Monday, June 25, 2007

Top Race Committee Screw-ups

Running the race committee for a large sailing event is a major challenge to the Principal Race Officer's organizational, communication, race management and leadership skills. I know from my own experience that when I have succeeded in running an (almost) flawless regatta it can be an amazingly satisfying achievement. In the days leading up to a regatta when I am in charge of the race committee I always find myself trying to anticipate what could go wrong, and then making the necessary plans to avoid each potential blunder. On the other hand, I don't always succeed. And it's the errors and mistakes that I never thought of in advance that come back to haunt me...

So in the spirit of our previous group writing project on Worst Sailing Mistakes, I propose a similar event on Worst Race Committee Mistakes.

Same basic format as before...

1. Write a post on your blog about the worst mistake you have seen made by a race committee (or made yourself as a race officer). The idea is for us to create a collection of RC screw-ups that will serve as terrible warnings to future race committees. After all, the best way to learn is from other people's mistakes.

2. Once you've posted your story, let me know about it by sending an email to including a link to your post. Please let me know about your post before Saturday 30 June. Or if you don't have a blog just email me the story and I will post it here.

3. I will post two links to your story. During this week I will write a number of posts listing any new stories. Then at the end of the week I will provide a summary post with links to all of your embarrassing RC stories.

In the spirit of the event I will write two posts myself on the topic: one describing a couple of my own embarrassing moments as a PRO, and one listing an uncharacteristic mistake made by the RC at the Laser North Americans the weekend before last.

Go for it. Now is the time to expose your own biggest errors; or to have your revenge on that race committee that messed up what would have been your perfect race. If you want you can leave out the names to protect the guilty parties.


JSW225 said...

My biggest error as a race committee was starting a race just as the wind was turning to the left. I didn't expect it to turn so hard. Half way through the race it settled at roughly 90degrees to the left and the wind died by half. Most people knew that it wasn't my fault, but that didn't stop them from teasing me.

The worst foul committed against me was by a Jury Boat during my match racing. Before this "Foul" my team and a conference rival had traded the lead 4-5 times. Around the last windward mark, they got a little bit ahead. We knew we sailed better downwind, and we weren't more then 2-3 boat lengths behind. Unfortunately, I cut the lay line too short. I poked the bow up and just BARELY cleared the mark. I missed by about 2-3 inches. However, the jury boat was on the opposite side, and saw the buoy move with us being very close. So they called a foul on us.

It was a perfectly understandable call. However, since we were up against a conference football rival, and it was so close of a race, we were very angry at the call. Especially since you couldn't challenge a Jury Boat's call.

Sorry the stories weren't that exciting.

Carol Anne said...

Oh, man, I don't even know where to begin.

There was the time a committee boat was a big boat with a little anchor, and the wind was stiff, the the boat dragged its anchor way downwind between the start and the finish of a race, while the guy on the committee boat didn't notice anything wrong. By the end of the race, the committee boat was a half-mile from the pin, and because of the stiff winds, there were enough waves on the lake that the pin was invisible to boats trying to finish the race. They just all sailed toward the committee boat, and passed the committee boat based on the relative position that the boat and the pin had had at the beginning of the race. The race committee guy's comment at the end of the day: "I didn't realize that the pin was drifting so much."

Then there have been guys who decide to run something other than a strict upwind-downwind course, which are what the sailors are used to and which are supposed to provide more tactical competition -- reaching legs, in general, aren't good tests of tactics or seamanship. In particular, there was one guy who called a Harry Morgan course (two triangles and an upwind-downwind final lap) on an extremely light-air day. Some of the slower boats in the fleet would have been out past sunset, except that they all quit.

Then there was the mostly cruising sailor who clocked the finish when the last part of the boat cleared the line, rather than the first -- he was another one who called triangular courses rather than strictly upwind-downwind. His decisions were strongly influenced by Miller Genuine Draft.

Anonymous said...

I crewed in a regatta yesterday with a course of 26 NM in varying light winds, 4 to 7 kts. The race set a time of 5 hours! The committee was advised by several people, including the club Commodore, that the time was insufficient and that they should expect to shorten the course. As we neared the published location of the last mark before 8 NM leg to the start instead of seeing the committee boat with a new finish line we saw the lead boats veering off on erratic courses. As we got closer we found that not only no committee boat there was no mark! We rounded the published coordinates for and headed for the finish. With 1 1/2 hrs remaining several boats attempted to hail the committee to determine if they had extended the time limit instead of shortening the course only to receive dead air in response. We were later told that since it was apparent that no one would finish in time the committee elected to head to the bar early and hold a drawing for the awards.

On another occasion a committee elected to proceed with a regatta with 2 tornados on the ground within 30 miles of the course but that's another story.

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