Harken Derm

Forming a deeper involvement and investment in the sport

Published on March 23rd, 2015

by Bruce Thompson
Probably the biggest problem faced by the sport of sailboat racing is a lack of personal initiative on the part of racers. They want someone else to do things for them, rather than do them themselves. But more service requires more effort and expense which creates barriers to entry for new racers.

The well regarded race program at the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club on Lake Michigan is designed to rely on the racers for all manpower. For a series where there is a race committee, the racers are all expected to take turns.

But there are several events where there is no race committee. A good example is the Offshore Pursuit Series, where racers start based on a preset course distance, on an Olympic circle of permanent marks, with the first mark chosen by the fleet captain and announced by radio.

It being a pursuit race, the time handicaps are prefigured based on PHRF handicaps, time on distance, and tabulated. Each boat has a designated start time and the first boat to finish wins! The winner records the finish order, which already has the time handicaps figured in.

The Offshore Fleet also has a Weekend Series that uses a rabbit start with the first finisher taking finish times (with all racers also recording their own times as a backup) and the results are tabulated and posted.

Other than installing the permanent marks at the start of the season and retrieving them in the fall, there is ZERO race committee manpower required. A collective effort based on personal initiative enables a lot of racing to take place.

Contrast that to the alternative, where high expectations require a minimum of three race committee boats and significant manpower to keep up with the escalating standard of perfect start lines, ideal windward-leeward courses with moveable inflatable marks.

When everyone contributes, then everyone gains with a deeper involvement and investment in the sport.

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