New To Race Committee - Etiquette Please! - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 05-19-2011 Thread Starter
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New To Race Committee - Etiquette Please!

Hi Everyone - Dh and I are novice sailors who've been invited to work on the Race Committee at the local YC. We are new to sailing and *really* new to racing, having crewed a handful of times last season (dh crewed in the local NOOD). When we received an e-mail about volunteering, my response was that we'd love to learn anything and everything w/out doing any damage! I know that hard work and following directions are the biggies, but I'm curious and excited about the specifics.

Practice starts begin this weekend:

What are the various roles of members of the RC?
What will be likely be asked to do?
Will we be in a watching/learning mode?
Hands on?
Mostly on shore?

In addition to helping us get started in a dignified way, any advice re major do's and don'ts/gaffs hugely appreciated!

We haven't joined a club yet, and this one is our fave so we feel a little bit like we're auditioning and want to make a good impression. Any thoughts about little extras that will endear us without being obnoxious?

Many thanks!
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post #2 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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Race committee duty general involves the following:

Off the water: Handling registrations, sorting out storage issues/moorage, assigning handicaps if required etc.

On the water:
From mark boats:
Setting/moving anchored marks for courses and pins for startlines.
Possible rescue/safety duties
Observing mark roundings and possibly taking times

On the Committee boat:
Running prestart timing routines
Hoisting/dousing the various required flags
"Sighting" the start line at the gun for 'over earlies'
Possibly attempting to hail said over earlies'
Assisting in accurately identifying yachts/boats as they finish.
... making coffee????

It's unlikely you'd be pressed into critical service and would be sure to be directed by an experienced race officer unless this is a really casual low keyed event.

It is a learning experience and will prove worthwhile, and will give you a better perspective on the whole racing experience even when you're sailing.


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".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)
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post #3 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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Radio dood
horn dood

You'll probably be asked to do 2 of those things, since there are 2 of you.

You'll be in a doing mode.

Hands on, it's not hard, just make sure you know exactly what to do at what time. A little cheat sheet taped to your sleeve help, but you might get laughed at.

Mostly on the water. I really hate on shore RC's. How the hell are they supposed to figure out who was over early from 800yds away.

Don't get seasic or complain.
Where clothes that are appropriate for the conditions.
Don't be down below putting on a jacket anytime after 6 minutes till the start. You can HTFU and be cold for 5 minutes. Then put the jacket on.

Honestly, it's not that hard. Just know what your flags are. And if you're going to get into racing, get a GPS with a timer and a stopwatch or second hand. Or a sailing watch with a countdown timer on it. It helps.

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post #4 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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It can be a thankless job, which is why some boats make a point of thanking the rc as they pass the finish line. You will need to be out there well before the race starts, and stay out there regardless of conditions and boredom until the Dead Last But Finished boat comes in. Make sure you've got clothing and food, drink, sunblock, to deal with "I'm gonnabe stuck on a boat all day" because during the bulk of the racing, you'll be stuck on a boat. If you have binoculars, that can make it more interesting.
You'll need lots of patience and attention, if you miss something or mis-time it, see "thankless job" above.
A lot of clubs rotate rc duty among all series entrants, or use other ways to get volunteers rotated in so they don't burn out.
And then of course there's the racing rules. It is the racers job, not yours, to say what did or didn't happen. But if you're going to follow it, or serve on the protest committee, you'll want to obtain the racing rules, read them until most seem clear, and then get hold of one of the many books on the rules (!) to see how they apply in context. And possibly one of the books of appeals and protests, that also explain how protests have been decided and rules applied, setting precedents.
If you are also racing, or considering racing, all that reading will also pay off. Anyone who can really understand the rules on a racing boat, is armed with a very useful weapon.

But for the committee boat? Mainly, patience, and attention to timing. Keep your focus on the clock and what's assigned to you. Hoist a flag two seconds too fast or slow--and they're all going to be cursing you. (See "thankless job", above.)
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post #5 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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Congratulations on being invited to participate in this valuble service to the racing community. Bring two or three pencils, ample water, suncreen, sunglasses and croakie, a hat, a wind cheater, and enough cookies to share. If you have and know how to use a handbearing compass, you may find it useful.

Avoid idle conversation during the pre-race countdown sequence and while finishes are being recorded. There will be ample opportunites to chat at other times.
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post #6 of 8 Old 05-19-2011 Thread Starter
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Totally intimidated here! Thank goodness I learn by doing!
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post #7 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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Several of the above replies cover the basics. If you are new, the PRO (Principal Race Officer) will give you instructions on which role you will take. As noted above, on the signal boat there will be a timer, a signal person (raising & lowering flags or shapes), a recorder (recording times, finishes and other notes), and a spotter. A good PRO will give everyone instruction on their role.

Watching racers from a race committee perspective is very instructive as you get an entirely different perspective than when racing. The job can be challenging in trying to set a fair course and a square line in shifting winds but it's very gratifying when it all works.

In advance you should get a copy of the Racing Rules of Sailing and familiarize yourself with the signal flags and the starting sequence. You should also get a set of the Sailing Instructions (SI's) for the event or club series you will work on. This will give you a pretty clear picture of what will happen.

Arrive early with extra pencils, pad or notebook, sunscreen, hat, water etc. The note above about quiet during the start sequence and while recording finishers is a good point.

Have fun. It's a great way to be out on the water.
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post #8 of 8 Old 05-19-2011
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I try to make RC duty more enjoyable by bringing along hors d'oeuvres to share with the other committee members on board. After the racers are gone, there's usually an hour or so to have something. Iced tea, lemonade, or cold sodas might be nice- or hot chocolate - depending upon the weather. A 6" brie and some crackers is always delicious, or if healthier types are prevalent, some veggies with a vinaigrette dip can make the time more enjoyable. Make sure there's room on the boat for what you plan to bring, though, and that your duties will allow you to enjoy it. Crackers are not going to stay on a plate that's bouncing around in a whaler, setting marks, for example.
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