Race officer duty – Hamish Stewart


Whilst it may seem that being a race officer is astonishingly like “fun with flags”, there is more to it than that (although perhaps not much).  First comes chasing up your race team to ensure they turn up, then read the race manual and check that all the flags are in the flag roll.   The race manual is a fine document that can be argued about for hours.

Before launching you discuss the weather with the patrol boat coxswain and tell him or her where to put the buoys.  The coxswain may put them where he feels so you sort of have to live with that.   After your team puts on more clothes than Scott of the antarctic had, the coxswain takes you out to Lillibet, where you struggle on looking pretty much like a string of sausages.  One of you drives her slowly to the start line while the rest start arranging flags and hoping the fleets actually turn up for their starts.  Then it is back to discussing the buoy layout with the coxswain over the radios.

Starts themselves are fairly frantic, with a complex sequence of flags (you will be surprised to see those flags mentioned again), horns being blown, sailors yelling decorously at each other, while one eye is kept carefully on the line to call back anyone over it and one ear on passing sailors telling the race team they are getting  it wrong.  After that is a peaceful 40 minutes or so and maybe the coxswain brings you coffee, while the team discusses whether or not we can change the course during the race as the wind has shifted.  Finishes are about as relaxed as starts with lots of shouts of times, sail numbers and horn blasts, although disappointingly few flags need to be raised or lowered.

Following racing you hide in the office filling results into Sailwave and hoping no one lodges a protest.  Trying to figure out who was sailing what boat with which crew this week is truly horrible but better than dealing with a protest.