Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I mentioned casually in my last post that I skipped the regatta dinner on Saturday night at the US Laser Masters National Champs to go home and see Cutest Granddaughter in the World and plant subliminal subversive messages in her two-year-old head that will make her demand her own sailboat from her father for her seventh birthday.

This turned out to be not so great an idea. Not the bit about whispered messages on the delights of sailing to Emily as she was dropping off to sleep. The bit about not hanging out at the sailing club on Saturday evening. Because I missed a somewhat important change to the sailing instructions that was posted at the club some time on Saturday evening when I wasn't there.

I left home at 9:20 am on Sunday morning to arrive at the club at 10:00 am, leaving me plenty of time to rig, dress, eat an early lunch, launch around 11:00 am, sail out to the course, and tune up a bit for a noon first warning signal as per the SIs. The original SIs.

But when I arrived at New Bedford Yacht Club at 10:00 am all the other Laser old geezers had their sails up, were changing into their sailing gear, and were preparing to launch. "Hmmm. Why is everyone so eager this morning?" I thought. A quick question to the first sailor I saw confirmed my worst fears. The race committee had changed the first start to 11:00 am instead of noon, had posted a change to the SIs to that effect the previous evening, and had presumably announced it at the dinner too.

Shit. This reminded me of a similar situation at the Masters Worlds at Hyannis a few years back when Tillerwoman and I had arrived at Hyannis YC at our usual time in the morning to find no Lasers in the parking lot and 400 dollies on the beach. The whole fleet had left without me for a start that was three hours earlier than normal, I think. I just hadn't bothered to swing by the yacht club the previous evening and check for any changes to the SIs. On that occasion no harm was done because, after rigging hurriedly and sailing half-way to Martha's Vineyard in the fog, I met the whole fleet coming back to the beach because the RC had abandoned racing due to an incoming storm.

Since then I've been pretty good at checking the official noticeboard every evening after dinner, even if I'm not dining at the regatta site. But not this time.

So I broke all personal records for rigging the Laser, cladding myself in neoprene and Goretex, bolting down a Clif Bar, drinking a bottle or two of water, and sailing out to the start line. I made it.

The first race started in a light wind that became stronger as the race progressed. I was not pointing well in the light or strong winds. That guy beat me. What's new?

Then followed a long demonstration of how hard it is to find a spot in Buzzards Bay where a race committee boat can make an anchor stick in the bottom of Buzzards Bay. They motored around. They dropped anchors. They hauled up anchors. And repeated ad infinitum. They motored around to somewhere else and repeated the process. Then they motored back to near where they were the first time and tried some more. Fascinating stuff. Eventually the anchor stuck in the bottom of Buzzards Bay. Hooray.

The black flag was flying for the first attempt to start Race 2. General recall. But no sail numbers were posted. Can some rules expert explain this to me please? Rule 30.3 clearly says...

If a black flag has been displayed, no part of a boat’s hull, crew or equipment shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the minute before her starting signal. If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall be disqualified without a hearing, even if the race is restarted, resailed or rescheduled, but not if it is postponed or abandoned before the starting signal. If a general recall is signalled or the race is abandoned after the starting signal, the race committee shall display her sail number before the next warning signal for that race, and if the race is restarted or resailed she shall not sail in it.

My emphasis in bold. Surely if the race committee signals a general recall they must have been able to identify some of the boats over the line in the last minute before the start? At least one, even if she was hiding all the others? And the rule says that for any such boat "she shall be disqualified" and that "the race committee shall display her number".

What am I not seeing here?

Anyway, we eventually started the race. Still not pointing well. It was gusting over 20 knots by the end of the race. Woo hoo. The race committee chose not to start a tenth race for the regatta and we sailed in.

That guy
beat me again but I did beat the guy immediately above me in the grandmaster placings in both races so that was good.

A good weekend of racing and seeing old buddies and learning experiences. Can probably milk the event for at least three more blog posts on such erudite topics as...

  • Why the hell do I do it?

  • A better way to assess progress than obsessing over that guy.

  • Twenty seven possible reasons why I am not pointing as high as the other sailors and much over-analysis as to what to do about it.


Pat said...

From my understanding of your description of the race:

If the Black Flag was flying at or before 4:00 minutes to the start of race 2 (prep signal), that certainly didn't mean that anyone had been over early yet. All it meant was that the race committee was prepared to sock it to anyone who would have been over the line early at the start or the minute before.

No one was necessarily over early; it's just that the r.c. was in a short-tempered mood (presumably from all that nasty mud at the bottom of the bay and the unwillingness of the wind to obey them in spite of changing the start time to try to fool nature).

IF, after the r.c. displayed the black flag (in place of the normal prep flag) and continued with the starting sequence, there had been boats violating 30.3, THEN the r.c. would have been obliged to display their sail numbers and take action against them.

The black flag (or India, Zulu, or India plus Zulu) are just alternatives to the regular prep flag that the r.c. can use whenever they want to impose a little (or a heck of a lot) more law and order.

Subsequently, there may -- or may not -- be a need to disqualify boats or have an individual or general recall. If everyone behaves well -- and/or gets lucky -- then there are no recalls, no matter what flag was flown for the prep.

(All this assumes that the NOR/SI's hadn't said something oddball.)

And, here are apologies, if all this is terribly obvious or if I missed something in the race description.

Jos said...

It's very unusual to use the black flag as the first prep. The RC is sort of saying "We don't trust you to start correctly, so we are going to scare you" If no boats are identified after a general recall under black flag (and therefore not published) the RC-system to identify early boats is flawed.
I agree that at least some should have been posted.
If the RC isn't happy with the wind direction or the course, just after the start they should use flag N and try again, but not a general recall.
There's however no possibility for redress, because no boat has a finishing position

Pat said...

I agree entirely -- it's very weird for the r.c. to put up the black flag as anything other than a last resort. I could see them starting with India or India plus Zulu as the prep if your fleet has a bad reputation for frequent over-early starts -- but if that's the case, I'd expect to see line boats and lots of line sight people on the r.c. boats as well.

The black flag is sort of the "death penalty" for poorly behaved fleets. And it may also be the the sort of thing the r.c. puts up -- after multiple general recalls -- as a way of saying "You turkeys mess with us any more and we're pulling up the anchor and going home."

Of course, there may be another, simpler explanation: Maybe someone on the r.c. made a dumb mistake and confused the black flag with another signal. It could happen.

Post a Comment