OCS: Are we missing something?

Published on June 3rd, 2014

by Mike Butterfield (IRO, IU, IJ) GBR
Boats that are OCS are one of the big problems for race officers. We do have a number of tools at our disposal to deal with it but I wonder if we are missing a trick.

At the moment our first line of defense is the raise the “X” (Individual Recall) with its sound signal and as an alternative we can have a general recall with “First Substitute” (General Recall) and its two sounds. It just depends on how confident (and quick) we are in identifying the boats OCS before we make the decision.


We know with “X” we have about 5 seconds and this year I had one start where it stretched to 13 and Redress was given to the sailors. Incidentally as they did not return (which would have taken time), they were given a 20% place penalty by the RYA Appeals panel.

In our race management training we accept we will not identify all boats OCS and ask our pin, what they have, and they reply with two numbers, those they have as over and those they can identify. From this and our observations we see if we have most boats and make our decision “X” or “First” sub.

Now we know ISAF have Race Management policies for the Olympics and ISAF events which covers this point. In these guidelines we are told “When the race management team is satisfied that all boats over the line have been identified, an Individual Recall will be signaled.”

Now we have just noted we differ from the guidelines, by our two number system, to get a good percentage of boats identified before we call Individual Recall. What may be needed for the ISAF events is not what we necessarily need to worry about for fair day to day racing.

ISAF say in their Race Management Policies:

“The Race Management Team will not signal an individual recall and then a general Recall.”

Now I have never seen it done, and nothing is said of it in training race officers, so it appears to be universally accepted – BUT WHY?!

To me within the time constraints we have (and put at 5 seconds) we have little enough time on the average start line to enable us to decide if we have identified all or most of the boats that are OCS.

What we do know is that we have OCS boats so it seems sensible to call for an “X” with its signal so we have this option available and we may see who starts to return relative to the numbers identified.

If after we have consulted our ARO (pin) and DRO (on committee boat) we are not satisfied we have identified enough boats what is unfair in going for the First Sub at this point. There does not appear to be an issue of fairness as we have called them all back.

I can see no real downside to this approach and would like to advocate we adopt this as a sound race management practice, or at least open a discussion on it. Anything that might save a good start is worth trying, and we know often if we go for general recalls we are rewarding those who pull the start over and force us to move to the Black Flag.

I think this new approach could assist in our race management practices and I ask you to consider it.

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