Following on from my post last month on the RYA Spring Series event, I have been asked to write a monthly piece for the Sailing Southwest website. As one of the youngest qualified RYA Race Officers, and currently working towards my National Race Officer qualification, I am going to focus this column on looking at events from a unique, Race Management perspective. However, I am also involved in many other aspects of the sport including instructing, coaching and of course racing. Furthermore, I am currently studying Ship Science at the University of Southampton and am planning to specialise in yacht and small craft design so I may occasionally stray off topic!
Most club sailors have to occasionally run racing at their home club. Whilst I enjoy Race Management, I realise that for a lot of people it is more of a chore and they would much rather be racing. Therefore, in this post, I am going to share some tips with you to make running a club race a bit easier, and how to use Race Management to improve your own sailing.
Top Tips for running a club race:
Plan ahead – spend 5-10 minutes in the week leading up to your duty to take a look at the forecast and tide times (if applicable). Think about where you are likely to want to set the course and if your Committee Boat dries out, have a think about when you need to be there to get her out.
Talk to the sailors – if you are unsure about whether it is suitable conditions for racing, where to lay the course or even how to do something, have a word with a more experienced sailor at your club – normally they will be happy to help. Don’t cancel racing on the say-so of one sailor though – it may be to their advantage in the series not to go out!
Leave the harbour early – this will give you time to motor out and work out where you want to set the course without any pressure.
Record sail numbers before the start if possible – this will help you out later on.
The start line is more important than the windward mark – a typical club race may take place in shiftier conditions than a regatta. As long as boats have to put in a few tacks to reach the windward mark that will probably be OK. In comparison, it is important to get the start line square – but it only has to be square for five minutes!
Safety is the priority – remember that during the race, your main job is to keep an eye on the sailors to make sure they are all upright. If someone goes over, instruct a safety boat to stand by. Safety boats should stay upwind of the fleet as it is faster to motor downwind than up.
Record times – most club races will be handicap races. Get one person to watch the boats, and another to call the times.
How to use Race Management to improve your racing:
Watch the start – being on the Committee Boat gives a unique perspective on the start that you normally can’t see when you are racing. Have a look at the top sailors at your club and see where they position their boat throughout the start sequence, and how early they accelerate. Compare them to a similar boat and see where they come out after the start, and where they are ranked at the end of the first lap.
Work out which way you would go – before the start, take a look upwind and work out which way you would go if you were racing. Then watch the boats and see who goes which way, and who comes out on top. Again, it is much easier to spot pressure, tide, shifts etc from a Committee Boat.
Watch the leeward mark rounding – normally, you have a good view of the leeward mark from the Committee Boat. Watch how the top sailors round and how much they can gain on the less experienced sailors. If there is a big gaggle of boats all rounding at once, watch closely and think about the rules that apply and who has used the situation to their advantage and who has lost out.
For more information on Race Management or to see what I am up to, check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/JamesRipleySailboatRacingServices).