Hints and Tips

In no particular order there are a number of thoughts, comments and guides on anything Race Management related. You may know all these, you may know none –  some may be rubbish.  If you have any other thoughts or ideas you think would be useful to others – let us know (full credit will, of course, be given). Click on a subject to be taken to the item.

Perfect Minutes in an Imperfect world
Phonetic Language
Boards are Flags
Rubber Bands – no slide
Cling Film – stops the muffle
Recording times in handicap race finishes
Video for starting/Video for finishing
Format for times in Race Documents

Perfect Minutes
You may here a race officer say to their timekeeper – “Go on the next perfect minute” – so what is a perfect minute?
A perfect minute is when you start a five minute sequence on the next five minute – e.g. 1505 or 1510 would be perfect minutes.

Why do it? – It is usually easier for your timekeeper to think in five minutes segments if they start on a Perfect Minute. The competitors usually like us to do this as it means they do not have to reset their watches.
However when time is short or sometimes on a general Recall where it is definitely the fleet at fault and not our line then you may, signal the recall, and one minute later take 1st Sub down and start the new sequence two minutes after the recalled start.

Phonetic Language
Call a Flag a Foxtrot Lima Alpha Golf.  Well actually this is really about calling a flag by its phonetic name when on the CB  i.e. Say “two minutes to Tango up” rather than T up – it just makes sure that we don’t mistake a T for a P or a D or whatever.  Simples.

Boards are Flags
When is a Flag not a Flag? – When it’s a Board!  RRS 25.3 allows us to use “an other object of similar appearance” instead of a flag and there are some instances when this is a must – signalling a course change at a leeward gate – if using a flag it is almost impossible to see from the approaching boats.  Making up flags on something like Corriboard (the stuff Estate Agents use for their signs) is easy and cheap.  Any time a competitor needs to read a flag from either upwind or downwind of a flag – it can be almost impossible to determine what flag it is – using a board solves the problem.

Rubber Bands – no slide
Sounds simple but wrapping a couple of rubber bands around any piece of equipment that could slide off a deck saves a lot of hassle.

Cling Film Sorts the Muffle
Quick tip for hand held radios – some of them do not like being out in the rain.  The upshot is that any transmission from that radio may be very muffled and can be completely unreadable – unbeknownst to the user.  Some radios have a button or combination of buttons that will vibrate the mike diaphragm to remove the water.  I am not convinced they work very well.  However there is a solution:  Wrap two layers of clingfilm around the mike and problem is solved.  Particularly required for most Icom radios.  Some radios do not need it as they have a different type of diaphragm  Entel 690 for instance – guess which one I own? (actually two of them).

Recording Times in Handicap Race finishes
Recording times at the finish of handicap races can sometimes be a fraught affair, however with a little bit of organisation and practice it is no longer a problem.
It is normally easy enough to determine which is the next boat to finish and we now have to record sail number and the finish time including Hours, minutes and seconds.  Sounds easy but it gets harder when three or four come in together.  First tip is to make sure your tape recorder/dictaphone is running.  Some things are straightforward in that, over a short finish period, the hours will not change so we do not need to record that for every finisher. Again a minute is a long time when calling finishers.  My normal routine is to have two recorders writing, the timekeeper calling the minutes and seconds and muggins calling the numbers.
It goes something like this: RO “Next boat is 5319 standby” (I call this when they are around three boat lengths from the line) Recorder writes the sail number.  Timekeeper calls “15 34” (the hours and minutes)  Recorder writes 15 34.  When boat cuts the line RO calls “now”  Timekeeper calls seconds, recorder writes.  If we have two or three boats overlapped it is a little busier:  RO “Three boats approaching 5319, 4295, 4313 standby”.  Say it calmly and don’t rush – Recorder can follow.  Timekeeper calls Hours and seconds as before, So now we only need the seconds for each boat as it finishes as the sail numbers are already on the sheet.  RO “5319 now, now, now”   Once the RO has called the first now the timekeeper calls the seconds only after each ‘now’  “35, 42, 51”.
The system takes practice to get smooth but once done it works very well.
Even in one design racing, when you know you will have, say three, boats overlapped on the finish line you can set it up by calling the numbers early with their position on the line,  RO “three boats approaching near 6106, middle 5638, far end 2104”  Recorder writes the numbers down as called with a small N, M, and F beside them.  Then as they finish RO, if it is too tight to call the sail numbers, could call “Near, far, middle” and the recorder writes 1,2,3 beside the N, F and M.  Again this needs some practice.  Even if there is no time to record all three – we can get the numbers off the tape later.
However the golden rule is “Always have the dictation machine running!”  The more info you can put onto that the easier it will be to sort later.

Video for Starting and Finishing Races
Video can be a life saver when starting or finishing races – particularly for events with large numbers of boats on the start line.  For Start lines getting sail numbers for those mid and far end of the line boats can be problematic.  Good video can help.
With the tendency nowadays in big fleets to use U flag as the preparatory signal we have a little more time to check and confirm sail numbers of OCS boats.  However the video needs to readily accessible to the CB crew and needs to be taken from the right place on the boat.  The problem is not so much identifying that a boat is over the line but confirming the number.
For this reason I use an iPad to take the video and I station the user forward on the CB where he/she can possibly see a sail number that I can’t from the starting mast.  The iPad is a good tool for this because with a user familiar with the iPad they can zoom in on the appropriate part of the start line and the format of the screen is big enough so that when we look at the playback it is large enough to read Sail Numbers without having to download it and view on a large PC screen.  For this reason a phone camera has too small a screen.  For this purpose I do not just use the standard camera but use an App called “Time Stamp Camera”  and it does what the name suggests – it puts a time stamp including down to the second on the video or picture.
When finishing races this App also has a use – again the operator may need to look down the course and follow boats into the finish line – useful when multiple boats are overlapped – at least we can get the sail numbers as they approach the finish.

Format for Times in Race Documents
We use times in lots of race documents – warning signal times, briefing times etcetera bu have you noticed that people use all sorts of different formats for the time.  I have seen 10:00, 10.00, 10.00 hours, and lots more variations – so what should it be?  In Appendix L of the Racing Rules of Sailing (the guide to writing sailing instructions) the time format used is 1000.  What used to be described as ‘naval fashion’.  Anyway when you need to use a time in a race document we suggest you use this particular format.