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Race Committee for Newbies

Lisa Baker | Published on 11/12/2022


Editor's Note:  Our very own John Kreidler will be teaching a Race Management Course on January 14, 2023. This is very informative for the race committee side of racing, including race committee crew.  If you are new to racing and eager to learn more about it, I encourage you to register and attend this class.

Race Committee for Newbies


Over 50 new members have joined WCSC in 2022 – this is unprecedented!  Since we have so many new folks, I thought I would help clear up the mysterious race committee duty that is required every year.  So that you don’t stress, you are not assigned to race committee in the year that you join.  So for those of you that joined in 2022, you won’t be assigned until 2023.


The easiest way to find out the date you are to serve on race committee is to log into the website and hover over the tab “Race Committee” to the far right.  On the drop down menu, click Race Committee 2023.  Names are in alphabetical order and you’ll see your date, the event, and who your PRO (Principal Race Officer) is.  If the tab hasn’t been updated from 2022, don’t worry, you have time - if your duty is in January, you volunteered for it and would already know.  You can also find your race committee date on the calendar on the back of the Windsong or the paper copy that is mailed out at the beginning of the year. 


Let’s move on to details. 


Club Power Boats

There are three club power boats – the RC Boat, the Skiff and the Whaler.  Generally, the RC Boat will carry the PRO and a couple others to help with starting, timing and scoring.  It is also part of the starting line.  The Skiff is used to set marks.  The whaler is mostly a chase boat or safety boat, but can also be used to set marks.



Committee assignments are based on the type of racecourse (see Types of Races below).  Fear not, if you don’t know what any of these assignments actually mean, your PRO will guide you through the process.  That is why they are there.


Principal Race Officer – This person has been to class(es) to learn how to do this and has had to pass a test.  He/she is the conductor of the band and will direct the crew on setting up marks, determining length of the course, how far the pin is from the race committee boat, running the starting sequence, among other things.  


Signaler (Flags) – This person is responsible for snapping flags up and down during the starting sequence and occasionally when calling someone over the start line (OCS – on course side) or shortening a course.  The flags are very important because by rule, they are the actual indication of the start time, not the sound.  


Signaler (Sound) – Typically this is done automatically by the nifty gizmo on the RC Boat.  But there are other times sounds will need to be made and the airhorn may be a better choice.


Line Sighter – Calls boats over early, calls sail numbers as they are finishing and normally gives the first place boat for each fleet a horn.


Recorder – Writes down start times, finish times, and any other information that needs to be recorded.


Timer – Helps with the start and feeds information to the recorder on finishes.


Wind Reader – In general the PRO, but everyone can help calling shifts in the wind.  Necessary for setting a nice square course.


Mark Setter – Sets the marks, large colored tetrahedrons or cylinders, for windward and leeward marks and a red “hippity hop” for the pin, which is the other end of the starting line, opposite the RC Boat.  


Types of Races

We have several types of races and each uses a different number of race committee crew.  


Around the Buoys – Typical fleet racing includes a windward mark and a leeward mark with either a center start line or it may have the start/finish line to leeward of the leeward mark.  There are usually three races per day, depending on wind, that are approximately 45 minutes each.  This type of course requires the most number of race committee crew and uses a regular 5 minute start.  These are timed races and need finishes recorded in hours/minutes/seconds.  Once the races are over, they will need to be scored via Sailwave or other software using PHRF and/or Portsmouth boat ratings (this is done by the fleet scorer).  


Distance Course – This type of race uses government marks as marks for the course. There is ordinarily just one race per day and can last hours. We need 3 to 5 race committee crew, including PRO, and uses a regular 5 minute start.  Once the race is over, it will need to be scored via Sailwave or other software using PHRF and/or Portsmouth boat ratings (again, this is done by the fleet scorer).


Pursuit Course – This type of race is also typically around government marks. In most cases there is only one race which can last hours.  The racers start at different times based on their PHRF boat rating.  We need 3 to 4 race committee crew, including the PRO, and uses a one minute countdown.  Once that one minute is over, the boats will begin starting at their scheduled time, slowest boats first.  Race Committee must make sure no one starts before their scheduled time.  They also need to record the finish times in case there are any issues during the race.  However, no scoring necessary, the order of the finish is the score – the first one to finish gets First Place, the second is Second Place and so on.


What to Wear and Bring


Obviously dress for the weather.  In colder temps, remember to layer up.  It’s always colder out on the water than it is on land.  In warmer temps, bring sunscreen!  Each club powerboat has a bimini that will give you some relief from the sun.  They also have ladders if you need a quick dunk in the water.  Bring your lunch, water, and even adult beverages if you like.  We are sailors after all!!  A lifejacket doesn’t hurt either even though all club powerboats have the required life jackets and safety equipment.


Final Thoughts


Besides running the races, the most important thing about race committee is to have fun and meet other members.  What’s better than being out on the water with friends?  If you have additional questions, please contact the Vice Commodore


If you are not new to racing and race committee and have been a PRO at other clubs or regattas, please let Lisa Baker know if you would like to continue to PRO here at Western Carolina Sailing Club.  We usually have PRO training in January of each year if you are new and would like to learn how to be a Principal Race Officer, watch the calendar for more details.