Summer Series an Experiment

Once this is off my chest I’ll get back to something that resembles normal postings.

Some time ago the GFS ran a survey to solicit skippers’ opinions of the safety of various aspects of racing at GFS, from memory this survey concentrated on the start and crowding at Onions Point. The results of the survey led the Committee to believe that they should take action and these actions should be trialed in the Twilight Summer series, they included:

  1. Address the crowding at Onions Point.
    They addressed this by placing a buoy off Onions Point, this buoy is not a mark of the course but forms part of the continuing obstruction that is Onions Point. My initial thought was a little perverse in that there is concern about crowding at a certain point so let’s increase the size of the obstruction that causes that congestion, making less navigable water for yachts thereby magically reducing congestion. There was logic behind the placement of this buoy and that was that if a yacht was running out of room they had an escape route that did not involve hitting another yacht(s) or running aground. My opinion is that if all skippers knew, understood and complied with RRS 19 then there would be no issue.
    In retrospect this has not caused too may issues however there have been reports of skippers ignoring rule 19 and barging through, probably encouraged by the fact that there is now room for them to take an escape route if they are unable to bully the boat they are overtaking to give them room. We had one instance of this with a boat demanding room while overtaking between us and the obstruction, we gave them room as it was easier than having an argument with a skipper who has proven before that he believes that the rules do not apply him. I’ll keep the reasons as to why we did not protest private.
  2. Address crowding on the starting line
    I must admit I got tired of being told that there is a regulation that specifies the length of the start line is to be 1.5 times the total length of boats starting and that in Blue and Black divisions that regulation is regulatory broken.
    As far as I can determine there is no regulation, there does however appear to be a recommendation to Principal Race Officers (PRO) to set a start line 1.2 to 1.5 times the total length of boats starting, it also recommends that PROs should use discretion with regard to the environment, the type of boats, the experience of skippers amongst other considerations.
    To address this percieved concern it was decided to have pursuit starts, also described as handicap starts during the summer series, somehow this was going to alleviate the congestion on the start line.
    You can only make judgement from your own perspective, and from our perspective it has been a fail. The Sailing Instructions applicble to racing at GFS 9state that during normal starting procedures (5 minute start sequence) all boats with the exception of those in their start sequence are to keep clear of a defined starting area, in our division that means that there is the potential to be 11 boats (the nimber of boats in Blue division) in the start area, 11 boats that we race against consistently and boats by virtue of being in the same division have similar performance characteristics.
    With the handicap start the Sailing Instructions require that all boats must keep clear of the starting box except those within 3 minutes of their start time. What this meant to us (at our allocated start time) there was the potential of up top 38 boats legally in the start area in the first race of the series, reducing (due to alterations of handicaps as the series progressed) to 33 boats in the last race. Many of these boats have substantially differing ,performance characteristics. Starting is always a little daunting but with that many boats in start sequence daunting went to a completely higher level.

The committee is to be congratulated for recognising that there may be an issue and trying something to address it, however ourselves together with many of our competitors were getting a little tired of hearing  about  statistics that said we the skippers critical of the experiment were in the minority, especially when none of us had spoken to anyone that liked the experiment. In the words of a famous person who’s name does not come to mind, this seemed like a solution that was looking for a problem. Thank goodness we go back to status quo in the Autumn season.