State of Race Management in the USA

Published on November 20th, 2019

Two recent reports, Storm clouds on the horizon and Why volunteerism is falling, prompted concerning commentary on the state of race administration in the USA. Responding to the conversation is John Strassman, Chair of the US Sailing Race Management Committee:

Much has been written recently about the efficacy of the US Sailing Race Management training and certification program. Do we have challenges? Hell yes, we do. Constructive criticism is very healthy, and we need to hear it. We understand that the Race Management Committee (RMC) has a long to-do list.

Here is some data:
In 2014 there were 327 Club Race Officers, 97 Regional Race Officers, and 23 National Race Officers. As of November 2019, there were 484 Club Race Officers, 107 Regional Race Officers, and 40 National Race Officers. That is an increase of 48% for the CROs, 10% for the RROs, and 74% for the NROs. (Note that virtually all the NROs came from the RRO roster, which affects the RRO numbers.)

I would say that is a healthy increase. I’ll take those numbers.

One criticism we’ve heard is that the RMC applies overly rigorous standards to new race officer applications and upgrades. I disagree. I would say the standards are appropriately rigorous – it’s harder to get certified at higher levels because when the RMC stamps “certified” on someone, we know they are trained and tested to quality metrics and have been vetted by their peers.

US Sailing should never apologize for its training program. Sailors expect and deserve quality race management, no matter the level of the event. Our race officers represent US Sailing to the wider sailing community and the RMC is charged with delivering a quality product.

We know there are regional shortages of race officers and race management seminar instructors. Well, any member club or class association can schedule a seminar. Yes, the host club might have to pay for travel expenses, but I would say that that’s the cost of deferred maintenance.

If the ranks were maintained in the past, there would not be a shortage now. Simply anointing new instructors based on their race officer qualifications is not the answer – we want to be sure that they have the teaching chops to deliver accurate and effective instruction to aspiring race officers. Being a great race officer doesn’t automatically make you a great teacher.

Can we make instructor training and race officer continuing education more accessible? Yes. We have some initiatives under way, and we’ll work harder to roll those out soon.

Our customers – organizing authorities and sailors – are demanding increasingly skilled race officers. The best race officers are in high demand and get booked early. And yes, they may be selective about the gigs they accept. That’s the marketplace. But the good news is that there is a growing corps of new, young(er), enthusiastic race officers coming online and running events.

Race Officers run regattas because we love to do it. The challenges of regatta preparations, the puzzles of the sailing venue and weather, the technical procedural calls, and most of all, the interaction with the sailors, make for a very fulfilling avocation.

I’ll see you on the water, and if you have suggestions or want more information, please email

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