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Bruce on race starts

Bruce Kendall provides comment on race starting issues in Scuttlebutt, a digest of yachting newsGUEST COMMENTARY - Bruce Kendall

I along with many other windsurfers have started in fleets of around 1000 in Switzerland for the annual Engadin Marathon. I have started on a start line of 800 One Design Windsurfer Class Boards for the World Champs Marathon with three or four start boats along it. In both cases they were great spectacles. Sadly there were many recalls and the ODs eventually let starts go even though people were still over. Fleets get progressively more unrestrained on the start line as they get bigger. In a Division 2 fleet of 90 starters during a Kiel week regatta, even though the OD modified the start line each general recall, we had more than 6 black flag general recalls and lost an entire day of racing.

In the Mistral One Design Class our class rules restrict fleet sizes down to around 60 and have successfully improved the quality of racing. The qualification formula and reseeding after each of the first days racing ending with a few days of Gold and Silver fleet works well. [Class associations can come up with good solutions if given the option.]

However, we are still subject to a ridiculous format for starting, when we have options to start and run a race with OCS starters. The following well-known outcomes are not good:

1. A competitor that crosses the finish line first may not be first as they may have been OCS. [media - spectator friendly?]

2. I don't know of another sport where early starters have such a huge negative influence on those that start correctly.

3.Competitors often have no way of knowing if they are over early as they cannot see either end of the line due to other boats minutes before, at the start or after and can still get OCS.

4. Often sailors return to restart when they were not OCS and get a poor race result.

5. Avoiding being negatively influenced by an OCS starter is mostly a matter of luck.

I hope one day race committees are able to signal to starters by use of flag/s or other devices as soon as someone is OCS during the start sequence. This would help competitors know if they or another is OCS before the start to give everyone a better chance to start correctly. If there are OCS starts with general recalls, penalty points should be awarded to those that were OCS in every start. OCS penalty points should be given to those that were most in front - not just those that are easy to see. They may have been holding back and unable to see the ends.

In my opinion, any start with an OCS starter should be restarted. The current alternative makes a mockery of our sport and is disappointing for those subject to the negative aspects of stating behind and racing with an OCS starter.

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