Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Re: How to go about organzing a race for non yacht club members?
This is my post that ArcB mentioned above. It specifically included items that related to what he was doing, but there still may be useful information here as well:
I have organized races from scratch a few times in the past. In some ways it is not as easy as it used to be, in others its easier. In the past, I simply put posters up at local sailing clubs, called the local news paper, held an organizational meeting, and who ever showed up, raced. It was very casual, but turn out tended to be small.
In recent years, the internet makes in much easier to get the word out. Regional and national sources are much more accessible through their online webpages. Resources like Scuttlebutt gives you access to a very large number of people. That is the upside. The downside is that in these litigious times, you ideally will need to carry insurance to protect the race organizers, and volunteers. and it seems to be very difficult to get that insurance if the organization isn't incorporated. (I have been on the board of CHESSS, Chesapeake Shorthanded Sailing Society for over 3 years now and we have just gotten incorporated and are working on obtaining insurance.) Ideally, it is most expeditious if the race can be run under the auspices of an existing organization that already has insurance in place.
But beyond the organizational issues, there are a large number of basic items to resolve. If you are running a normal race, its not too bad, but if you are running a race that deviates from being able to use US Sailing's standard adopted rules, then you need to be thoughtful about the implications of those deviations and in how those deviations are written. A race like the one you are proposing should have its own supplementary safety rules as well as rules that define the box of what is permitted vs not allowed. For example you use the term 'sail and oar' does that include paddles and are pedal powered boats allowed? Is there a crew size limit? How is the actual course defined? (This can be a problem since small shallow boats can go places that they probably shouldn't without adding greatly to the risk, but how to you police that?) And you will find when it comes to safety issues, if there is a group working on the safety rules, it can be very hard to reach a consensus. (We went through that with CHESSS when we wrote our safety rules.)
There are always the rule of unintended consequences. For example the first race that I was involved in initiating was a single-handed race. Historically, 19th century races began with the boats at anchor and for reason's that I no longer remember, we decided to start that race from being at anchor. That led to all kinds of craziness that we had not anticipated, such as boats being anchored with a concrete block and crab trap line, and when the gun went off, and the sails were raised, the crab line was simply released, the concrete block abandoned, and the boat was off. They met the literal language of starting at anchor, but nothing required them to being the anchor and rode with them.
There are organizational functional aspects of this as well. Are there chase boats? Is there a central radio base monitoring 24/7 for boats in trouble? Are competitors required to check in with position reports? Are these coded so other competitors can't use the info strategically? How about issues like PFD's and Harnesses? Does the race committee seek out specific locations along the route where competitors are allowed to stop and rest or are they allowed to stop anywhere they feel like? If designated stopping and camping grounds are set aside, are competitors required to check in, or can the skip that site and keep going? If not, how do you prevent competitors from pulling up in places which do not legally allow landing? How are repairs handled? Do they have to carry all of their gear to camp for the night, and spares to make a repair along the way, or can they have a pit crew carrying their gear and spares to where one of the stopover points? Will you have multiple classes racing? Will your provide trophies? Will there be a rating system to correct for clearly faster or slower boats? How do you address something like a foiler that can do the race in 3-4 hours?
My sense is that in the old days a race like this could have been pulled off pretty quickly and for nearly free. These days, my sense is that there is a lot more cost and time required to do something like this safely and successfully.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay