painted. All the chairs dissapeared from the race office by mid aternoon and the tables went shortly after.

The NSSA had 499 sailing boats nearly 700 competitors, over 50 powerboats in support controlled using 5 radio frequencies - it was a big thing. Given the strong winds for most of the week I think we did pretty well to get 9 races for all of the fleets - there were times when we were on "thin ice" but we got away with it. The ambulance only had to come in 4 times.

As usual there are things to reflect on:-  

Scheduling Races
I schedule the maximum number of races possible given ideal conditions and don't worry if we lose races. Windsurfers started it. People who come up to me saying "We paid for 14 races and we are not getting value for money" miss the point. They have "paid" for one race - the number of races needed for a valid event - any more are a free bonus offer. Would I be better to schedule fewer races and then to play catchup if we fall behind? You sail as many races as you can - you cannot schedule extra races if you get through the programme easily - so why not go for broke? If people don't listen at briefings I have little sympathy.

We can cope -You should provide races
This was a youth event - some of the sailors were 18 - but have never heard of DUTY OF CARE. At times I doubted that the team managers had heard of this concept. The strange thing was how often the call came from my team of race officers to stop racing and get ashore, just at the point where I was thinking it was time to stop. Very nice when we all agree.
Also interesting that this point was at a mean speed of 20kts or gusting over 25. The last days wind readings were particularly interesting in going from 17 to 22 knots was the difference between a race and coming in or everyone hanging on. Only a 5kt difference. That's how narrow the difference is between all going well and a potential disaster.
Team Managers
After 10 weeks of sailing, is it responsible to send a young person out in a new bigger more powerful boat than they are used to, onto bigger water and into a force 5 which is forecast to increase?
Is it responsible to send someone who is prone to exhaustion and collapse into such conditions? The Race Officers have a right to expect Team Managers/coaches to act reasonably and responsibly. There is not an infinite duty of care - we deal with reasonable. Team managers/coaches who are unreasonable could end up in hot water.

Bad Manners
We had a couple of incidents of bad language/manners reported from on the racecourse. I want to make more use of Rule 2 to deal with these as people are beginning to ignore Rule 69. No one wants to do a report to theNational Authority so penalties almost never happen. Give them a DND and things might change.
More surprising was the sheer venom shown towards the volunteers in the Race Office from parents and team managers. They were holding the volunteers manning the desks personally responsible for whatever had them agrieved. This needs addressing and will be part of future briefs. No volunteer should have to suffer the sort of abuse or bad manners which were all too often on display.

Good Manners
The other side of the coin was the appreciation shown by some of the young sailors saying "Thank You" as they crossed the finishing lines. Also the few who understood how difficult the decisions being made were and thanked me or my team. Do not under estimate how valuable this is and how much it is appreciated.

We lost the allcomers handicap race when assets took longer to position/react than expected. It is one of the frustrations of working with volunteers who are doing their best. The other side of working with volunteers and the joy when you are all singing from the same hymn sheet and working like a well oiled machine. Mind you with 350 entries I doubt that anyone could have saved it in the weather conditions we had.