Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Mallory Championships at Elephant Butte

Mallory Cup Men’s Championship
Quarterfinal Eliminations for the
Sailing Association of
Intermountain Lakes,
May 2–4, 2008,

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

Lessons Learned

Summary of Lessons Learned

In hindsight, race 1 should have been shortened before the last leg. We did learn that club members needed to learn more about the current rules for shortening and changing courses.

One slight surprise discovery: I found some of the race equipment that had been needed on the finish boat when I was cleaning out and removing gear from the windward mark set boat (Buzz's dad's ski boat). Apparently, the items had been loaded into the boat when it was launched Thursday morning, but when we asked some people where the items were on Friday, the people we asked didn't know. Oh well -- live and learn.

We likely should have had a separate bo'sun for all the support boats (start, finish, mark set, etc.). Originally, I think we had in mind someone to do that sort of thing, but he wound up not being available for the weekend.

Another learning experience arose from the extra buoy anchors/weights being left on shore when they turned out to be needed, after all, on Sunday afternoon. Each anchor sufficed to hold the inflatable marks in up to 20 mph winds, but a few of the weekend's stronger gusts were able to shift buoy position. Although the weights were perhaps twice as heavy as what we usually use, the inflatable marks probably had several times more surface area than the smaller round pin buoys we typically use.

For the future: In an ideal world, we'd have separate training for specific boat functions and race committee jobs, i.e. mark set, scoring, line sighting, etc. We had to do a lot of that sort of training on the fly.

More Details of Lessons Learned

Boats and Equipment:

– Need inspector/wrangler for support boats to make sure that equipment doesn’t wander from one boat to another (line flag, marker board) or get left behind at the marina (spare mark buoy anchors). Also need to inspect support boats for basic equipment such as anchor and rode (finish boat had to get these supplemented before the regatta). Inspections need to happen before the regatta weekend.

– The club needs to make or buy the more specialized flags and duplicate them; finish boat needed red/green plus/minus, for example. If the club hosts a Prince of Wales match racing event, for example, then specialized match racing flags will be needed.

– Radios and communication: Some cell phones didn’t work on the lake and some key cell phone numbers weren’t initially known.
No easy means of contact with some volunteers.
One volunteer delayed by local parade.
PRO’s personal radio had limited reception and finish boat had no fixed radio.
Club hand-held radio has quirk about working at some power settings.
Some volunteers didn’t hold radios at proper distance from mouth (not close enough to be heard above wind). Club needed more radios.
Club needed to have more GPS units with volunteers trained to use them.

– Communication about the availability of some volunteers was not passed on initially to the PRO, resulting in awkwardness in trying to confirm assignments and difficulty in contacting the volunteers..

– Finish boat, in addition to initially lacking adequate anchor and rode, had non-working windlass and engine starting/electrical trouble; this imposed additional work/worry on the regatta volunteers and diverted some resources. Finish boat lacked spare small lines. Duct tape on finish boat had to be given to another support boat.

– Having flags already made up on staffs was absolutely necessary and a very good thing. For future reference, having some flags made up on the mark set boats and a brief guide posted on how to use them would be useful.

– Purchases of equipment went far to allowing the r.c. to run proper races. Now, the challenge will be to organize, track, maintain, and secure the equipment. Perhaps a locking locker would be a big help.

Volunteers and Training:

– Need separate boat wrangler for support boats – having PRO getting equipment for support boats at the last minute is a big diversion of time, focus, and energy

– Need for volunteers to get boat pump-outs, fuel, etc., should have been anticipated in scheduling and planning.

– Volunteers on all boats needed to be equipped and trained to use GPS to establish relative positions.

– Volunteers would benefit from training so they have knowledge of current race management practices and recent changes to rules. Training should consist of (1) pre-season general training for new volunteers, (2) on-going refresher training for all volunteers, (3) regatta-specific training one to two months before a major regatta. Training needs to cover rules, roles of different boats and team members, and actual physical practice in different roles, especially in support boat work. There was not time for (3), so only a general session was done.

– Whenever r.c. volunteers are trained, and especially before a major regatta, the r.c. must coordinate training with a US Sailing race officer or judge who is familiar with local conditions as well as current US Sailing practices and requirements.

– Local practices and NORs/Sis should be harmonized with current rules and practices so volunteers and competitors aren’t surprised when participating in events run according to national or international standards. This can best be done by consulting with race officers and judges, especially those familiar with local conditions as well as the RRS and national practices. The NORs/SIs should not conflict with the RRS and must be made available to all competitors (i.e., at every regatta).

– There was no problem with too many volunteers; more could have been used, and they would have been especially more valuable and more comfortable in their roles if more of them could have been given role-specific training in advance of the regatta weekend.

Support boat volunteers
– Separate training is needed for support boat operators and mark setters (don’t put up confusing flag, don’t confuse boats trying to find finish, know how to move marks rapidly). Mark boat operators needed to be trained so they could say “YES” when asked to move a mark quickly.

Start boat volunteers
– Timer on start boat should have been using GPS time coordinated with the GPS on the finish boat. Finish boat GPS should have been set to local time zone. Timer needed to be calling out time louder and facing signalers and sounders. Finish boat volunteers needed to be trained for line sighting. One loss of time count appears to have happened between AP down and 1st warning in 1st race during timer’s countdown. One course flag was forgotten, causing a postponement. One class flag nearly didn’t go down at a start. An individual recall flag was slow to go up.


– Having extra boats and a few extra people available was handy when some volunteers and boats didn’t appear,

Thoughts About Things Done Right and Wrong

– Although in hindsight we could have run a race on Sunday morning, I stand by the decision to postpone the racing until the afternoon winds filled in.

– One thing I would have done differently would have been to have shortened the first race (dying wind on Saturday morning) at the end of the fourth leg.

– As always in any group effort, communications were a big challenge.

– Although we did do some training, and did more training than we'd done previously, much more should have been done.

– The event did help make a case for improving training and resources and bringing them up to a national standard.






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