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Home / Water Activities / Sailing / Race Officer Instructions

Race Officer Instructions


RACE OFFICER – Instructions Spring 2016

These notes are aimed atall of us who sail at the Club.

The first thing to realise is that if racing is going to be run successfully 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 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 back up is also advised in case one stops) There will be a stopwatch/ timer available in the club safe or in the RO equipment box.

¨ This season all ROs will need to time ALL the boats from the second start (Flying 15 start not timed). It will be easier in the long run if you time all these boats through every lap! It is also useful to have an idea of timings for each fleet, to give an indication of how long it is taking to complete one lap. Remember races are expected to last around 45 minutes.

You may need to drive the committee boat to where you want to start the racing from, so go and have a look at the boat and controls, ask the Safety Team to give you a run down if you need to ( If in doubt ask the Safety team to drive the boat), likewise 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 just to give yourself time to plan what to do and get a cup of coffee !! Remember that the 1strace needs to start at 11.00am prompt.

The race series on a Sunday for 2015 will be an AM series of 2 races and a PM series of 2 races.

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 preference. 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 speak to some windsurfers.

Start the races at 11.00am (so aim to have your committee boat in place on the line for 10.45am)– This year the first race is to 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 WILLstart at 11.00 prompt.

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

¨ Obtain the equipmentyou will need from garage 2

¨ Two boxesof 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 askthe Safety Team or Sailing Committee members, they'll be pleased to help.

¨ Again there is emphasis this year – not the number of laps but the length (duration in minutes) of the race AND the finishing procedure allows slower dinghies, in any fleet, to finish a lap early. Use a "gate" about a third of the way up the beat to make your job even easier.

Board the Committee boat with your equipment and head off to your selected area, or climb up into the Crow's nest and start from there.

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, which gives more exciting racing. Aim for a course lap time which is 10-15minutes. (Less than 10 minutes and the first starters will pass through the gate while you still have other fleets to start). More than 15minutes and the race will have very few laps.

All Races

Try to ensure you get a true first beat – ie the first mark is directly upwind and at 90 degrees to the starting line that you are setting – use the wind indicator on top of the committee boat to check angles.

You have 2 courses to set

1. A longer course for the Flying Fifteens

2. A shorter course for the Handicap start. Please note that a shorter course is required to ensure that the slower handicap boats are able to get 3 laps if possible.

One or even two lap courses tend to be boring. Try to have at least three laps sailed in the time available, but don't be afraid to stop the race at the 40-45minute time.

Notes on course setting

Set the first leg as a true windward beat

broad reaches will compact the fleets, close reaches tends to spread the fleets

an ideal reach for dinghies should be 135-150 degrees to the wind

avoid setting a hook finish. See definitions of "Finish" inside front cover of Racing Rules of Sailing.

using a gate in the course, ie 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, nor do you have to pull the anchor up, you just need to place the committee boat some where on the first beat – there is a "letter" with a gate on for the course board to indicate a gate is being used andremember to organise a start line should be 90' to the wind and between the leeward & windward marks DO NOT MAKKE THE LINE TOO SHORT. The line should be long enough to fit all the boats if they were bow to transom along the line plus half again!! There could be 20 boats on the last start with a length of about 4m – so you may need a start line of 120m. Extra length (eg 150m) would be even better. The line can be shortened after all fleets have started. Ask the Safety team to bring the end mark in.

The preferred course would be a trapezoidal course:

Use a gate – this means you are on station to finish, and on station, (unless wind changes direction) to start the next one. A quick turn around between 1stand 2nd race and 3rd and 4thrace 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 down wind leg.

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

Race 1 AM Series –To start at 11.00hrs- to last approx 45mins for leading boat and you should aim to have finished all boats by 11.45 so stop slower boats early if need be.

Race 2 AM Series – should also last 45mins with the aim that all boats are finished racing by 12.45 so that the Galley is ready for them being ashore by 13.15 at the absolute latest.

Race 3 PM Series– To Start at 14.00hrs- to last 45 mins for leading boat – with a very quick turn around for the next race– keep "hanging around" time between races to a minimum.

Race 4 PM Series– 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 if light is fading Race 4 may have to be cancelled, safety always comes first)

Starting the Race.

1. Prepare your flags

check the orange flagis up (you are on station to start)

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

clip on the blue peter – it stays up most of the time

then clip on the fleet flag for FF and Handicaps, in order of starts; they are in order in the crate.

2. Show the courses on the board

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

4. There is hooter on each committee boat, usually reliable, and a whistle tied to the crate, in case it doesn't work.

5. Start the race in accordance with the Sailing Instructions – see flag sequence attached to email, and on laminated sheet in crate, check the 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 Handicap start. ROs will record all these boats through the finish line plus all boats from the last start. It will actually be easier in the long run if you do this every lap! Results team using Sailwave will adjust times for results

8. For Flying Fifteens ONLY, record the Sail Number in order through the gate on every lap.

9. For all other boats record Class, sail number and time on FIRST lap then only times are needed on subsequent laps.


If any boat is on the course side of the Start Line (OCS) it should be recalled.

Make one sound signal and display code flag X. Use the wooden one.

The Race Officer may hail the offender(s) and call out sail numbers but is in no way obliged to do so.

The onus is on the competitor to respond to the signal and to return and start again.

Display the flag until affected competitors are seen to be responding. Any OCS starter who fails to come back will be disqualified.


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

Make Two sound signals Hoist 1stSubstitute Flag

The Club SIs state that any recalled fleet goes to the end of the Start Sequence before being restarted.

Continue with subsequent fleet starts but remove 1st Substitute flag before the next start (to avoid confusion). This is a variation of ISAF Rule 29.2

The recalled Class Start may follow immediately after the last scheduled start by raising the relevant class flag at the same time as the penultimate start signal. i.e. when the GP flag comes down the relevant class flag goes up!

Alternatively, a further delay may be imposed and the full start procedure begun when convenient. I.e. Class flag up at zero, blue peter up at 2mins, then both down at 4 mins.

Finishing the Race

When you are almost ready to finish the race, put up the BLUE flag– this shows you are on station to finish the race, the finishing line should be at 90 degrees to the wind. The pin mark can be easily moved.

When you intend to finish the racing, hoist the S Flag with 2 hoots(shorten course), all boats coming through the finishing line, irrespective of the number of laps sailed, will be deemed to finish. Slower boats can be finished a lap, or even two, early.

List the finishing position of each FF , and PLEASE record the times of all the boats from the Handicap start. Put a F beside to indicate they have finished!!

After the day's racing.

a) Ask Safety Team where to leave the Committee boat. Bring all equipment ashore and replace. 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 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, eg 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 Sailing secretary (Nicky) or Howard Armstrong or if they are not around place them in the ducket outside the safety office. Please ensure it is dated and legible and signed by the race officer .


In summary, like most things in life, a little preparation will lead to things going much more smoothly. Allocation of the jobs that must be done on board will help towards an easy day. eg. who times/shouts out, who writes, hoots etc Remember to keep checking that things are happening to plan - the correct flags - the correct sound signals etc. Ask for help at any time. We are all still learning.

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

Even the most experienced ROs get it wrong sometimes!


Last updated 19:29 on 8 November 2018

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