Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Committee boat position on the starting line

Shown above is a typical starting line for a small, mixed fleet of boats racing on handicaps. The orange pin buoy (buoy shown larger than to scale)is on the left end of the line and the committee boat, shown as green, is to the right. Each square represents 10 feet in this illustration.

The line is longer than the sum of the lengths of the boats, which allows more boats a chance of a good start, and reduces the risk of collision or fouling. The line should be relatively long when a variety of boats sizes and types, and crews of widely different experience levels are starting together. If the line is not square to the wind, it will give an advantage to boats starting at one end, but a longer line will still help to relieve congestion and the chance of collision. The line can be proportionately shorter for a large fleet of maneuverable one-design boats managed by expert crew.

Shown below is a less-desirable line. With modest but steady breezes, no current or waves, and a small number of boats with good crews, the race committee may well escape without a major incident. But...

Setting the line with the committee boat on the left side of the line creates a hazardous trap for boats on starboard tack near what would normally have been the pin end. On a normal line, the leeward boat is the right of way boat, and has luffing rights (limited by rules 15 and 17.1 as applicable). If she's very close to the pin, it only takes a very tiny luff to ease away from it.

But, with the committee boat flipped to the wrong side, the starboard leeward boat finds herself in a terrible predicament. Now she's faced with a huge obstruction.

If she waits too late to luff, the boat to windward of her may not have time to hail boats further to windward to luff. That would leave starboard leeward some very bad choices... crash into the committee boat, foul on the committee boat's anchor rode, find a way to stall and slow down so she can fall behind the rest of the fleet and tack out, or fall off and miss the start.

But, if the leeward boat luffs too soon, she may tempt another boat to come in to her leeward ... into the potentially fatal DANGER ZONE.

Additionally, for starboard tack boats, the starting line with the flipped committee boat is effectively shorter and more congested, increasing the risk of mishap. The only beneficiaries of this arrangement are bargers, since right-of-way boats don't have a convenient committee boat on hand to peel off someone who tries to commit a barge.


At 3:16 PM, April 02, 2008, Blogger Jos said...

Very nice post Pat, thanks. I'll put a link to it from my blog.


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