Topic : Gate starts - discuss

Gate starts - discuss

Posted: 20/08/2007 17:29:07
By: Black flagged
Very nasty for the pathfinder - you should see the leading boats at the previos finish counting positions (usually 10th is the next pathfinder!) and suddenly letting a competitor through!

It's also quite damaging - there's aa tendency to play dodgems with the guard boat(s). You'll need a good boat repairer on hand


Posted: 20/08/2007 17:36:14
By: Colin
They take a lot of the skill out of starts.

Posted: 20/08/2007 18:27:38
By: Robinson
I suggest we get more strict on BFDs not less.

Witness the debac at Whitstable - when those that stayed behind the line got disadvantaged when the RO let a general go.

More lobbing not less!

Posted: 20/08/2007 18:45:11
By: David L
was wondering the pros and cons and putting a mark in the middle of the line, guess it would be dificult to set it accurately and slow down line resetting but think its been done in the past,

Posted: 20/08/2007 19:47:07
By: Megan
As far as I know only the Firefly's and 505's are truly smitten by gate starts. Before sailing became analy retentive about starting good race officers like Frank Dwyer at Whitstable and Robert Lee-Warner at Pwhelli (1970) treated the process of starting the fleet like a National Hunt race get em more or less lined up with no one overly advantaged or disadvantaged and let em go. I started on the 220 plus boat lines of Pwhelli in 1970 wuth some sucess and it was not bad at all. Two years ago we had 300+Dragons on one line at ST Tropez it was chaos and a look at an arial picture shows a semicurvular start line! By all means be Draconian with those over the line but a black flag can be counterproductive in causing jambs by not letting the early birds go and dodge back in further down the line. The technology exists Mags knows about it to track every boat by it carrying a small (mobile phone size)device and one can tag either end of the line so it can be watched on a screen in real time and then with confidence you know can get all the malefactors!It is accurate to 1 metre. I am sure the supplier would sponsor it. IY also has a safety bonus an electronic tag that does not need returning. It checks in automatically.

Posted: 20/08/2007 22:49:32
By: Ancient Geek
I have to say I have always been anti gate starts but I am beginning to change my mind.

There are some big issues when the front boats don't get lobbed, because they are grouped together and hard to see, but those who are hanging back because they realise the danger, do. Presumably because they are the only ones that can be identified. This has happened to me a lot lately - so I am biased. It seems very unfair and it completely ruins a teams week, or even season.

There are disadvantages with gate starts - but I can see the attractions too.

As a class we spend so much time encouraging new people to come and enjoy the 'championship experience' - and then keep them hanging around in the cold waiting for endless dodgy starts.

I think the boats with speed are going to get to the front anyway – and the rest of us might have a better, and fairer, day.

Posted: 20/08/2007 23:33:06
By: Pat Blake
Having done many gate starts in the past especially in the Firefly class, would say yes you do get away first time USUALLY. However, there are a few problems. In the fireflys we used to have a sort of Private Members club where the top boats started in the first 15 boats as a group and 9 times out of 10, we overtook the pathfinder with windward advantage. Now how depressing would that be to the fleet to see RG overtake the boat that came 10th and lead the fleet. At least with a line start there is a chance of beating him to the windward mark as we did once and were not far off doing on a second occasion. Also if their is a bias to one side of the beat as was the case in Pwhelli, you would potentially have pile ups in the aerly stages of the start and I would not be that keen to have my boat as pathfinder in a case like that. Line starts require a certain type of skill and what the class potentially needs is possibly greater policing with Video cameras at either end and possibly some training for some of the fleet on how to get the best legal start. Main issue is how to police the early starters. At Major international regattas they manage it, so we should be able to do so with 80 odd boats. More video and lobbing (Just hope not us) is the way forward in the short term and line awareness as a fleet would be better.
Bye for now

Posted: 21/08/2007 07:48:40
By: Barnsie
I think the old technology is useful:-

Starting canon (loaded) is aimed at the other end of the start line. Anyone with a shot damage to the sails of hull is disqualified as well!

Posted: 21/08/2007 08:22:52
By: Colin
Ents 12s and GPs all use gate starts i believe.

There is an alternative to the black flag (Z flag?) which gives a 20% points penalty to those caught OCS and i wonder if that is maybe worth a try at the inlands to see what happens? Round the ends is pointless, it just causes chaos.

It seems to me that the black flag makes little differance to people's positioning on the start line so we might as well try something else. In a way it's a nice problem to have becasue it shows how competetive the fleet is!

Posted: 21/08/2007 08:38:15
By: Chris M

I'm sure I read an article here or in a copy of the class magazine where just that happened back in the late 50's early sixties. The jib on a merlin took the full force of the shot. rather swashbuckling really. Possibly myth but i'm sure someone like Ancient Geek can help.

Posted: 21/08/2007 08:39:41
By: Richard Battey
Ever thought about having a committee boat in the middle of the line?  Seem to remember one in 14's at St Francis.  I think gate starts are your answer and might encourage more to the Championship experience.

Posted: 21/08/2007 10:05:31
By: David
Not aware of anything in Merlin Rockets not in my days anyway, 1962-1970, but in 2001 I did cop the wadding from the preparatory signal in an eye, at Medemblik, but as I wear glasses it wasn't serious.(I was too close to the Committee Boat on the non line side.)Scary though because you get the pain before you hear the sound!

Posted: 21/08/2007 10:07:00
By: Ancient Geek

When I was sailing in Fireflys in the 70's I'd heard of this - hence the comment! I do remember that there's nothing like having a canon let off in your right ear to make you choose the other end of the line next time!

IIRC the problem with gate starts is predicting the line of the pathfinder so that you can start accurately. We had a bunch of boats above the pathfinder's course, so they were all bearing away trying to duck under the pathfinder/guard boats (all on starboard of course), so when the leeward boats hardened up to close hauled, the bunching behind was chaotic - with some boats having no escape route but into the guard boat/pathfinder, or trying to bear away through a bunch of boats now on closehauled.
If you didn't sail above the pathfinder's course, and started early in the gate you were well behind the line at the start - sailing parallel to the pathfinder was also difficult because of the bunch of boats bearing down on starboard.
A different set of tactics and problems from a line start.

There were still problems needing a recall - usually where someone hit the guard boat or the pathfinder.
And, as already noted, the pathfinder is usually down the end of the fleet for that race...

Oh yes, Gate starts require a different set of committee boats from a line start as well - the host club has to improvise a lot.


Posted: 21/08/2007 10:14:53
By: Colin
I think Davo has been shot by the start gun in the past, not sure where.

Posted: 21/08/2007 10:18:58
By: Robinson
I understand it was on the Ar*e me hearty's.

Picture in late 90's magazine of said injury .....or was that just chaffing!?

Posted: 21/08/2007 10:31:20
By: Seaman Staines
One incident I do recall was at Hamble on the late 60s'-early 70's a Royal Southern Regatta Rex King a Merlin Sailor was on the comittee boat and at the end of the day coming ashore picked up the cannonade by one of its firing lanyards, - As a soldier he should have known better!- it went off the wadding wounding a young lady badly enough that she needed hospital treatment at which point it got a bit serious because Hospitals and Doctors are required by law to report all gunshot wounds to the police, a lot of muttering by PC Plod about prosecutions and withdrawing firearms certificates, gladly it all went away. Tim Hockin another Merlin sailor was there and was afterwards very strict about firing point discipline on the committe boats he was on. A very shaken Rex told me about a few days later.

Posted: 21/08/2007 10:48:23
By: Ancient Geek
Please what ever is decided can the delay between re starts be cut to a minimum, be decisive, lob the offenders and get on with it !

Posted: 21/08/2007 12:41:25
By: Ian
Louder Sound signals would also help. At Pwllheli I didn't once hear the starting signal unless we were right on the starboard end. When you remove that extra bit of information the temptation to charge a bit is increased all the more.

So guns not horns, and strap a camara to the mast of each committee boat nice and high up, looking along the line from above, and another at water level.

You could even have a camera looking back at the line from in Front and to the right hand side, so that the camera on the line spots "the 10th boat is over" and the camera in front can see the sail number of the 10th boat. This should be easy enough at Salcombe at least, someone must have a balcony in the right place!

Posted: 21/08/2007 13:35:09
By: Random Crew
Few of you will know this but at Whitstable, probably during one of the two  championships there in the 50s, the Merlin Rockets tried a gate start. It was great and we were thrilled to be first at the windward mark. The snag was that 40 or 50 other boat were also first at the windward mark!

Posted: 21/08/2007 13:38:49
By: Robert Harris
Didnt Rowsell hole the gateboat when the fleet tried a gate start at Whitstable. If memory serves, I think the gate boat was MacNamara.

Posted: 21/08/2007 15:04:13
By: Barry
Thought it was the other way round?

Posted: 21/08/2007 15:24:30
By: Oldie
Gates starts can be really good, and here are a few simple 'rules' that might tempt a few souls; if the wind is going right start early, if it is going left start late. if you are slower then the pathfinder start late (he will do the work for you for the first few minites), if you are faster then him start early. To work out if you are fine on the line or need to bear away a touch or at least not go forward anymore, have a look at the faces of the helms below you, if they look calm they are probably below the line, if they look like they are about to take it good and hard by the gaurd boat i.e. their eyes are bigger than saucers and they are paniking, they are probably above it (so stay below them). 

I think they are under used, we had them in toppers back when i was a lad, i think practice makes them easier however, so maybe incorporate them into an open meeting (i'm serious). The more the class does of these the better accepted thay will be. There are still draw backs and still you get general recalls, but in general they are fairer for all.

I'd be happy to be 10th in a nations race and would not complain at being pathfinder. The rules allow you to tack off reasonably early so as not to mess up your race if the wind goes right.

Posted: 21/08/2007 16:01:41
By: superfluous
spell check failed again, amoungst others nationals, not nations!

Posted: 21/08/2007 16:16:52
By: superfluous
A few thoughts. Despite being the proud owner of two black flags last week, I am still, unreservedly, a fan of line starts.  

Line starts require a much greater degree of skill and I believe are an integral part of the challenge of getting a good result in a large fleet. After all, what do they use in the Olympics? Problems do arise when the wind is moving around but that will be the case whether you have line start or a gate. I thought our PRO did a very good job in getting us away last week, apart from his dragging anchor, and, in those conditions, we would have faced the same delays if we had used gate starts.

I really don't like the idea that the pathfinder is forced to start late and if you ever get a poor start with a gate it is much, much harder to recover as there just don't seem to be the gaps to work with as boats drag race off to the left.

However gate starts do help solve the problem of a weather going tide, which was quite a lot of the problem last week but my solution to that would be to do what Nick Robinson did at Hamble years ago, which is to have a dan buoy in the middle of the line, which he guaranteed to be on the line. This works very effectively at stopping the bulge because you can always get a transit you can trust (and see).

Finally, what we really need from our PROs is consistency, and for too long we have been let off lightly for transgressing - examples too numerous to mention here - and it caught up with a lot of us last week. So please can we make it clear to our PROs that we need black flags, and that they should disqualify every boat they clearly identify as being over. That will improve our line discipline and speed things up.

In my view, we should be very careful what we wish for and gate starts are not the solution to this little issue.

Posted: 21/08/2007 17:32:38
By: djelibeybi
And make one count the disqualification (No discarding a DSQ or BFd..)

Posted: 21/08/2007 17:38:35
By: Ancient Geek
Thats a bit mean is it not.
Cameras are the way forward and asking ROs to be ruthless after the first start but they should also lay a line that is fair. We had one start at the B14 Worlds where we were the committee boat boat and wind shifted 10 secodns before the start and we could not lay the pin. the RO let it go after the committee's discussion with him and his letting the class know at the briefing that if this did occur he would restart. As you can imagine having finished 2nd in the previous race and on for a win, gave him a long qiuet stare rpior to spending the race digging our way out of the s**t and getting back to 8th. If only on that occasion. Luckily last week we started well other than the one where we met RG/JS at the windward mark. No justice for a good start.
Once at Weymouth at the Ents the gaurd boat had a wippy flag pole and caught the top of one ents mast (we had just crossed through) and towed it sideways resulting in a capsize and one of the biggest pileups I have ever seen. Used in many mags in the 1980s.
Anyway onto other things.
Bye for now

Posted: 21/08/2007 17:55:59
By: Barnsie
A bit hard you say, buy lax rule observance except when it suits a personal vendeta has long been the case, I would do away with "turns" and require a protest or retire.
I would make all disqalifications count (As they do in the Olympics.) in a result and I would like to see all series do what the Star Class has long done and count all races. It would concentrate minds clean up thr tacing and the people who barge in rather than back off.
AS I said before the technology is there used un Denmark and in this years Fastnet to lay an accuraye line and see who is where on it, and provide the "Wags", AG, those who can't be there and who have permission to use their work terminals, Barry etc with a view of the races.
"Waiter Kummel this time tak"!

Posted: 21/08/2007 23:51:59
By: Ancient Geek
i like the idea of no discards, or at least making all BFDs and DSQs count. that would/may keep the hens in the hen house for a bit longer, if you see what i mean. go on, try a gate start at an open......

Posted: 22/08/2007 08:14:53
By: superfluous
No Discards. Until recently I was flying gliders. Most gliding competitions are scheduled to run for nine days if the weather allows. No discards are allowed and it seems to work OK.

Posted: 22/08/2007 08:57:07
By: Robert Harris
The non-discardable BFD sounds like a good way forward.  What we might try would be a conventional black flag start (discardable) and if the fleet are still pushing the line then bring in the no discard BFG, so that the threat is hanging over us if we do not behave.  Couple that with the simple technology of video aimed down the line, add jib numbers if required and we should be there.

I thought gate starts had been tried at a more recent Champs - Weymouth, perhaps. I wasn't there but maybe someone recalls how it went

Posted: 22/08/2007 09:02:18
By: Andrew M
The idea of discards is to allow for gear failure due to unforeseen circumstances. BFDs been included in the results, if going down this route we would have to make sure we had conclusive video evidence or there would be a high chance of discrimination and the fleet losing races due to appeals and possibly not been able to declare a Champion at the end of the week. Have high resoution Video Cameras at a descent height above the water not in a rib as that would pointless and catch everyone not just the first transgressor. Would certainly spice up the racing and give a fair account of what had happened. Suggest doing on the Silver Tiller next year at key events and Salcombe. The possibly Nationals 2009 or 2010.
Bye for now

Posted: 22/08/2007 09:11:52
By: Barnsie
I should add that there is a difference between dinghy racing and gliding in the way points points are scored. If a glider lands in a field short of the finish it will receive points for distance flown so providing a glider starts every race it will score at least some points in every race. Similarly if no discards were allowed in MR championships black flagged boats could continue to race but with their points reduced.

Posted: 22/08/2007 09:13:27
By: Robert Harris
And of course Robert one would hope to avoid the "no discard" situation due to gear failure in a glider. Possibly you wouldn't be competing the following day!!

Posted: 22/08/2007 09:56:22
By: Garry R
I have broken my fair share of gear but I cannot think of one occasion in nearly 50 years when it wasn't my fault through either failing to replace it soon enough (Bad maintainance.), making it too light (IE weak.), plain clumsyness, or bad sailing. 
Why should this be a special circumstance?
Consistancy should be rewarded. That's the idea of a series surely?

Posted: 22/08/2007 11:00:32
By: Ancient Geek
Whilst camera and video are a good idea to back up visual observations of boats over the line - stills taken from the pin end of the line at Pwllheli helped convince some competitors that they really were over - there is still the problem of those boats hiding in the bunch which can't be identified.  This happened on at least one occasion on a black flag start at the Champs where, despite a number of boats being black flagged, there was still a general recall - probably because all the offenders couldn't be identified.  Cameras and video are a help, but they aren't the complete solution.

Posted: 22/08/2007 11:07:32
By: Mike Anslow
so why fix it?  as an outsider looking in and contemplating getting a good boat and putting together a decent campaign I think a lot of this is a load of rubbish.

the rules do not require a general recall even if many boats are over, even if the blag flag is in force. Read the rules!

in my view a single discard tends to improve a regatta rather than destroy the regatta due to possibly a single error, or maybe bad luck such as being fouled by another competitor.

please don't fiddle.

Posted: 22/08/2007 18:58:58
By: it aint broke
The point is, for many competitors, it is broke.

For some front runners, getting DSQ's when they know others got away with it.

For the back half of the fleet, hours, literally, hove to or reaching up and down, whilst the course is reset.

That is as broken as it gets

Posted: 22/08/2007 20:13:33
By: Alan F
The point is, for many competitors, it is broke.

For some front runners, getting DSQ's when they know others got away with it.

For the back half of the fleet, hours, literally, hove to or reaching up and down, whilst the course is reset.

That is as broken as it gets

Posted: 22/08/2007 20:13:39
By: Alan F
It is broke not just in the Merlin Rocket fleets, as races get shorter the chance of working through the fleet gets less. Courses are set to be televisual in some cases, certainly windward - leeward courses are for that reason.For some reason then adopted in a majority of cases. Plus pushing your right of way in most cases is plain silly, much better to keep out of trouble on the water if you can, sail defensively, protest if you think you have got a chance of making it stick, some "loose" on the water judging forcing turns etc., though as I have said before I'd go back to foul and home you go or protest turns are just silly and make us all careless.

Posted: 22/08/2007 21:17:11
By: Ancient Geek
Alan F

the quick unofficial champs report
does not refer to the problem

is this why it is unofficial?

Posted: 22/08/2007 22:33:17
By: it aint broke
No, it's unofficial because unsolicited and from the wrong end of the fleet!

On a black flag start I feel it is still OK to let the start go if the race officers feel not all the premature starters have been identified as long as most of them have. Even if one DSQ is discarded picking up 2 of them will stop you having a decent placing on any meeting. As long as the risk of being identified over the line is high, it will be a deterrent. I would prefer a prompt start accepting a couple of boats had got away with it to endless general recalls, repeat offenders will get caught at some point.

Back to gate starts, how long would it take to start a 79-boat fleet on a gate? In shifty conditions being stuck on port for 8 minutes (10 boats a minute) is not ideal, that's probably why we don't do it. In this fleet over half the fleet would want to start early and we would have pile-ups at the guard boat.

Posted: 23/08/2007 12:45:16
By: Andrew M
Back to the gate start issue. Could the race officer not be given the option to resort to a gate start. Not every race but on the occasions that it is hard to get the fleet away.

Posted: 23/08/2007 13:07:21
By: Black flagged
Jolly sensible idea if you ask me....

Posted: 23/08/2007 13:21:10
There are a whole host of very different issues underpinning this thread - but as for the main, 'intended' one of Gate Starts, they need not delay the racing at all - nor are they the  much maligned 'kiss of death' for the pathfinder. As some who has both raced Gate Starts, and then Race Officered them,they are just another option. At the 505 Worlds at hayling last year, Paul Carpenters Race Team got a highly competitive, 120 boat fleet away, on time, with the minimum of  'hanging around for the fleet'.Across the pre Worlds, then the main regatta, no more than a handful of boats were 'lobbed' for starting infringements.Some of these starts were made in light winds, most on this forum know how hard it can be to start out in Braklesham Bay in zip wind but the Solent Tides. Still, the starts went ahead and 'worked' - ie, the good boats still got it right.

This though is not an advert for Gate Starts but, I hope, juat an attempt to show that both Gates and Lines have their place.


Posted: 23/08/2007 13:39:27
By: David H
Since the move to the 5 minute preparatory signal potentially there is no longer time to get a decent transit from beyond the committee boats, assess the favoured end and then get to said end. 
With no accurate transit the only point of reference on a crowded line is the alignment of the surrounding boats hence as soon as one goes everyone else accelerates banking on being covered
Lets have a 10 minute warning signal again, after which the line will not be moved, then there is no excuse for not getting a transit and being over – unless the visibility is poor or perhaps the committee boat anchor drags……….

Posted: 23/08/2007 20:07:51
By: Julian P
Another example of the knock on effect (Shortening the starting cycle.) of trying make Yacht Racing aka Grass Growing a televisual sport. It so essentially a participant sport its a shame that its happening.

Posted: 23/08/2007 20:12:09
By: Ancient Geek
Andrew you estimate 10 boats a minute, it is closer to 25 a minute.
In a 80 boat fleet the path finder may be held on port for 2 minutes and released, the gate boat continues on the couse set by the path finder for another couple of minutes (as prescribe by the SI of the event).

A big shift during the start and (if I recall correctly they can) the race office will abandon the start (not sure about the rules etc, but I am certain it happened in a GP14 Nationals years ago)

Posted: 23/08/2007 20:13:27
By: Alan F
I've been lucky enough to have started some thirty or more merlin Champs/open starts - 85% of which have been first time ,, with the help of a black flag when the tidal current has been pushing the fleet over the line as often happens at Shoreham . Part of the problem is in the RYA recommendation that a little port bias is put on the line . I try to set absolutely square lines ( and have a modified burgee to help ) knowing that as the fleet lines up the wind will back , or appear to . If you start off with a little port bias the fleet will drift towards that end and the wind will back even further after the one min gun . It was Nick Robinson who tried the buoy in the middle of the line but that meant that the fleet knew where the line was and a bulge was created in the middle of the line as the later starters hardened up . The secret is to have the fleet not be quite sure where the line is and they tend to hang back in the middle . This is easier at Shoreham than most places 'cos the pin end is often lacking a land mark . Incidentally I learned last week that Dick Marshall, PRO at a Poole champs ,died during the winter .

Posted: 28/08/2007 18:06:32
By: whitstable pro


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