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Home / Sailing / Racing instructions / Race Officer resources / Guide to being a Race Officer
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Home / Sailing / Racing instructions / Race Officer resources / Guide to being a Race Officer

Guide to being a Race Officer

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These instructions are currently being rewritten. The notes below may not be up to date.

These notes are aid a smooth and successful day.

A certain amount of preparation is essential.

Yes, it can be daunting BUT if no-one had a go then racing would not happen.

So What To Do for an interesting and well run day ?

Make sure you have an assistant Race Officer or two, AROs and if you can, encourage a "new member to come and help so that they can see what happens"

Read the Club Sailing Instructions

Check the weather forecast before you come, just to get an idea of what you are going to contend with when you get to the Sailing Club (although the reservoir does seem to have it's own weather pattern sometimes)

You will need a watch that displays seconds to time the starts - and it's easier to use one you know (a backup is also advised in case one stops) There will be a stopwatch/ timer available in the club safe or in the RO equipment box.

ROs will need to record the number of laps sailed and the elapsed time from the start for all the boats in both the fast and slow handicap fleets. It is good practice to record the time elapsed for each boat as they finish each lap. Remember races are expected to last around 40 minutes.

You may need to drive the committee boat to where you want to start the racing. Ask the Safety Team to help as necessary.If you do not have a PB2 certificate or are not confident in driving and anchoring the committee boat then ask the Safety team to drive the boat for you. You will be given a radio, just check you know how to use it and that it's working

On the Day:

Arrive at the Club with time to spare, probably no later than 09.45am for Sundays or 6pm for Wednesdays just to give yourself time to plan what to do and get a cup of coffee! Remember that the 1st race needs to start at 11:00 prompt Sundays and 18:30 Wednesdays.

Decide on the Race Area if unsure, ask experienced sailors who may be around on the day and they will be more than happy to help it's for their benefit!

If there is an Open Meeting, or other activity, on at the same time, liaise with the person in charge about respective course areas. Open Meetings have priority.

Be aware that if there is a strong westerly wind then windsurfers will likely be reaching across the reservoir from North to South Mark and a dinghy course through that section of the water may add extra hazards. If in doubt confirm your intended course with any windsurfers.

Keep well away from the area used by swimmers.

ON Sundays Start the races at 11.00am (so aim to have your committee boat in place on the line for 10.45am) The first race will start on time to ensure that a professionally run racing series is delivered. It is best to advise sailors, via the PA system, of your intended start area and that you WILL start at 11.00 prompt.

On Wednesdays the committee boat should be ready on station for you.

Place a signing on/retirement sheet on the shelf in the porch, spares in the holder above.

Obtain the equipment you will need from garage 2

Two boxes of course letters in metal cases.A -- Z + "Gate" + 1 2 3 in case extra marks are used.

Crate containing flags, recording sheets, flag chart etc.

Wooden individual recall flag on a stick

If you have any concerns ask the Safety Team or Sailing Committee members, they'll be pleased to help.

It's ALWAYS preferable to have boat starts so that the most can be made of clear wind and true beats.

Setting the Course if you have any questions, there are bound to be members of the sailing committee or experienced sailors around ASK

Shorter courses are preferable as they keep the racing boats closer together at the marks, this gives more exciting racing. Aim for a course lap time which is ~15 minutes.

Notes on course setting:

Try to ensure you get a true first beat

  • -the first mark is directly upwind and,
  • -the start line at 90o to the wind use a wind indicator or flag on top of the committee boat to check angles.
  • -As a guide the start line length should be (5m x number of boats)+ 50%. For example 20 boats x 5m = 100m + 50m= 150m. The line can be shortened as necessary but only after all fleets have started. Ask the Safety team to bring the end mark in.
  • -make sure all boats round the marks in the same direction
  • -try to have at least two laps sailed in the time available,
  • -an ideal reach for dinghies should be 135o-150o degrees to the wind
  • -avoid setting a hook finish. See definitions of "Finish" inside front cover of Racing Rules of Sailing.
  • -use a gate in the course, i.e. the committee boat and the start buoy/finish buoy, is the most convenient as it means you do not have to move the committee boat. Place the committee boat ~1/3 the distance from the leeward mark to windward. Indicate you are using a "gate finish" by posting the gate card as the finish in the board on the committee boat.

The preferred course would be a trapezoidel course.

A quick turn-around between races is very important, to ensure sailors do not have to hang around, (finishing slower boats, in any fleet, a lap early also helps this turn around).

NOTE. Boats must not go through the gate on a downwind leg.

Length of Races - Races should be governed by how long they run for not the number of laps.

Make sure you plan for a lunch stop after race 2,Start again after lunch at 1400 hrs.See how the day is going, shorter laps are more interesting than long drawn out ones.Remember sailors will be getting tired if they've raced all the races.Consider making this race shorter if need be. Towards the end of the year shorter days means Race 4 may have to be cancelled, safety always comes first)

Starting the Race:

1.Prepare your flags on the halyards

-check the orange flag is up (you are on station ready to start)

-have individual wooden recall flag and general recall flag ready for early starters

-clip on the blue peter, fast and slow handicap flags

-clip on the AP flag in case you need to postpone before the start.

2. Show the courses on the board.

3. Have someone ready, watch in hand, to shout out the countdown to each hoot.

4. There is hooter on each committee boat, a whistle tied to the crate, in case it doesn't work. Note that the the flags have priority in starting not the hooter.

5. Start the race in accordance with the Sailing Instructions, check the sail numbers of boats that have started and add any that you might have missed.

6. Note the real start time, so that you know how long the race has been running; and so that if the stop watch fails you have a point of reference...

7. PLEASE set a watch going, from zero, at the start. Record the elapsed times of all the boats as they finish. It will actually be easier and save problems publishing the results if you record the elapsed times of each boat for each lap. The results team will use the average lap times adjusted for PN number to produce the final results.

8. Captains will extract the results of boats in their fleets from the published sheet if these are required.


If any boat is on the course side of the Start Line (OCS) with one minute to go it should be recalled. Make one sound signal and display Code Flag X.

The Race Officer may hail the offender(s) and call out sail numbers but there is no obligation to do so. The onus is on the competitor to respond to the signal and to return behind the start/finish line to start again.

Display the X flag until offending competitor returns behind the start line and goes again. Any OCS starter who fails to come back is disqualified (DSQ).


If any start is unfair or many boats are OCS and sail numbers cannot be easily recorded a General Recall may be signaled.

Make Two sound signalsHoist 1st Substitute Flag

Once all boats are back behind the start line lower the 1st substitute flag and after a minute restart the sequence.

Finishing the Race:

You have a number of options:

  • 1)Finish all boats having completed the number of laps you had planned.
  • 2)You can shorten the race (for example if conditions are light and boats will not complete your planned number of laps). To shorten the race hoist the S flag with 2 hoots (shorten course) as boats approach the leeward mark. All boats coming through the finishing line, irrespective of the number of laps sailed, will be deemed to have finished.
  • 3)Slower boats can be finished a lap early if it is clear they will not the target time. They will usually be an obvious break in the fleet at the front of the slowest boats. Shorten the race (as above) as these boats approach the leeward mark. Make sure you record the number of laps sailed by each boat. Remember that all boats coming through the finish line after the S flag has been raised will be deemed to have finished the race.

After the day's racing:

a) Ask Safety Team where to leave the Committee boat. Bring all equipment ashore and replace in garage 2. Please make sure all flags are returned to the correct slot in the box and the course letters in alphabetical order in the correct box.

b) Check the retirement sheet, place the results in the plastic container above the shelf in the entrance hall.

c) Write down any defects on the Committee Boat, e.g. engine, in a duplicate book which is in a rack in the Office.

d) Any problem with flags, letters etc. report to Sailing Sec.

e) Any safety aspect must be notified immediately, to any Council member.

f) Hand the results sheet to the Results Secretary (Kev) or place them in Rob's office. Please ensure it is dated and legible and signed by the race officer.


Like most things in life, a little preparation will lead to things going much more smoothly. Allocation of the jobs to be done on board will help towards an easier day. E.g. decide who times, who writes, hoots etc.Remember to keep checking that things are going to plan - the correct flags - the correct sound signals etc. Ask for help at any time. We are all still learning and most experienced ROs get it wrong sometimes!

Remember: if it all goes wrong don't worry, it's someone else's turn next week !!!

Last updated 21:41 on 13 July 2024

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