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Observing and Control Area


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A brief review of Racing Rules of Sailing Appendix E

E3.1 Control Area

The sailing instructions May specify a Control Area; if not specified, it shall be unrestricted. Competitors shall be in this area when controlling boats that are racing, except briefly to handle and then release or re-launch the boat.

E5.3 Rules for Observers and Umpires

Observers and Umpires shall be located in the Control Area. They shall not use any aid or device that gives them a visual advantage over competitors.

The Control Area was not / never specified by the Race Organisation therefore a competitor could stand / control his craft from any position , in a boat moving up and down the course, up a ladder/ tree, standing on the roof of a truck or car, the other side of the lake ...

Purpose of a Control Area

The fundamental purpose of declaring a Control Area is to keep skippers in reasonable Hailing Distance of one another

However it was impossible for a competitor to move to a location adjacent to a Mark whist racing without loosing sight of the boat for a significant time - say 2 ..4 minutes whilst perambulating a pathway with weeds / undergrowth between the path and the water obscuring vision.

So given this:-

MAY Observers and/or Umpires move into a position adjacent to the Mark NOT reasonably accessible to the competitor.


Should the race officer simply move the mark up into a position that competitors are able to gain reasonable sight of the mark and Observers and/or Umpires reasonable vision of the Mark.

Understand that Marks become obscured by other boats making it impossible to see your boat in some conditions.


Line Judges are often seen to hold a card or a transparent sheet with a line drown down over their eye/s in order to give them a "Accurate Visualization " of the starting line and who is over it at the Start Signal .

Review E5.3

.... They shall not use ANY aid or device that gives them a visual advantage over competitors.

Clearly Competitor are not prevented from using such visual aids but is it reasonable that thy do....

Your thoughts

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Agree with you on most of the points.

The SSI's clearly state that the control area should be defined at the initial skippers briefing, it may be that there is no control area defined but not defining this can create a number of issues that can come back to "bite" the race team. sighting of marks, hailing of contacts etc are a couple, but also controlling the skippers and the general public can be an issue which setting a control area helps. I would always advise that there is a control area set as the PRO and host club are responsible for health and safety as well as the racing, and should there be an accident it may be that someone asks where the action was supposed to take place. This is alongside the points you have raised David.

However, The control area is not only to keep skippers in a reasonable hailing distance, but also to control the safety and give fair and consistent sailing. Whilst most race teams will try to set courses that have good access/ visibility the use of a control area can make sure that physical ability is not an advantage/disadvantage by stopping the abler from scrambling over trees/rocks to get a better view. It can also be used at venues such as Eastbourne to define where any disabled skippers can sail safely.

Personally, I feel that a race team who have set a control area will have at least thought of the racing and conditions.

The briefing is often seen as the welcome and advising of the course, but it is more important than this and race teams should make sure they cover at least the items on the MYA SSI's, and skippers should make sure that they attend them promptly.

I wouldn't agree with your E5.3 interpretation, I would like to think that the Line Judge would only call those boats that they are sure were OCS, and the use of a piece of clear plastic with a line makes this easier in some cases.

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The event where this took place was arguably the most acrimonious ####### event one has ever attended.

Why is this repeat of E4.1 in the SSI anyway - One should never repeat, in part or whole a Rule; one should simply refer to it if needed.

But if it is there, how about deleting the word SHOULD and replacing it with SHALL in the SSI .. as an amendment to E3.1

or better still the MYA SHOULD distribute a guidance Note to Race Officers for use in MYA Sanctioned Events


A Control Area SHALL be defined. In defining a Control Area the Race Officer SHALL consider:-

a) Maintaining competitors within reasonable hailing distance of one another

b) Facilitating the safety of the competitor

c) Facilitating fair and consistent sailing

d) Disabled or infirm competitors - particularly at Veteran Events

The Course SHALL be set by the Race Officer such that as far as practicable the First Leg of the course is a Beat to Windward. In Setting a Course the Race Officer SHALL consider:-

a) Access

b) Visibility of all Marks of the Course

Where it is NOT reasonably possible to set the First Leg of the Course as a Beat to Windward Rule 30.1 SHALL be evoked.

because the reverse the situation with respect to Rule 11 is now applicable:-

a) A boat on the Course Side of the Start Line and returning to the Start Line is ROW boat in terms of Rule 11

One can hold as many course as you like, write as many guidance note as you can but the bottom line is few Race Officers consider / contemplate what the difference is going to be when 15 - 18 boats take to the water in place of the 6 that turn out on Sunday for a knock about and how fast thing happen.

I do recall driving 150 miles to a west coast event one winter where we were sailing looking directly into the Sun low on the water.

I similarly recall sailing looking directly into the Sun/ reflection at a National Event where you could not hear yourself thinking with airplanes flying overhead every 90 seconds.

But most importantly to look within and do something without prompting and not to blame the competitors when it consistently goes pear shaped.


E5.3 is clear. NO aids whatsoever. There is nothing to interpret, bits of plastic card etc. are Aids.

We have seen these aids being incorrectly used on a number of occasions. The line Judge needs his hands free to write down numbers and needs to concentrate on the task at hand


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  • 2 months later...


1. Your suggested rule on control area is an excellent text for a race officers manual of best practice. As is your text regarding the course. However, I ma not convinced that they should be rules.

It is always best to define a control area -if only to prevent umpires and observers from standing on the opposite bank. Hearing hails can be an issue. I am 'blessed' with a very loud voice so the issue does not arise. It often happens that an umpire or observer makes the effort to walk or run to be near a mark so that they can judge incidents easily, only to find that the competitor has not moved.

Perhaps we can discuss the size of the control area in another thread.

2. There is no need to change any starting rules for a reaching or running start. Rule 22.1 is clear that after the start a boat returning to start shall keep clear of boats that are not returning. At all other times the rules of Part 2 section A apply. Personally I would recommend not using the I flag rule as it tends to encourage boats to avoid the middle of the line. IF, nad only if, the line was fair (which does not always mean square) after a general recall I suggest going straight to U flag.


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