Racing Again – from a Different Perspective

We volunteered Kindred Spirit to serve as the Race Committee boat for one of the Hope Town Sailing Club’s “big boat” races. “Big boat” meaning 18 feet or longer, as opposed to the dinghy and sunfish races. The Charles P. Manchee Trophy Race was held on Wednesday, January 20th. As a trawler, we may not be eligible for racing any longer, but she has the potential to be a really good committee boat. Always looking for a new experience!

Although the race wouldn’t officially begin until 11:00 am, the committee boat (us) went in to the dock at 8:45 am to pick up the equipment and the six race committee members.

Al is carrying the orange inflatable tetrahedron "mark" out to Kindred Spirit.

Al is carrying the orange inflatable tetrahedron “mark” out to Kindred Spirit.

Paul and Al are attaching the race flag staff system to our flybridge.

Paul and Al are attaching the race flag staff system to our flybridge.

Kindred Spirit at the dock, ready to carry the Race Committee out to the course area.

Kindred Spirit at the dock, ready to carry the Race Committee out to the course area.

Like most sports, sailboat races are governed by rules, lots of them. The rules are written by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and include the “right of way” rules for racing sailboats, as well as rules that concern eligibility, race organization and competitors’ rights to protest and appeal decisions. The six members of the HTSC Race Committee (Chairman David with wife, Catherine, Anne and Paul, Denise, and John) brought their notebooks, laptop, plus flags, flag poles, lines, horns……

The committee boat heads out to set up the course a good 90 minutes before the start of the race. While some of the Race Committee members recorded competitors’ information (boat names, type, length, captains, PHRF rating), others determined where to set the marks.

David and John are checking the wind in order to place the start line and the windward mark.

David and John are checking the wind in order to place the start line and the windward mark.

This race was a “Point-To-Point Race” rather than around marks set in a triangular course. Below is our iPad Garmin Bluechart record. The green squiggling line is the actual course of Kindred Spirit as she left Hope Town harbor and set the starting line. You can tell that one mark was set and then pulled up and moved for a better position. The brown straighter lines are a “recreation” of what we think the actual course was.

This race was a “Point-To-Point Race” rather than around marks set in a triangular course. The start would be off the Parrot Cays, around a windward mark, behind Gardener and Sandy Cays (off of Man O’ War Cay) back to the location of the start mark, and back to the windward mark for the finish. (I think that’s how to describe it, but I might be wrong).

The start would be west of the Parrot Cays (bottom of the screen), around a windward mark near Johnny’s Bank, north of Gardener and Sandy Cays (off of Man O’ War Cay) back to the location of the start mark, and then back to the windward mark for the finish. (I think that’s how to describe it, but I might be wrong).

  A start line for a running race is painted on the ground. That’s not possible for a sailing race. Instead, the start is an imaginary line between a buoy at one end and the mast of a committee boat at the opposite end of the line. At the start “gun” the competing boats want to be just behind the line and sailing at full speed. Timing this accurately can be challenging for even the most experienced racers. If a boat goes over the start line before the gun, the penalty is to go around and come through the start again before continuing to sail the first leg of the course.

The "mark boat" carries and sets the orange floating marks. Will and Mark (yes, his name is really Mark) head off to do just that.

The “mark boat” carries and sets the orange floating marks. Will and Mark (yes, his name is really Mark) head off to do just that.

David speaks to the racing boats on the VHF radio.

David speaks to the racing boats on the VHF radio.

Flags combined with sound signals are used to communicate to the racing boats. Technically it is the flag that signals the exact time because the sound can take several seconds to reach the far end of along start line. Not a problem for this race. To be honest, most of the time when we race, we don’t really pay attention to the hoisting of the flag. We make sure our stopwatch is accurate and pay attention to that, as well as the sound. We are usually too busy keeping an eye out for the other boats near the starting line to bother looking out for a flag as well. The starting line can be a pretty exciting place when everyone is jockeying for a good position.

I found the flag process for the start of the race very interesting to observe.

5 minute warning signal given before the start, by the hoisting of a red flag, accompanied by a sound signal (sometimes referred to as" the gun", but now is just a loud horn)

5 minute warning signal given before the start, by the hoisting of a red flag, accompanied by a sound signal (sometimes referred to as” the gun”, but now is just a loud horn)

At the four-minute mark, the preparatory “P” flag is hoisted to join the red flag.

At the four-minute mark, the preparatory “P” flag is hoisted to join the red flag.

At the one minute mark, the P flag is removed.

At the one minute mark, the P flag is removed.

At the zero minute (START) the red flag is pulled down by Denise as Catherine sounds the horn. The race begins!

At the zero minute, the official start to the race,  the red flag is pulled down by Denise as Catherine sounds the horn. The race begins!

The boats cross the starting line. Our flybridge is a very good vantage point to observe the boats.

The boats cross the starting line. Our flybridge is a very good vantage point to observe the boats.

Our good friends, Sam and Kayda, decided to race Solstice again.

Sam and Kayda, decided to race Solstice again.

Our good buddies, Dan and Marcia, crewed on Sea Bean, Rick and LouAnn's new Freedom 38.

Dan and Marcia crewed on Sea Bean, Rick and LouAnn’s new Freedom 38.

Kindred Spirit in her role as race committee boat. (Photo by Will H)

Kindred Spirit in her role as race committee boat. (Photo by Will H)

Of the 14 boats that began this race, only nine finished. Five “retired.” There just wasn’t much wind, and we sure know what that is like. Things were moving along slooowly. We learned that there is a lot of waiting on the committee boat. With a point-to-point race, we couldn’t see much of the action except for the start and the finish.

David watching the boats, Al watching the boats, John .......????

David watching the boats, Al watching the boats, John …….????

David and Al hanging out on the bow. Waiting and watching.

David and Al hanging out on the bow. Waiting and watching. Notice that you can’t even see any racing boats at this point, or any wind.

The mark boat mosses over while we all wait. Hi Will and Mark.

The mark boat moseyed over while we all wait. Hi Will and Mark!

The Race Committee conferred and made the decision to shorten the course due to the very light winds. It’s fun to eat lunch during the race, but no one really wanted to have dinner out there, too.

The S flag (S for shortening?) was hoisted to signal that the course has been shortened to end at start instead of including a final leg back to the mark near Johnny’s Cay. Of course, the horn was sounded and David also informed the boats on the VHF radio.

The S flag (S for shortening?) was hoisted to signal that the course had been shortened to end at the start instead of including a final leg back to the mark near Johnny’s Cay. The horn was sounded and David also informed the boats on the VHF radio.

The Abaco Rage is the first to cross the finish line! Very cool.

The Abaco Rage is the first to cross the finish line! Very cool. (photo by Will H.)

As boats crossed the finish line, the calculating and recording of times, and place with PHRF rating figured in, begins.

Lots of calculating going on - by hand and by spreadsheet.

Paul has the atomic clock for the exact times. Catherine uses her spreadsheet for the calculating and recording of finishes, while Anne and Denise work on the paper record sheets.

Grumpy Ole Men and Second Wind head towards the finish line.

Grumpy Ole Men and Second Wind head towards the finish line, wing on wing in a final downwind leg.

Barquita crosses the finish line.

Barquita crosses the finish line. This is a good photo to “see” the imaginary finish line.

Lone Peak about to cross the finish line.

Lone Peak about to cross the finish line.

Quest, a trimaran, has finished the race.

Quest, a trimaran, has finished the race.

Sea Bean coming across.

Sea Bean coming across.

A goo view of Bumblebee from our flybridge as she finishes the race.

A good view of Bumblebee from our flybridge as she finishes the race.

The conditions and course for this race were very different from the previous race (Sailing Again!)The very light winds made it difficult for some boats to finish and five “retired” from the race. Two boats came too close to the shallows when rounding the windward mark and bumped bottom, briefly. The final results were quite different from the last race. Just goes to show that a race can be anyone’s depending on the conditions, the strategy, the captain and crew, and some good old-fashioned luck.

Official Standings for the Charles P. Manchee Trophy Race:
1st – The Abaco Rage
2nd – Sunshine
3rd – Barquita
4th – Lone Peak
5th – Grumpy Ole Men
6th – Second Wind
7th – Quest
8th – Sea Bean
9th – Bumblebee

The Rage's very happy crew as they receive their first place honors. Job well done!

The Rage’s very happy crew with Captain Stafford Patterson,  as they receive their first place honors. Job well done!

Much to our surprise (and delight) we received a Hope Town Sailing Club glass for serving as the committee boat.

Much to our surprise (and delight) we received a Hope Town Sailing Club glass for serving as the committee boat.

Final thoughts — We had a great time and are happy to have participated in the race in this way. We met some really wonderful people, had a new experience, and were out on the water. What more can you want?

One more addition to this post: Two days after the race, I saw this video on the Hope Town Bulletin Facebook page. It automatically began to play and within the first second of the 6-second video, I caught a glimpse of Kindred Spirit. I can tell it was race day because of the bright orange tetrahedron on the bow! Paul Ingram posted it. I have no idea who he is or why, but it was quite a surprise to see our boat.

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