Harken Derm

Starting Rules: Do they have to be this difficult?

Published on August 11th, 2014

by Commodore Glenn McCarthy, Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation
How many of you have memorized the starting rules cold? I know I haven’t; I need a book to keep track of them.  Does it really have to be this difficult?

– Individual Recall – On the course side of the starting line.
– General Recall – On the course side of the starting line.
– I Flag – On the course side of the starting line or one of its extensions.
– U Flag (most recently proposed by US Sailing as an addition in 2017) – Inside the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark.
– Z Flag – Inside the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark.
– Black Flag – Inside the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark.

I never ever understood “or one of its extensions” for a practical reason. When I ran races, it was always a single committee boat with a pin. I can site the line and beyond the end of the line when the cannon goes off, but I sure don’t have eyeballs in the back of my head, nor do I have any reference to look behind me and site exactly in the opposite direction.

It comes down to a judgment call rather than actual knowledge. Ya sure, those starting lines with RC boats at each end can make it fair and site beyond the other ends, but then, usually there are other starters that are early blocking the view, and is a good distance away beyond the other end and becomes difficult to see who might be over the extensions.

So I put it to you rules writers of the world … how about making the I, U, Z and Black Flags all have the same wording:

“Inside the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark?”

It is easier for the sailors to remember, it is easier for the Race Committee to remember and site, a win-win for everyone.

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