What is Casual Racing and How Can It Work For Our Club?
Casual racing is a group of club members chartering boats on their own and agreeing to race against each other at any agreed upon time on any agreed upon day that doesn’t conflict with other club organized activities.
In casual racing, the racers run the regatta themselves without the help of a race committee, committee boat, stakes boat, crash boat, etc., that are part of the club organized regattas. In casual racing, the racers simply agree upon a course of sail, for example: Green #1 in Selby Bay to Red #2 at the entrance to Selby Bay to Red #4 at entrance to the marina on the western side of Selby Bay, and return (approx 6/10th mile). The course need not be a triangle. It could be a simple windward leeward course, for example: Green #5 in the South River off Turkey Point to Red #8 (approx 8/10th mile each way). Go around the course as many times as you like to make the race whatever length you want given the wind speed. Generally, there is sufficient depth to round any of the marks in the South River and Selby Bay with the centerboard down, if you stay close to them.
It is not essential, but certainly is customary to choose something upwind as the weather mark and principal mark of the course. If nothing is handy, the racers may chose to set a windward mark.* If something is handy for a windward mark, but given the wind direction, nothing is very good as a leeward mark, then again, the racers may chose to set a leeward mark. However, since the idea here is to make things simple, one might just live with a course that is not absolutely true.
Starting can be arranged several ways. For example: the leeward mark of the course could be taken as one end of a starting line and a handy shore sight or nearby float could be taken as the other end. Again, if nothing is handy, a mark could be set as the starting pin offset from the leeward mark or perhaps a pair of marks set as a starting gate either near the leeward mark or half-way up to the windward mark (simulating the triangle course with committee boat and pin start that is used in the club regattas). In setting a course, it is probably wise to consider where other boaters will be using the water and not set your starting line across a busy channel for example.
A rabbit start can be run using no floats or marks, only the race boats themselves. The racers agree to have one boat serve as the “rabbit”. All other boats keep downwind of the rabbit prior to the start. At the agreed starting time, the rabbit crosses the other boats on a port tack. The line sailed by the rabbit is defined as the starting line and its stern is the windward end of the line. All other boats cross the line defined by the rabbit’s course and once across, have started. Once all the other boats have started, the rabbit is free to tack to starboard if the skipper so chooses. (Hint – the stern end of the rabbit is the favored end of the line, so cross as close to its stern as possible). The following link provides instructions and a diagram on rabbit starts: http://www.centerboardyachtclub.com/race/RabbitStart.htm
Timing for the start of the race can be whatever the racers agree upon. A 10 minute or 5 minute countdown start is good practice for the club regattas. Stay close enough to hail each other. Get your watches ready and agree about who is going to yell “start”.
Judging the start is up to the racers themselves. It will probably be obvious if anyone is seriously over early. If not, what the heck…why fight over it…this isn’t the Americas Cup. As in any regatta, it is up to the racers to obey the rules, do their penalty turns, notify each other of any protests, etc. Work out any protests amongst yourselves.
Finishing the race may be easiest by declaring either the windward or leeward mark as the finishing line. The first boat cleanly round and fallen off (or cleanly rounded and come to weather) wins. This eliminates the need for a pin. Alternately, if you used a pin for the start, it may be hoped that it will still be there when you finish.
Finally, it is worth noting that any time two club boats are out on the water together, they can agree to race to anything. For example, I’ll race you to Pier 7 marina…last one there buys the beer.
A Word About Using the Club Racing Marks
The club keeps a set of racing marks in the shed. These large round red and yellow bouys with mushroom anchors were recently acquired and cost a fair amount. To minimize wear and tear on these marks, you are enouraged NOT to use them, unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do use them, treat them gently, hank the lines when done, put them away neatly. Instead: A large red detergent bottle tied to one of the small spare danforth anchors has been left in the shed. You are strongly encouraged to use this as a mark or pin if you need one. Other handy casual marks could be fashioned from a float, some line, and any handy heavy object. Bring your own detergent bottles and blocks of concrete. Or perhaps the odd fender or cushion will do (remember when you used to use a stick for 2nd base). It’s casual; same principle applies. Feel free to leave any successful casual marks in the shed for others to use. Sail fast! Have fun!