Salcombe Week - race starts

15/07/2012 17:56:15
Keith Callaghan
There appeared to be some controversy about some of the starts last week. I have posted a video of four of the starts on YouTube. Unfortunately, the most controversial start (race 3, with 5 boats black flagged, but many more thought to be over) is not included.
Judge for yourself. Let's hear your views!
15/07/2012 20:56:57
It looks like Salcombe race officiers might have to sharpen their act with all this technology around,

15/07/2012 22:32:56
John M
The first start shown - Whilst the situation does not look good.... it does not look like the camera is on the line so pointless footage, certainly not evidence that would be use in any hearing...

The second start shows the top of the mast bending strongly in the wind, has no flags, but does have a sound signal. Looks fine to me.

However, the later starts show the flags which helps although the resolution (on my screen anyway) does not show the East Portlemouth transit very clearly. We are assuming we are on the line and we also assume that the RO is looking to windward of a pole which is vertically below the top and is the same thickness.

One thing that could be done would be for the class flags and the fairway flags to be swapped so that the fairway flag is always behind the line and the class flag in front of it. I don't know how a spotter on the East Portlemouth side can call the start if it cannot see the flag coming down as the noise takes some time to get across the estuary.

My observation from both on the water and on the shore is that there was a reasonable amount of banging of boats between competitors from which no protests or penalties arose and therefore the RO in comparison has done a pretty good job.

The only further comment on the starts I would have was the unfortunate postponement of two starts in the final seconds, with a black flag up and many boats OCS. Given it is a holiday week, maybe even that was the right decision.

Overall, no need for SYC to "sharpen their act" - but I don't want to go to 0 again

15/07/2012 23:44:28
OK, hands up I was PRO for Sunday, Monday, Thursday PM and Friday PM.  Out of these six starts (not including the recalled starts), I only lost sleep about the third start.  All of the other of these starts I know we called correctly since I was sighting the transits through the course side of the mast on the watch house, despite suggestions to the contrary.

The second start for race three was binned by Postponing because it was obvious from 30 seconds to go that the majority of the fleet was over. The subsequent start only went "viral" at 10 seconds to go, which was insufficient to catch all miscreants, using conventional technology ... eyeball, pen and paper we took around 12 numbers, but only 5 passed the "are we absolutely sure" test.

With hindsight, if this occurred again on my watch, I would delay the restart for however long it took to remove the offenders from the course, and run another black flag start. However at present the SI's provide no means to inform the miscreants, without them entering the fairway to find out! No doubt we will write this in for next year.

Also on reflection, I think that we could look at photographic methods in the future ... basically we could have photographed the starts and taken the time to download onto a laptop and lobbed the miscreants with more certainty, even if this represented 75% of the fleet. I guess that we would only have to do this once a year and everything would be sorted, though not ideal for what is meant to be a Holiday Week. On a practical note it probably would not be possible to inform them until they don't hear the bell.

It was suggested that the upper part of the Watch House mast is not on the transit, I had a look at this during the week, and it is bang on the line, however unless you sight through the course side of the mast on the watch house you are not looking at the same line that the RO sees. The higher up you are, such as on the SYC terrace, the less accurate your view.

One other point, the Line Watch on the Portlemouth shore has a VHF with the countdown on open transmission from the Watch House, which means that he doesn't need to see the class flag, but the point raised is worth noting.

SYC is totally committed to providing competitors with the best possible sailing (as well as socials) and will take on board any positive or negative feedback. I am not sure that this forum is the best place for the discussion, imo it would be better to post any comments to Jayne at SYC and we will add them to our wash up discussion, and will look at them again during the build up for next year's Merlin Week.

16/07/2012 12:01:07
Former Whitstable Pro
I've been PRO for several classes in my time and the Merlin class is easily the most difficult to start - even more difficult than Finns !

When the tide is ebbing as it does at Salcombe there is little the PRO can do except try to get as many miscreants as possible - even photographic help won't identify all the premature starters . I thought the PRO was right to postpone when there were so many over - I do the same particularly if I consider that the line has a little too much bias . At sea of course it is possible to move the pin-end fairly easily but that is not an option that is available , or would help , with an ebbing tide at Salcombe . With a flooding tide it might help if there were an alternative set of transits on the Portlemouth side a few yards further North to eliminate the obvious advantage of starting there .

16/07/2012 16:36:03
Yes, the video is interesting although (as previously mentioned) of limited value for protests (or for consultation by the PRO).  What you need is a view that is definitely along the line (ie with the transits on the far side lined up rather than one 'above' the other).  Since there is always a delay in hearing the hooter (both on the course and in the clubhouse) there also has to be a *visual* confirmation of the start time (as for the ones that show the class flag dropping, eg Race 9 – @ 1'55" on the video). 

Regarding notifying competitors that they are BFD: a couple of years ago (or was it last year?) a club RIB was stationed at the first mark with a whiteboard showing sail numbers and the occupants hailed the offending boats. This is common practice at many other events. Being pulled out of the race can be upsetting for those caught; but less so than crossing the finish to a resounding silence – and at least they get to spend more quality holiday time on the beach/shopping in the pouring rain/drinking heavily and swearing about the Race Officer.

16/07/2012 18:17:43
We did have a board at Mark 4 for the race in question, it was not practical to get the board up to 1 before the fleet arrived.  Because of a protest from several years ago, we are extremely sensitive to verbal communication between rescue crews and competitors and discourage it.  It would be very easy to transpose two numbers (say 3697 for 3679 fictional boats) in a VHF transmission and send the wrong boat home.  My wash up notes would propose for next year that "numbers of the black flagged boats will be displayed by a rescue boat at a mark if/when convenient" I don't anticipate this being in the SI's, this would give the RO to write the numbers on the board, and a rescue boat to pick it up on its way back from the windward mark.

One small niggle, while we are on the subject of identification is that the Speed Sail sail numbers are sailings equivalent to "anti-camera" number plates and i.m.o. do not fulfill the contrasting requirements of ERS. These do not make the identification process very easy.

16/07/2012 18:37:29
Alex 3556
Whilst spectating during the races i wasn't in during the week, I did notice that the grey lettering on grey sail material of the Speeds is hard to see as I was looking for Jez who has a Speed main and was straining my eyes most of the time...

16/07/2012 19:33:55
David W
The fleet made some of the starts very difficult for the race officers - notably when a large element of it was over the line on the third attempt at a start and in spite of the blck flag. Many of those spectating and looking forward to the afternoon's race mmay have wondered if the morning would still be trying to start at 14.30 had the box not have done as they did! Let's not forget that the the race officer and team have given up their valuable time so that we can all enjoy Salcombe Merlin Week as the fantastic event that it is. I would rather that only those of which there is absolutely no doubt were over are thrown out than there be risks of errors.

16/07/2012 22:19:10
Richard Stevens
With a camera on the line, especially one so short as at Salcombe, it is possible to call for an X Ray, at the start,  and then take time to sort out who was over,  [ if, you have a para in the SIs that says that the Race committee may, repeat may display those OCS at mark 1. ] 

As for reading the numbers on transparent sails, I find that if I can't read the numbers - they can't be given a finish!
See RRS G1.2 Specifications
(a) National letters and sail numbers shall be in capital letters and
Arabic numerals, clearly legible and of the same colour. Commercially
available typefaces giving the same or better legibility
than Helvetica are acceptable.

Using the ROs tape from 90secs to go, however can sometimes sort out numbers from boat colours etc.

17/07/2012 09:05:14
Barry Dunning
How do Speed Sails pass measurement if you cannot read the numbers?

17/07/2012 09:52:09
Not so curious
Like they did with the aerosails?

17/07/2012 10:13:05
You can read them perfectly laid out on the loft floor. I woulndt say they are any worse than black numbers on the brown kevlar cloth in use a few years ago, and Noone complained about those.

Numbers on any laminate sail are hard to read with the sun behind them.

17/07/2012 10:54:48
David Child
As an observer I seem to remember that for a while until recently Merlin Rockets racing in Salcombe had numbers in the jin vertically and in line with the forestay. jibs are mainly white so dark blue, red or black would do the job.
Not very elegant I accept and maybe it did not work or getting them off was a pain in the proverbial.
#One thing for sure; line discipline needs to be enforced somehow both as to being a premature starter and all those line collisions.
It's everybodys holiday; not just the ones who break the rules!

17/07/2012 13:54:28
It would be interesting to hear the justification from the sailmaker for using gray numbers rather than black.

17/07/2012 14:01:12
The Daily Mail
The sailmaker hasn't broken any rules so no need for them to respond.

17/07/2012 15:02:45
or use bow numbers as the 420's do - much easier to read and no hiding!

17/07/2012 15:25:15
David Child
Yes but hatd to stick on a clinker hull!

17/07/2012 16:08:36
Hard for those who want to be over the line and not get caught!

17/07/2012 17:07:00
Mike Anslow
David, I believe that the experiment with numbers on jibs tried a few years ago wasn't particularly successful, as the numbers were too small to be seen properly.  I don't think there has been any suggestion that the experiment be repeated with larger numbers.

17/07/2012 21:01:06
Chris M
Since we are having a debate.....

From what i saw this year I'm not sure that the black flag is an effective tool for the RO at Salcombe. I think that this is because with limited space and a strong tide it's very easy to get flushed over and in the crowded estuary not a great deal you can do about it in relatively light winds.

That is certainly what happened on Monday morning, we were BFD from the second or third rank and in spite of knowing full well that we were over there was nothing at all that I could do to get back or escape. Personally speaking I wasn't pushing the line, if i had have been i'd have been out in front!

At a normal venue of course you can move the line, at Salcombe this is not an option.

What could be done instead i don't know. I'd be an advocate of using the Z flag penalty. This wouldn't be all that effective in the circumstances described either, but at least if you are over you'd get a result. It's very much in keeping with the spirit of why some of the starts were abondoned, it's a holiday week and people don't want to be sent home.

18/07/2012 07:32:17
Peter Scott
I watched 'that' start from sea level and was positioned on the line. The view in our craft was that this would be a controversial start as it appeared to us that whilst the OD could not easily identify all the premature starters individually, when the gun sounded he could identify the 8 or 10 (or so it appeared to us)who were actually behind the line. We discused the prospect of 40 boats being black flagged!!
We did not expect the controversy to surround only 5 being 'lobbed' and with virtually all the the front runners being over it did, perhaps, cast a cloud over the race.
Having said that the OD is not on the water, the line is fixed and everyone is aware of the constraints of starting at Salcombe - the bottom line is poor fleet discipline. Perhaps the mass black flagging would have been a big wake up call to the fleet.
And to those who say it's only a holiday week and there should be some flexibility I would say, which other rules would you like leeway to observe? Miss a mark out here and there?
How about amending the SI's to state that a BFD cannot be discarded - might concentrate minds!!??
The start will always be a potential problem however if the 'jockeying' took place 20 boats lengths further back then all would be well when the gun sounds.

18/07/2012 09:10:04
Andrew M
I believe mass black flagging occurred at Hamble and does not appear to have improved behaviour.  We have had these discussions before, I thought there had been a forum consensus about trying alternative and escalating penalties for the mass push on the line and it would be good to have sorted it before the champs as I have no particular wish to spend hours on the water practising my starts.  Round the ends would not work at Salcombe obviously (though the prospect of carrying your boat round the Portlemouth transit might focus minds) but would be very feasible for the champs, non-discardable BFD's will finish the prospects of the front runners, but it is they who are the pushers.

18/07/2012 09:15:06
That's pretty much how it seemed to me too. I'm pretty sure I speak for all 5 bfds that we knew we were over, but were aggrieved at the time that those out at the front if the pack all got away with it!  In my case it made no overall differance, and I wouldn't have wanted to be in the box making the call!!

18/07/2012 09:29:10
Andrew, I don't think we'll have the same issues at the champs, the line can be adjusted, the tide is equal and there is more room.

Line pushing is a problem, but at salcombevits exacerbated by the local conditionsBand everyone wanting to be in the same place

18/07/2012 10:29:45
David Child
On the Ranelagh S C site - link vintage Merlin Rocket Pictures- there is a picture of 91 Merlin Rockets starting in quite breeze down tide on a much narrower river in the days of large fleets at Ranelagh; over 1960-1970 I do not recall it being a major problem, what has been forgotten?
In the fleets I race in it is standard that Black Flag DSQ's (Though the black flag is seldom used, we do not have tidal stream in the Baltic.) cannot be discarded it does concentrate the mind.
I really hope that it will be alright at the Championships and everyone has a non-controversial championships that is also fun.

18/07/2012 10:54:57
I suspect nothing has been forgotten, rather people who sail on rivers and are used to strong tide are now in the minority. I do hamble occasionally and salcombe open most years. That's all.the "river" sailing I do.

More is being made of this than needs to be. There would have been more controversy had one boat in the running been bfd, its probably turned out for the best that none did.

18/07/2012 11:18:19
Letting the fleet go on monday pm did distort the results for the week. A bost up to weather of me who was not disq. (and was very suprised during discussions that evening) would have finished outside the prizes.

18/07/2012 12:25:57
I like Peters thinking of noteing down the boats that were not over and lobbing the rest!! I am pretty sure I would have been lobbed but there were allot of boats in my lea that where a long long long way over and it was more than 5!!

18/07/2012 12:57:42
Former Whitstable Pro
Making a note of the boats that were legal and binning the rest was done at Shoreham in the 70's . It was protested and eventually was declared legal by an appeal to the RYA .

18/07/2012 15:36:34
Live by the sword, die by the sword, if you're pushing the line on a BF eventually you will be lobbed, suggest we collectively get over it and move on...

18/07/2012 16:37:37
David Henshall
Whitstable PRO; the 'test case' with the RO being able to clearly identify those on the right side of the line and binning the rest took place at the 470 Europeans at Stokes Bay. Light airs and a very strong weather going spring tide caused havoc - the fact that it was close to an Olympics so the fleet was packed with high  hopefuls didn't help. The RO was of course Tim Hockin, famous in the Merlin fleet for 'Flamin-Go' though it has to be said that the events did nothing to further his career.

Once the bulk of the 80 or so strong fleet had finished in silence all hell broke loose, with various teams demanding the removal of the RO and his replacement with someone else. The RYA were in a corner but did the right thing; Tim could show he'd followed due process and the results stood and he stayed in place. Any team that didn't like this was free to depart....

After a great deal of sabre rattling the event continued, but within these few factoids are a message for both Race Officials and competitors. For the ROs, it really is the old 'total quality' mantra: "say what you do, do what you say and be able to prove it". For competitors, sadly the harsh truth is that if it's a black flag start and you're high on the line then you are in the wrong place and should know better.

That said, I do not know of any RO who enjoys the use of the Black Flag but with some fleets it is just the only way to get the fleet away in any semblence of order. I was PRO for a 40+ boat fleet of cats a fortnight ago and ended up with 3 out of the top 4 scoring BFD in one race - quite simply, they were pushing the line, with a weather going tide and paid the price. Sailing at venues with strong tides has these problems but helms don't make it easy for themselves nor for the Race Team.

18/07/2012 17:01:10
Former Whitstable Pro
Clearly a much higher profile event David but when was it .The Shoreham event was a Merlin meeting on a Saturday prior to the Silver Tiller race on the Sunday .I think it was around 1974/5 and Tim may have been still sailing Merlins at that time . Only 3 boats were legal and the race was ' won 'by the late Tom Shucksmith - much to his surprise !

18/07/2012 21:37:46
David Henshall
August 1975! The race was won by Lawrie of the few who were deemed not to be OCS (this was all before Black Flags... the race team just had to keep plugging away).

It was this case that forced the issue with the RYA, possibly because of the potential for their nominated race office being hung out to dry. Tim, who was a damn good PRO may well have had his star tarnished by the events at Stokes, despite his efforts there was thereafter that hint that "he was the Race officer who....."

Present company excepted, there are some fleets where line discipline becomes an issue (sadly when it does it so often means that other rule observance follows suit) - back in the 1980s the Laser II fleet had a deserved poor reputation and could be a nightmare class to manage. In the end, sometimes the use of the Black Flag (after one start under P) really does 'encourager les autres'!

18/07/2012 21:37:58
For the record, I did not consider counting the numbers on the right side of the line, since there were a few "entries" who may not have come to the line who would have been recorded with the wrong result.  

I am most sympathetic for those disadvantaged by those who start early, which is why we will try and seek a better solution. I have concluded that the solution is to be better prepared to keep recalling/black flagging until we get a good start, and a number of boats have been sent home, with the help of some photography. Even if some "over the liners" get given another life, at least the legal starters are not disadvantaged off the start.

On the Speed sail number front, the numbers look fine for measuring (I had an Aeroweb on my Solo last year!), but they are hard to read in combat, the problem is that you spend so much time concentrating on reading off the number, that your attention is taken away from others. Being a holiday week I don't think that it was my job to turn this into a major issue, but it does not make the OOD's job easier, and I have no doubt that this is a ploy, otherwise why not use the same numbers as everyone else?

Ref. spotting hull colours, bit hard since this years colour seems to be one of 50 Shades of Grey (couldn't resist it - sorry).

18/07/2012 21:40:07
David Henshall
David - love the last comment but I think I should wait until I laugh aloud: I'm PRO for the RS 500 nationals in a months time and they are ALL grey - and all the same shade of grey too!


19/07/2012 12:10:07
Barry Dunning
Any chance of moving the line at Salcombe!

19/07/2012 12:16:33
We love to hate the start line at Salcombe! It is unique and the location can not be improved.

19/07/2012 12:36:04
Andrew M
On the positive side I'm with Pete here and part of the Salcombe experience is the grandstand feel of the packed terraces watching the start(s).  After a year away I had forgotten what an adrenaline rush it is trying to tack onto starboard with 20 seconds to go with 30 boats heading for you with not quite enough room and the water all churned up with quarter-waves.  Video followed by a board at Yalton of the lobbed seems a very practical suggestion.  Even if not all offenders can be identified, increasing the risk of identification when the line is pushed should improve behaviour.

20/07/2012 21:37:43
Many years ago we had a black flag from the first start and I don't seem to remember as many starting issues. You were in a "non pushy mode" from the off. 
The problem with an AP just before a BF start is that if the fleet knows this will be used they are more likely to push that start thus defeating the object of having a BF.
BF all starts, no AP's and take the numbers of those you see - it won't take long for the pushers to hang back then.

21/07/2012 07:01:14
John m

I almost agree 100% re always using the black flag.

the only exception re the use of the AP is if there is genuinely very little wind and a stream is causing the fleet to be the wrong side of the line? we probably should not be staring in these circumstances but a RO might like to attempt to see if it is possible.

21/07/2012 12:28:12
Richard Stevens
Why go direct to black flag.
If you start, as racing have always done for the past , with a P, and state in advance that you will call those OCS with an X ray flag, and, if one gets 75% of those over you let it go at that. There is the chance for those who started legitimally to carry on and those that do not return, also lose that race. They may,repeat may be lucky and get away with it, BUT nothing in my experience is better to discipline a fleet than the first race with a number of boats losing that race by being noted as OCS.

This was ISAF policy 5 years ago, and I have used it since. I have rarely used the black as a result. [about 6 times in the last 12 years] At the same time of the weekend as Salcombe, we managed 10 starts with only 1 OCS with the topper fleet of 225 boats. - It can be done.

If you want to change the rules in the way we start, just drop P, I and Z from the book.

21/07/2012 12:34:02
Richard Stevens
Further to my last.
At Salcombe with a short line, there is little room for anyone returning to get back, clear of everyone else, and of course the OCS folk on Port,have to keep out of the others way- further incentive to stay behind the line.

23/07/2012 15:50:26
John Buckley
Andrew M,

I have quite a mark on my port gunwale as testimony to the fact that your adrenaline got the better of you on wednesday afternoon and you tacked too late and into my path.

23/07/2012 16:09:55
Stuart Bates (MR3615)
I know that a race officer, who had done many champs, suggested that firing the gun early when there was going to be a recall if started on time, but the start looking fair, was an option that was sometimes used by him to get the fleet away.

I think that the hardest job in Salcombe has to be the Race Officer, as at no other event is it so easy for the spectators to view the line along with the width restrictions. I have to applaud anyone who takes up that role, as it must be more stressful than for the starter of the 100m Olympic Final!

23/07/2012 18:34:59
Dear John,
At this point all I can do is apologise. If memory serves this was before one of the starts that was binned and I had acknowledged my infringement and had we continued I would have duly done my 720. Please let me know if you need me to contact my insurers.


25/07/2012 12:45:11
John Buckley

Appreciate the apology, I did hail you, but you were too far away to hear and in any case a 720 somewhat moot as the start was recalled. Damage thankfully slight, sorted out with a little gelcoat filler and sandpaper.

I cannot claim to be exemplary, however I think we all need to be careful not to push things too far at the start as any evasive action is often not possible without causing further carnage.

I must say that I saw quite a few examples of blatant luck pushing, both from the shore and on the line itself. I wondered whether people found it worse than in previous years. For example, there a similar mark on my starboard gunwale as testimony to a windward boat trying not to be OCS.

All the best, and see you next year if not before.

25/07/2012 13:24:57
Early Entrant
And did you protest?

25/07/2012 13:45:16
Andrew M
He did hail and in the circs (loads of boats with flapping sails, much other shouting going on) I cannot swear the word protest was used.  Nevertheless the fault was mine for trying to tack onto starboard late into a very small gap in quite vigorous conditions & I was set up and ready to do a 720 once the mayhem had settled.  By that point the start had been recalled.  Can't say I saw many other boats doing turns, I am very practised at it and did 3 sets during the week, 2 for mark rounding infringements I think, 1 without contact, and one for touching a windward boat on a run.

25/07/2012 13:56:41
Andrew, you shouldn't have to defend yourself on the forum.  Protest rooms and/or private discussions between those involved are better places for this. :-)


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