Race Committee Manual
Updated January 2021
Race Committee tasks are divided into three areas of responsibility, generally done by three different people:
1) Operating the Committee Boat (the RC Boat Skipper)
2) Race Management on the RC Boat (the Starting Line Manager)
3) Race Management on shore (the Finish Line Manager)
The RC BOAT SKIPPER should plan on having the RC boat at or near the guest dock by 5:30 (Friday) or 12:00 (Chowder) ready to load RC equipment and leave the dock by 6:00 (Friday) or 12:30 (Chowder).
The STARTING LINE MANAGER is responsible for directing RC activities, as summarized here.
CHECK FOR MISSING MARKS
This is best done earlier in the day. The YRA website at www.yra.org might have a page for mark status. During the winter Bobbi Tosse (925-939-9885) or Bob Gray (510-530-4162) might have more current information.
BE ON TIME!
Arrive early enough (suggest 5:00/11:30) to take care of some pre-race tasks: a) set watch to exact correct time.
b) Make sure your handheld VHF has new or fully charged batteries.
c) Check for missing Olympic Circle marks.
d) Check for last-minute entries.
e) Make sure the VHF radio in the bar is on channel 14.
f) Assemble all the items on the Equipment Check List.
g) Make sure that course flags have short lengths of thin lines on them for tying to shrouds or halyards.
h) Tie the RC flag (if we have one) to the forestay.
EXACT TIME IS CRITICAL
With the UTC starting system it is very important to have the exact time. This is best obtained from an operating GPS. Wait for the GPS to acquire satellites and display a position if it has just been turned on. Some GPS models will display a large time error before acquiring satellites.
Time from the radio-synchronized clock in the BYC race office is also accurate.
Cellphone time might be the best fallback if the RC is already on the water and none of the other time checks are available.
SET THE STARTING LINE
Use the BYC starting buoy for one end of the starting line if it is on station. The buoy can be used for either end of the line.
If the BYC buoy is not on station, set the starting buoy about 1/4 mile from the Berkeley Marina entrance. Use the fishing pier as a yardstick – it is almost exactly 1/2 nautical mile (3,000 ft) to the first break in the pier.
Avoid positioning the line directly in the path of boats using the south entrance channel to the Marina.
The starting line is between the mast of the RC boat and the starting buoy. In the summer it is usually best to use the buoy for the north end of the line and the boat for the south end, so that boats starting on starboard tack at the south end of the line will not foul the RC boat’s anchor line. but this is not required, and the RC boat can be at either end of the starting line. In winter it may be easier to see sail numbers (and much better for photography) if the RC Boat is on the south end of the line.
The starting line should be at right angles to the wind direction. This is important, so spend some time getting it right. If one end is favored slightly it is better to have the left end of the line one or two boat-lengths upwind compared to the right end.
If the owner of the RC boat is apprehensive about crowded starts, it is good practice to favor the buoy end slightly, regardless of whether it is the left end or the right end. (An end of a starting line is “favored” when it is slightly upwind of the other end, resulting in a line that is not quite at right angles to the wind.)
A limit mark may also be used to keep boats from sailing too close to the RC boat during the start. The limit mark does not have to be exactly on the starting line, but should be close to the starting line and at least a boat-length away from the RC boat. The limit mark is hard to set from the RC boat, so it’s best to have a racer set the limit mark for you if you decide to use it. This should be done after both ends of the starting line are established. When a limit mark is used it is good practice to announce this via VHF 79.
Do not attempt to set the line at right angles to the course to the first mark (unless this is a downwind or reaching start). A right angle to the wind is more important than a right angle to the course.
In the summer the line should be long enough so that the larger boats take about one minute to sail its length. This is about 600 feet, or one minute of sailing at six knots. In the winter when the wind is light, and especially if the fleet is small, the line can be shorter.
Hint: tie a fender or cushion to the bitter end of the anchor rode. If a racer snags your anchor line on their keel or rudder, you will be able to cast off your anchor quickly without losing any gear.
SIGNAL THE COURSE
See the Race Instructions for courses and flags. It is much better if the first mark cannot be reached without tacking. Ideally, the first mark should be as nearly directly upwind as possible, but as long as the boats have to tack to get there it will be okay as a windward mark.
Avoid the longer courses when the wind is light, when the number of boats racing is small, or in September when sunset is earlier. Signal the same course for all three starts unless there is an unusual circumstance that requires a change (and announce the change on VHF 79 in addition to displaying the correct code flags).
Course signal flags are generally tied to a shroud. You don’t need a halyard. The rolling hitch is the best knot for tying a flag directly to the standing rigging.
FLY THE “Y” FLAG
This optional signal indicates that flotation must be worn by all racers.
LIST THE STARTERS
List the starters on the “Record of Race Starters” form. This is not essential, but helps the finish line manager prepare for the finish. It is a good job to assign to an inexperienced helper. If there’s no time to make a complete list, the number of starters in each division is also very helpful at the finish line.
CHECK IN WITH THE COAST GUARD
To comply with the terms of our Coast Guard event permit, we must check in with the Coast Guard shortly before the start. Call via cell phone (415-556-2760) or if no cell phone is available then call “Vessel Traffic” on VHF 14. If you will be short-handed on the RC boat it’s probably okay to check in at 6:00 (12:00 for Chowder Races) just before leaving the dock. The Coast Guard prefers telephone check-in instead of VHF check-in.
Remember to set the VHF at the BYC bar to channel 14, so we can be reached by Vessel Traffic if the RC is busy on another frequency.
You will be asked to report the approximate number of boats (can be a wild guess); the course area (“Berkeley Olympic Circle” is good enough); the VHF frequencies monitored (14 and 79); and the estimated finish time; 2030 is a good guess for Friday races, 1500 for Chowder races.
Vessel Traffic Control might also ask for the event permit number, but they don’t seem to mind if you don’t have it.
The radio check-in dialogue will go like this:
“Traffic, Berkeley Yacht Club Race Committee.”
“Berkeley Race Committee, Traffic”
“Traffic, Berkeley Race Committee checking in for a race event. We expect 20 sailing vessels on the Berkeley Olympic Circle. We are monitoring 14 and 79. We expect to be finished by [twenty-thirty/fifteen-hundred], over.”
“Berkeley Race Committee, Traffic, thank you, please check in when you are finished.”
“Roger. Berkeley Race Committee out.”
We are required to monitor VHF 14 during the entire race. Remember to switch to 79 for recalls and other communications to the fleet. The VHF back at the bar (“race deck” as far as the Coast Guard is concerned) should also be monitoring channel 14.
If you know how to use dual channel watch on your VHF, it is good practice to use this feature to
monitor both channels after the start. But during the starts it’s better stay on 79 to reduce the possibility of a mistake when communicating to racers or hailing recalls. Channel 79 on the hand-held and 14 on the nav station radio is a good strategy.
SIGNAL THE STARTS
This is very simple with the UTC starting system. No timed visual signals are required unless there are recalls or postponements.
A horn or whistle blast should be sounded at exactly five minutes before the first start, and at the time of each start. If the start is on schedule you will sound the horn or whistle at exactly 6:30, 6:35, 6:45, and 6:55 (Friday) or 12:55 and 1:00 (Chowder). It’s best to be looking directly at a GPS time display for the best accuracy, but keep a watch set to GPS time within reach as a backup. (When you use a GPS for time, always make sure it has acquired satellites and is giving accurate position or speed data before relying on the time displayed.)
IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE WITH THE SOUND SIGNAL – keep the sequence going. The sound signal is not binding. You may use VHF channel 79 to explain errors in sound signals or to clarify the starting sequence if there is any confusion.
Horn and whistle blasts should be one to two seconds long. If an air horn is used, make sure the person using the horn understands that the horn must be held with the canister vertical for it to work properly.
Also make sure that the recall flags (usually both flags are on the “recall stick”) is nearby and that the VHF (or power hailer if you have one) is within easy reach for the starts. If there is no power hailer and no hand-held VHF, station someone near the fixed VHF to relay the over-early hails on VHF 79 if necessary.
WHAT IF A BOAT IS OVER EARLY?
The starting line is a line between the RC boat’s mast and the center of the starting buoy. If, at the exact time of the start, any part of a boat is across the starting line, then that boat is over early and should be recalled. The race instructions require the RC to do three things:
a) Make one additional sound signal. This can be a horn blast or a whistle. Make only one additional sound, even if several boats are over early.
b) Display code flag “X”. This is the square white flag with the blue “+” sign on it, usually attached to one end of the “recall stick.” You don’t have to hoist the flag – it’s sufficient to hold up the stick displaying the flag. The flag should stay up until all the over-earlies are back on the pre-start side of the line, or until one minute before the next start if one or more boats don’t return.
Hail the early starter(s) by sail number or boat name on VHF channel 79 (and with a power hailer if one is available).
WHAT IF SO MANY BOATS ARE OVER EARLY THAT IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO IDENTIFY THEM ALL?
That’s when a general recall is appropriate. Make two additional sound signals, instead of one additional signal. Display the “first substitute” pennant, the blue and white triangular flag usually at the other end of the recall stick. The recalled division will start again exactly five minutes later. The starting times for subsequent divisions remain as scheduled.
General recalls are rare, so if the first or second start on Friday is recalled there will be massive confusion as the fleet checks to see if they start at the next five minute point or go to the end of the sequence, as in some YRA venues. It is good practice to explain over VHF 79 (and power hailer, if available) that a recalled division starts exactly five minutes after the scheduled start. (If the division is recalled a second time, then they go to the end of the sequence. Fortunately this has not happened yet.)
GENERAL RECALL EXAMPLE:
6:35: First division starts, on schedule.
6:45: Second division starts, general recall signaled.
6:50: Second division re-starts.
6:55: Third division starts, on schedule.
IF YOU NEED TO POSTPONE:
If you are late getting to the line set or have some other difficulty that requires postponing the start (for example a dragging RC boat anchor or the starting mark carried away by a racer’s keel), display the “answering pennant” and make two sound signals (preferably long horn blasts). The answering pennant is the one with red and white vertical stripes. It is on the “postponement stick,” a bamboo pole with the answering eing pennant on one end and the “P” flag (blue with white square in the middle) on the other end.
It is better if the postponement signal does not coincide with an even five-minute interval or a start. That is, if you signal a postponement right at a scheduled start time, the racers won’t know if the postponement is supposed to apply to that start or to subsequent starts. Try to signal the postponement at least 30 seconds before the scheduled start, so there’s no doubt. But always explain what you are doing over VHF 79 just to make sure.
The postponement signal can be made anytime before the last start. Postponements are not for any pre-determined time interval. They last as long as necessary, until the end of the postponement is signaled.
To end the postponement, lower the answering pennant and make one long sound signal. Do not do this on an even five-minute point, but at least a minute or two before a five-minute point.
The new preparatory signal (five minutes to next start) should be made at the next even five minute point on the clock. Display the “P” flag (blue with white square) at this time also, to indicate that there has been a postponement but that the sequence is running again. (Think of the P flag as working like a blue shape in conventional starting systems.)
The exact timing of the “P” flag is not critical, but it should be as close as possible to that next five-minute point after the postponement flag came down. It signals approximately five minutes before the next start. The timing of the next start will still be based on exact UTC time.
Leave the P flag up for all subsequent starts. Remember that a general recall and re-start five minutes later does not shift the subsequent starting times back, but a postponement does.
Use VHF 79 (and a hailer if available) to clarify the times of starts following a postponement.
6:35: First division starts, on schedule.
6:43: Starting mark is run over and dragged off station.
6:44: Signal postponement by displaying “AP” pennant and making two sound signals.
6:55: Line is reset.
6:57: Signal end of postponement by lowering “AP” pennant and one sound signal .
7:00: Make one sound signal and display “P” flag.
7:05: Second division starts.
7:15: Third division starts.
AFTER THE START
The RC BOAT SKIPPER is in charge of raising the anchor and picking up the starting buoy. The STARTING LINE MANAGER is responsible for putting all the equipment away and making sure that someone is ready to take finish times.
If the Finish Line Manager is not on station when boats finish, taking times will save the race. You can leave it to one of the racers to work out the results.
Make changes to the race instructions if necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require changes to the instructions, keep in mind that the race instructions allow this via VHF channel 79 or via hailer. For example, if a mark is discovered missing after the race has started, it might be possible to salvage the race by instructing all competitors to sail a modified course, even if that course is not one of the listed courses. (This has never been done yet – don’t try it unless you are certain that this is the only way to save the race.)
Racers love a video record of the start. 90% of the interest is in the time interval from 30 seconds before the start to 30 seconds after the start. Do not zoom in, unless the boat is absolutely steady or the camera is well stabilized. The wide-angle view, sighting the line, is best.
The FINISH LINE MANAGER is responsible for the following tasks:
TAKE FINISH TIMES
Fill out the finish form as boats cross the line. Be sure to note spinnaker status. Boats claiming a non-spinnaker credit will wave a buoyant cushion or PFD as they cross the finish line.
It is good practice to note as much info as possible on the finish form as the boats finish. Identifying boats by sail number alone is often unreliable.
CHECK IN WITH THE COAST GUARD AGAIN
Call Vessel Traffic Control again on VHF 14 (or landline, 415-556-2760) when all boats or nearly all boats are finished.
Note that we are not responsible for accounting for all starters – sometimes they break off and go to Sam’s for dinner. Do not report to the Coast Guard that “All racers are accounted for” because very often they are not. It is much better to report that “Our event is over,” which is really all they ask us to report.
See Procedure manual for the finish line for detailed procedures for Friday Night Races.
For Chowder Races, the process is simpler because there is only one division and a time-on-time handicapping system is used.
The first step is to establish the rating for each finisher. Much of this can be done while boats are finishing, or while they are still racing if you have an accurate list of starters.
Most of the ratings can usually be copied directly from previous week’s result sheets. These are often pinned to the bulletin board, several weeks deep. Ratings for other boats are found in the large ring binder with all the entry forms, normally stored on a shelf in the race office.
For time-on-time: If the entry form only includes a PHRF rating in seconds per mile, convert the PHRF rating to a time correction factor (TCF) by using the formula:
TCF = 800/(520+PHRF)
Example: A J-24 PHRF rating is 168.
To convert to TCF, calculate 800/(520+168) = 1.163
(Round all TCF values to three decimal places.)
Be sure to use the PHRF rating that would appear on a certificate. That is, no non-spinnaker correction and no roller furling correction. These are applied later.
Note that faster boats have lower PHRF ratings, but faster boats have higher TCF numbers.
Correct for the roller furling allowance, if applicable, by subtracting 0.02 from the TCF. This is the TCF that should be written on the entry form.
Correct for no-spinnaker, signaled at the finish line, by subtracting 0.04 from the TCF.
Once all the boats have finished and the TCFs as corrected have been recorded on the finish sheet, compute the corrected time for each boat. This is simply the elapsed time multiplied by the TCF.
However, because time is in hours-minutes-seconds the process is a little cumbersome.
The finish form is a paper spreadsheet that will guide you through the process.
Fill in the box for “elapsed time” in hours, minutes and seconds. This is easy if the start was on schedule at 1:00 PM.
Convert elapsed time to decimal minutes. 60 minutes for each hour, plus the number of minutes, plus a fraction of a minute for the number of seconds. There is a look-up table in the entry notebook so this can be done quickly without a calculator.
Multiply the decimal elapsed time for each boat by the TCF for each boat, as corrected, to get corrected time. This part requires a calculator.
Rank the boats in order of corrected time, lowest first.
ANNOUNCE RESULTS AND DISTRIBUTE TROPHIES
Keep results confidential until they are announced, from the bottom up. Trophies are on the shelves in the race office. Chowder mugs are awarded for first, second, and third. Friday Trophies are recycled sailing trophies, first place only in each of the three classes. Save the best trophies for boats that are winning a race for the first time. Special awards are encouraged – for example a swimming trophy for a crew who has fallen overboard.
FRIDAY NIGHT AND CHOWDER RACE RC EQUIPMENT CHECK LIST
_____ Boat anchor, chain, line
_____ Horn or whistle
_____ Hand-held VHF Radio
_____ Starting line buoy, anchor and line (if BYC buoy is not on station
_____ Course flags
_____ Recall stick (pole with “first substitute” flag and “X” flag)
_____ Postponement Stick (with “answering pennant” flag and “P” flag)
_____ “Y” flag (to indicate flotation must be worn)
_____ Watch set to UTC from GPS or time signal
_____ Sailing Instructions
_____ Record of Race Starters form
_____ Cellphone and VTS land line number (415-556-2760)
_____ GPS (for exact time)
_____ Loud hailer (check batteries)
_____ Extra line for tying flags to standing rigging
_____ Clip board, paper, pen for recording starters
_____ Race Committee flag “RC”
_____ Coast Guard event permit number for check-in
_____ SET WATCH TO UTC FROM GPS OR TIME SIGNALS
_____ CHECK FOR MISSING OLYMPIC CIRCLE MARKS
_____ CHECK RACE MAILBOX FOR LATE ENTRIES
_____ REVIEW PROCEDURES FOR START SIGNALS, COURSE SIGNALS, RECALLS
_____ SET VHF IN BYC BAR TO CHANNEL 14
_____ PLAN TO LEAVE DOCK BY 6:00 PM (FRIDAY) OR 12:30 (CHOWDER)