Erith Yacht Club

The finest sailing water on the tidal Thames

Erith Yacht Club
Anchor Bay,
Erith, Kent, DA8 2AD
Tel. 01322 332943
Secretary (PO Box 231, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA7 9AZ)
Tel 0208 310 2686

Site Updated
Apr 20 2012
Untitled Document


EYC race officer at the X-Yachts regatta in the Solent, 15th July 2005

Earlier this year driven by my insatiable desire to learn new things I participated at the race-officer training course although I am new to sailing and not English mother tongue. The course was given by two international race officers, Mr David Arnold and Mr Martin Bedford.
After several e-mail exchanges earlier this year with the two race officer I managed to be invited by Mr Arnold to the X-Yachts Solent Cup held at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble from 6th to 9th July 2005. My idea was that a direct exposure in a big regatta would boost my understanding of the race officer job. What follows is a report of the two days when I was assisting Mr Arnold and some general information about the regatta. Five different companies sponsored the event. 31 racing teams participated.
The racing programme previewed five races over three days. At the end of each day there was a social event: a BBQ, a theme dinner or on the last day the prize giving dinner. The main racing area was 4 nautical miles south from Hamble point buoy. In the area there are officially marked buoys every one or two nautical miles. Mr David Arnold, the principal race officer (PRO), gave the skippers briefing on 6th July 2005 to the 31 racing teams. The five different X-Yachts classes have five different starts for each of the planned races. Protests have to be delivered to the race office at the latest 30 minutes after the return of the main committee boat to the Royal Southern Yacht Club pontoon. Races are planned to last approximately 2 hours. Boats not finishing within the time limit of 30 minutes after the first boat are scored 'Did Not Finish'. Competitors are advised that boats should not pass within 1500 metres ahead of a commercial vessel under way, but the sailing area was away from the traffic channel.
There were four committee boats. I was on 'EOS', the main committee boat (MCB), an Amel Maramu yacht 13.8 metres long. The MCB was mainly responsible for laying the course and organising the starts.

We were nine people on the boat: the PRO, the skipper, the time announcer, one person dealing with the flags, one with the gun, two for spotting and recording, one at the course board and myself. 'Lady Barbara', another nice boat, registered the finishing times (5 people). A RIB 'Rex King' was laying the marks (2 people). A Lochin 33 called 'Knights Challenge' was the jury boat (2 people), but I think it was not always around.
On the day I arrived an amendment to the Sailing Instructions has just been posted on the Official Notice Board (ONB). Instead of having five different starts, there would have been only three starts now. As previewed by the Sailing Instructions the 'L' flag and the sequential number of the amendment were displayed on the sailing club and on the MCB. The MCB left Hamble at 8.30, i. e. two hours before the scheduled departure time. In about half an hour we arrived already in the starting area around ''. At 9.00 the PRO broadcasted to all participants a time check, current wind conditions and any recommendation for the race like for example to take extra care at the start of Article 22.1 of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS).
Then the PRO established two different courses: one for the family classes and one for the sport classes. Family classes start first, have less marks to round, the course is 20% shorter and it is not allowed to use the spinnaker. The length of the course for the sport classes was around 10-12 nm each time, because of the very little wind there was on these days. The course is decided on a map that has little nails in the place of the buoys. A string is laid down from the departing point. The distances from one buoy to the other are calculated straight away as well as the cumulative distance. The course is broadcasted later to the participants and displayed on the MCB through symbols. A green or a red border indicates if the buoy has to be rounded on port or on the starboard side. The finishing buoy was always the one nearer to Hamble to get quicker back home. Between the first race and the second race on each day there was a 15 minutes break after the last boat finished the first race.
Participants arrived at the starting area at 10. 00 and the 5 minutes starting sequence started at 10. 30. The MCB is so long that an orange flag is fixed on a shroud with an adhesive tape to determine the exact end of the start line. The other end called the outer distance mark (ODM) was a big black inflatable triangular buoy. An inner distance mark (IDM) had to be laid each time approximately 15 metres from the MCB also in order to make the boats not to come to near to the MCB. The first leg was always a perfectly windward start. The starting sequence was the same as I experienced in Erith a couple of times. The start is broadcasted on VHF channel 72 and at the same time registered on a voice recorder. The PRO explains into the recorder like a sport commentator what is happening on the water. The gun that was used was similar to a colt. It was firing cartridges that exploded in the air one second later. All nine starts I have seen were all clear starts. I did not see how the results were recorded, re-calculated, transmitted to the sailing club and how quickly posted on the ONB. Later in the evening of the last day all the results were nicely posted.
At the end I was very pleased with this experience. My hosts were all very friendly with me. The Solent is an excellent sailing area. On Saturday there were at least four other regattas going on in the same Solent area. Please feel free to contact me if you wish further information.

Hendrik Feddersen, EYC member