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How to Be an OOD

The club is always grateful for help with race box duties.  After all - the more sailors we can get on the water - the better!  So, if you come to the club to watch the racing - you should be aware that the race box gets the best view of the action!  Why not volunteer for a duty there?

After all - an advantage is that you get your own heater and can watch all the action from the warm dry hut.  All in exchange of a little help.

(NB: Dont forget you also get free tea/coffee if you're on duty too!)

Being OOD isn't as complicated as you may think.  This page will help you understanding what's needed & with a little confidence & a few tips - anyone can be an OOD for the day.  The RYA can offer formal race direction rules if you choose to look these up, but as ASC is a voluntary managed club - we appreciate that basic knowledge if often good enough! 

The OOD does need to be present before the racing can start so this does mean arriving reasonably early.  Racing usually starts at around 10:30am, so arrival for around 09:30am is helpful.

Plenty of sailors understand the majority of what is needed from an OOD, so don't be afraid to ask advise, or for help but generally - there are a few basic tasks that need to be done.  

Race Setup - Flags:

Various flags are needed for racing, and these will be raised and lowered in a specific sequence to notify and start a race.  All the flags are kept in the rack within the race box.  The key flags are:

  This is raised to start the race sequence.

              The second flag hoisted during the race sequence.

               Used to signify if any boats are over the line at the start (used together with a warning sound of the start horn).

       Raised if many (or all) boats are over the start line and a full re-start is needed.

  Used to notify if the race has been postponed for any reason.

               Shortened course - raised towards the end of the race if it is to be finished earlier than originally set.

Setting the course:

Here at ASC, we have many race marks we can use.  1 - 7 &  at least 2 additional temporary race marks that can be put wherever we need.  The general idea of the course is to make it interesting and fair for all types of boats.  The start should always be set to wind.  The remainder can be where the lake has wind. (try to avoid marks in complete wind shadow's - that wont wind friends).  try to include normal tack, and gybe marks to make it interesting for all, and if possible include a run, a reach and a beat.  It doesn't need to be technical though, and if in doubt - there are always plenty of helms happy to help with course direction.

The Start Line:

Should be set as close as possible to a right angle to the direction of sailing to the first course mark, across the lake.  There are a number of posts our line marker can be moved to to create the perfect line.

Example start line with wind direction:

Once you have decided a course - use the chalkboard and the race number boards to display this at the front of the race box for all too see.

Race Sign On:

All racing competitors must sign on before their completed races results can be accredited. Generally, no sign on = no results/disqualification.    Copy signing on sheets are available within a folder in the race box.  a copy should be made available for all competitors to complete before they launch.

Race Start:

The OOD will need a decent stopwatch, or timer. ASC races with a traditional 5,4,1 race start sequence.  This is explained below.  Prepare to start the race sequence 5 minutes before the scheduled race start.

The Start Sequence:

  • At 10:25am, (or 5 minutes to race start) start the 5,4,1 timer & sound one good blast of the race gun. At the same time - raise the  flag.
  • At 4 minutes to go, another solid blast and raise the  flag. 
  • At 1 minute to go, one long blast of the horn and lower the flag.
  • Race Start, one final blast of the horn, lower the  flag and watch the line for boats starting too early.
  • If a boat is too early over the line - sound the horn and raise   flag. Call the offending boat's sail number back.  Once the boat has re-crossed the line, let that boat know by calling "all clear".  That boat can then re-start their race.  Follow this if just a few boats start too early.
  • If many boats (or all) cross too early, sound the horn, raise the flag.  Call for a "General Recall".  This time you will need to re-start the entire sequence for all boats. 

Once all boats have started racing - leave the timer running for the duration of the race as this is used to log the final results.  

Scoring The Race:

Once started - at ASC - depending on conditions,  we generally set a race somewhere between 45-50 minutes, or  3 -4 laps of the course.  Race Score sheets are kept in the folders in the race box.  Once the race has started, you will need to log each competitor on the sheet.  As each boat crosses the line for the end of each lap, record the position of the boat in the sheet.

Continue this until the race draws near to the end of time or 1 lap from the scheduled end.

Ending A Race:

As an example - if have advised that a race will be 4 laps, but you intend to finish after 3, you will need to sound the horn twice, and raise the  flag to warn all competitors.  This officially signified a shortened course.  This must be done before the first boat crosses the finishing line. (in practice do this as soon as possible as the first boat starts to head back towards the finish line.)

As each boat crosses the finish line - Record the sail number and the time taken for each boat to complete the race in total minutes and seconds (using the timer) from the race start.  Record these result in the time sheet.  Repeat for each boat in finishing order until all boats have been logged.

After Race 1:

ASC usually sails 2 races, back to back.  Once all boats have been recorded for the end of race 1, and the race box is ready - the sequence is simply repeated for race 2.

The End Of Racing:

  • Lower & return all flags, race boards to the race box.
  • Make sure the rescue boat keys and kill lines are replaced in the race box (see rescue boat team for this).
  • Collect all radio's (return to clubhouse).
  • Turn all electrics off.
  • Hand the completed score sheet to a committee member. 
  • Lock up the race box and hand all keys to a committee member.  

Top Tips for OOD

  • Arrive early to set up in advance.
  • Keep the course simple.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.




hese helpful Instructions and Guidance for Safety Boat Helm and Crew have been written by members for members. Updated 24/10/2020 with ref. to RYA Entrapment Advice at:  

Dealing with entrapments within dinghy sailing | October 2020 | Club Room | e-newsletters | News & Events |RYA - Royal Yachting Association

A. General:

  • Always wear a kill cord.
  • Keep your hands on the throttle and wheel at all times when moving.
  • Wherever possible keep your boat speed to a minimum so that you do not create unnecessary wake and make it easier for people to anticipate the safety boat intentions.
  • Avoid steering directly astern of those who are racing, in case they capsize, fall out or alter course unexpectedly.
  • If it is necessary to come alongside, it is best to do this when a sailing boat has stopped on a close reach and the safety boat can come in on the windward side of the dinghy and hold the shroud to keep them close. Once in place turn the engine off if necessary for ease of communication.
  • Above all maintain a good look out around your safety boat at all times!

B. 5 Stages of Rescue Response:

1) Swift Response

  • Proceed as swiftly as possible to the scene of the incident avoiding unnecessary wake and keeping clear of boats not involved.
  • When approaching a moving dinghy let the helm know your intentions, communicate clearly, approach from the windward side.
  • Always have an escape plan up your sleeve, know which way you’re going to turn to get out of a situation before things go wrong - sometimes just dropping into neutral will do it!

2) Count Heads

  • Check the number of sailors’ heads corresponds to the expected crew level of the boat – if there are discrepancies, presume possible entrapment.
  • When approaching a capsized dinghy, it is best to approach initially bow first, from up wind, keeping the prop away from the boat crew, equipment and hazards.

3) Right the Dinghy

  • Proceed to the mast head and consider attaching a flotation device to guard against inversion
  • Always switch your engine off when dealing with a person in the water.
  • Lift the mast and/or use the shrouds/forestay to right the dinghy – if inverted, work along the forestay to lift the mast to horizontal, then proceed as above.

4) Free the Sailor(s)

  • Ensure the crew are free from ropes and equipment, one of the safety crew should enter the water if necessary to do this whilst the other keeps hold of the righted boat.

5) Recover the Sailor(s)

  • Ascertain whether the sailor(s) wish to return to their boat and sail independently.
  • If you suspect any exhaustion, injury or lack of competence, board the sailor(s) to the Safety Boat and return them to shore at the landing pontoon.
Please take time to familiarise yourself with the following documents:

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