The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race ...

Discussion in 'Sailing Talk' started by Deimos, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    RSS Part 1 Rule 4 Decision to Race
    The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone.


    Many years ago when I first started competing this responsibility was placed absolutely on the competitors. Race Officers would always run a race if it were physically possible. I did one race in Ireland (or rather was one of a number of boats deciding not to compete) where the Race Officer stood up at the briefing and said that there was no way the Race Committee was going out to start everybody in the conditions and that they would be starting from a shore based line (so they could cope) - within 10 mins two boats starting were back in one with a broken boom, another with a broken arm. Another National championship race (which I did do) where a 90+ fleet entered and only 3 boats finished, the rest mostly needing towing back in with major failures (me too with mast bent like a banana and rudder pulled out of the transom).

    That the Race Officers would always run a race kept the responsibility for deciding to race absolutely on the competitor. Race Officer stayed well out of such considerations.

    However, these days, sometimes races are cancelled because of poor conditions. Thus others have started to make the decisions about participation. I can appreciate that in the world of litigation and compensation the Race Committee have to cover themselves but I wonder if this blurring of the decision process is moving some of the responsibility away from the competitor in practice (e.g. "Race Committee thinks it is OK so I'll give it a go"). True that the written instructions are still clear but people knowing the Race Committee would cancel if things were too bad implies that the Race committee think conditions are OK.

    Ian
     
  2. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    At Hunts we go by this. It is the competitors responsbility as to their decision to take part in the race. On top of that that OOD and Safety boat driver have a joint responsibility for overall safety. If they deem the conditions to be too extreme they can instruct the RO to abandon/not start a race.

    This is usually done with discussion of the people who are at the club, most of them know their limits and will choose to stay on shore and watch the less sane sailors go out and give it a go.
     
  3. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    The race committe must be responsible for safety. But competitors need to sign a liability waiver.

    The committee must also decide if there is too little or too much wind for racing. But there will still be people who want to go out and race.

    This is why working race committee is a difficult job, and unfortunately very ofte a thankless one.
     
  4. Quagers

    Quagers Member

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    Not according to the RSS, the race committee are responsible for their own safety as such the skipper of the committee boat could decide he doesn't feel safe or feels unable to anchor, also taking into consideration the crews in rescue RIB's, in which case they should stay ashore. Otherwise they should run a start and it is up to the individual skippers to decide if they compete.
     
  5. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    Spot on!

    The problem a lot of smaller inlands clubs have is not with lauching or anchoring (we have a shore based start line at Hunts that is used for most races).

    The 'Safety' considerations come down to 'is there sufficient Safety boat cover to cope with the number of people who are out on the water?'

    The other thing is people will insist ot trying to right their boat when they are obviously too tired to do so, and if they manage to right it they are in no condition to sail it in. When doing Safety at Hunts the brief is 'people first boats later' and it is written in to the club rules as well as the SI's that if the safety tells you you are being picked out the water then you are being picked out regardless of your protest. Your boat will be recovered later (and it can be replaced, you cannot).

    There have been a nuber on contencious pullings out but with hindsight the poeple have (without exception) been thankful to the safety boat crews.
     
  6. Quagers

    Quagers Member

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    That does come down to the quality and wisdom of your safety crews though, working at my club as an instructor im possibly jaded because im generally around to see the **** ups but the quality of our coxswains is a source of constant amusement for us. I think it just comes from a lack of practice but their all volunteers so its difficult, but there are definitely times when my situation has been made worse by the 'help' I received from safety crews. And I would take any demands to abandon my boat when I was not prepared to with great suspicion, then again this is an inland venue so the worst that can happen is you end up on a shore somewhere, I'd feel differently at a coastal club.
     
  7. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    I suppose my concern is that once people know that the race officer might say "conditions too bad to race" then they know (s)he will be assessing the weather. Thus, by implication when the Race Officer does not say "weather too bad" there is the implication that in his/her opinion the weather is OK. It is that implied judgement of the Race Officer that I think might blur the responsibility.

    Maybe it comes down to vocabulary. Maybe if the Race Officer said "we have inadequate rescue cover for 100 boats" then it would be a different matter. But then they should check how many people actually intend to go out as whilst they might have inadequate rescue cover for 100 boats, if only 30 intend to race then maybe they would then have adequate cover.

    I suspect the Race Officer making a judgement call on the weather is partly to ensure that, were (s)he to run a race and there to be an accident, then there might be questions about how wise it was for RO to have run the race (despite the clear lines of responsibility in the RRS).

    Once responsibilities get blurred in practice, it becomes reasonable to assume others have taken on a degree of responsibility.

    Ian
     
  8. Zeppo

    Zeppo Member

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    Club fleets need to collectively agree at which wind velocity or above they will not start a race. If the race committee is prepared to start a race regardless of conditions then the prudent skipper risks assumming big penalty points for DNS whereas the "throw caution to the wind" skipper who has not done well in a series can improve his lot by going out and starting, regardless of the danger he puts his boat and crew in. The race committee has the authority to indicate in the "sailing instructions" these sorts of conditions. This removes the macho factor.
     
  9. Quagers

    Quagers Member

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    Yes but why should the good guys be forced to sail to the standard of the worst? While i'd agree there are gung ho sailors out there in a standard club fleet there will be a wide range of abilities and what may seem dangerous to one skipper and crew will be routine to another. People should be encouraged to improve their skills rather than be held back to the level of the worst. A safety conscious ethos and atmosphere should keep most people honest about their ability level, even if it requires someone to go over as their rigging and ask 'are you sure you want to do that?'
     
  10. Zeppo

    Zeppo Member

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    The good guys aren't forced to sail to the lowest level, if the fleet participants agree upon a wind speed above which they won't race then when that velocity is reached nobody has to decide whether to sail or not, there will be no race. It makes no sense to club race in gear busting conditions, there is too much risk of injury, damage or worse. The "Village trophy" ain't worth it.
     
  11. Quagers

    Quagers Member

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    For me though and many I sail with it is going out in exactly those conditions that we live for, days when just getting the boat round the course is a challenge. Theres the nervous excitement as you change and rig up, then exhilaration as you fly off on a reach and finally relief when you have a big crash and realise your ok. The race series should be won by the best sailors and they are the ones who can get a finish in those conditions, those who cant stay on shore (DNS) or crash and burn (DNF) either way the results of the series are still fair.
     
  12. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    The threshold for conditions suitable/unsuitable will always be different for different people. So to stop some when they can cope fine does seem a bit unfair. But allowing the more capable also "allows" the less capable who may be braving conditions way beyond their capability. But then less experience people can only gain experience through experience - only sailing in a Force 2 will not help you much when it comes to competing in a Force 5.

    Any club limiting racing conditions to their least experienced member (who may not even turn up in more challenging conditions) may soon find its more capable competitors moving elsewhere.

    And when the club says "no racing in conditions worse than xxx" then that implies to the less experienced that conditions better than xxx are fine for them - they don't need to question their capability because others have made the assessment and judged it fine. If there is still the need for individuals to assess their capability for given conditions then any club limit does not stop those who should be staying ashore but does stop those who are more capable.

    Hence, maybe it does come down to individual responsibility and back to the fact that maybe race officials making decisions based on conditions moves the responsibility away from the individual.

    Of course, every race organiser has to consider if they have adequate rescue cover. Where a single RIB might be fine in F2, maybe the same cover in F6 would be inadequate. But then not racing would be due to inadequate facilities and probably involve asking for people to volunteer for rescue duty (rather than sailing) to provide better cover (I have volunteered to give up sailing for driving a rescue boat on an evening before - without somebody doing that I would get no sail anyway ...).

    Ian
     
  13. Zeppo

    Zeppo Member

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    If everybody, experienced and otherwise agrees in which conditions they will not start that is fair. I have never seen a club start a race, if for example the wind is blowing 40 knots, I also don't believe there is any legal requirement for the race committee to provide rescue boats, I'm talking about a keel boat fleet. Last Easter there was a race, "Southern Straits" that was run out of the West Vancouver Yacht Club, British Columbia, Canada. The forecast was for high winds initially, subsiding later in the day. Some competitors decided not to start, among these were some very skilled sailors, in any case the race, which starts in the morning and goes through the night was started. As the race progressed the wind and seas built. Some boats were damaged, some began to sink and their crews abandoned ship, again these were skilled sailors. Rescues were carried out by other participants and the Coast Guard. In the afternoon the Race Committee decided to abandon the race for safety reasons, those boats that had started all headed for various ports or safe anchorages. Winds during this open water race gusted in excess of 50 knots and seas were considerable in size. The Race Committee came under significant criticism for not having abandoned the race prior to the start. Google Southern Straits race, there is plenty written about this particular race.
     

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