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 'Marinetrack.com'.
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
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.