Monday, January 19, 2015

I Blame the Sailors

Just back from the RYA Trials to select a team for the World Team Racing Championships, where I was acting as an Umpire, and I worry about whether the Umpiring will work.

The plan is to have two Umpire boats per race, with two Umpires in each boat. This usually works well, at the average event, but when the racing gets hot it is not unusual for the race to split into three separate pairs and with the best will in the world there is no way that two Umpire boats can cover this situation.

At a 'normal' event we have the flexibility to call for help and often there is another Umpire available, as other matches resolve themselves to simpler situations. This will not be the case at a Worlds where protocol is set and you do not deviate from the plan. 'Normal' events have tended to go to three umpire boats for the final knock out stages anyway.

The question is will it matter - will there be many closely fought races where three pairs get widely separated? Will the sailors feel cheated or just accept it? Who knows?

Given that cost is an issue would it be better to have only one Umpire in each Umpire boat (and then put three boats on each race)? Are they unbiased, do two eyes help you see more? Do both umpires have to see the incident - if you are trying to cover with only two umpire boats it is inevitable that they have to split their attention. So you are going to have an individual Umpire making the call anyway. We had some races where there was only one Umpire in the boat due to the need for a comfort break - I would guess that the Worlds will have a 'relief' Umpire available.

We do our best but the sailors do tend to push things.

Friday, January 9, 2015


The event I was due to go to this weekend has been cancelled due to forecast strong winds. In two weekends I have an event planned and will have to make a similar decision. I don't envy those responsible for this weekends decision and I am not looking forward to having to make my decision.

The disruption to peoples plans and the expenses which are incurred make it a really difficult.
What does not help these days is the way the weather is reported. Yesterday I had a really good day sailing. Quite a lot of people were surprised and spoke of 100 mph winds being forecast.

Such winds were indeed forecast but for a relatively small area of Scotland and not until the evening. The forecast was for our area was that the rain would clear through and winds drop as a ridge of higher pressure passed us. And indeed that is what happened. The forecast wind was at the top end of force 4 but in fact turned out to be at the bottom end of Force 4.

The difficulty is that a difference of only 5 kts can make such a difference. At the NSSA Regatta in 2012 the fleets were coping at 16kts average windspeed. As soon as that went up to 18kts Race Officers were calling in saying the boats were not coping and we were abandoning racing.

The other difficulty is that, I suspect, most websites tend to go for a "worst case" probability when forecasting winds - and they can never be aware of local geographical considerations.

The other problem these days is that if something does go wrong you will face a trial by media and you can be sure that they will base their reporting on the headline forecast. So you tend to err on the side of caution.

And all of this has to be done beforehand and everyone has an opinion. Not at all easy!