Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fun in Plymouth

Just back from Race Oficering the SW RYA Volvo Zone Championships at Plymouth. I like Plymouth, but it must be one of the most difficult places to play Race Officer. There are two shipping channels running through the course areas. Keeping out of them is not easy. The place is masively tidal, and this weekend the wind in my course area was being really difficult.

The forecast was northerly, which it was, in the lulls, but under the clouds and when it blew, it went to the west by 40degrees and would stay there for 10-15 minutes, before dying and going north. Then of course sometimes it overdid the dying and became very patchy. The racing was ugly, but it must have looked good when the large Brittany Ferries boat went between the courses!

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the prizegiving to catch a train, we had protests to be dealt with but it was a good weekend. The scorer was extremely conscientious and spent a lot of time looking for all of the boats (I just accept that some will go missing and, as long as their tallies are in, it is not worth worrying - they will tell us quick enough if they should have been scored). Sailwave proved again that it is not user friendly by stuffing all the class results together when uploaded to the web.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We all messed up

I messed up by agreeing with the other Umpire. The sailor messed up by pushing things. The other umpire messed up because his call was wrong. (in my opinion) The Race Officer messed up by stopping racing.

This was a match racing event. Towards the end of the round robin, on the run, the trailing boat had overtaken the leader. They had been clear ahead, so 17 considerations applied, they were approaching the leeward mark but high and to the right. The trailing boat go an overlap, but they were approaching the point where he would be close to being above a proper course. Unfortunately, the leading but windward boat took no action to keep clear and there was a yankee flag. Clearly an infringement. Shortly thereafter the leeward boat gybed off to the mark.

This is where it gets difficult.

It was quite a close reach to the mark and only about 3-4 boatlengths to the mark it. The leading boat was now inside and being given mark room. But the umpires were still back with the failure to keep clear. The question was asked if the infringing boat was now in control and it was, so I agreed to a red flag.

However, reconstructing it I think I was wrong to agree. I think the leading boat was in a strong position the overlap was never established to more than a couple of feet.. Had the leeward boat gybed to a proper course towards the mark at the right time, as required by the rules, the windward boat could probably have maintained an overlap and been entitled to room.

So why did I agree They could be excuses but this was an experienced international umpire I would be disagreeing with I knew there was an infringement and the boat was now in control so there was no obvious point of disagreement. My mind was only half on it, as I was now watching to see if room was given at the mark. That's my excuse. The fact that the leading boat had actually been in a strong position which would - in my opinion - have resulted in a controlling position was something which came later. The action was happening fast and a decision was needed. I agreed with the more experienced Umpire. My brain couldn't work fast enough.

Was the more experienced umpire too keen to give a red flag? He had to consider giving a red flag. Was he keen to give a red flag? Was he aware of the influence his qualification gave him? Was he aware that the other umpire probably thinks more slowly than he does? Who knows. I cocked up in agreeing with him.

Anyhow the sailor cocked up. He could have split the situation down. Not staying clear was silly. It was not the first incident where 17 considerations have not been understood. Why push it when the umpires feel that a boat is sailing above a proper course, having come from behind they will penalise him. If the windward boat gets too close he will be penalised for breaking Rule 11 which continues to apply wherever the leeward boat is sailing. Had he stayed clear and flagged for the other boat going above a proper course then we would have had an easier situation to judge. And we could have been considering a red flag penalty for the other boat.

The Race Officer cocked up. It turned out that this was the critical race in the round robin. There was no final even a 3 race final would have made it fairer. OK the wind was building and not damaging the boats was vital but another hour and a half with the top sailors? Who would be a race officer everyone else has an opinion – race officers have to make the decision.

This was a close race and it is probable that a penalty would have meant losing anyway the red flag meant that there was no chance to come back and that the race ended there was unfortunate unfortunate but probably didn't change the outcome..

These thing happen, all we can do is attempt to do better next time.