Race Officer Duties


In addition to these guidelines for Race Officer Duties, there is a hard copy white folder in the Race Office, which can be used on the day.  It provides advice on duties, basic Racing Rules of Sailing, suggested race courses, Starting and Race Management procedures, Emergency Plan and club boat hire. 

NB If uncertain on whether to sign out a club boat please consult with one of the club sailing instructors.

Turn up at least 1½ hours before the start of the First Race.

Ascertain weather forecast either before you arrive or use club computer.

Set a course on the board clearly showing the ‘Series and Race Numbers’ being sailed, first start as 11:00hrs, order of fleet starts, starting sequence, start and finish lines, the marks to be rounded (indicate by arrows  ‘Leave Mark to Port / Starboard’, the maximum number of laps and the following additional information:

Weather forecast, including forecasted wind direction and strength

Height and time of high tide

Names of those on duty

Any other relevant information.

Put up the Orange Flag pole (which includes the aerial) above the Starters Box, and connect the lead to the radio in the Starters Box. Check the Base Radio and the Handheld Portables are working and undertake radio check of fixed and hand-held with patrol boat.

Position the hooter on the race office counter and test.  Position the fluorescent green Triangle ‘Transit’ pole on the promenade, prepare flag boards, signing on forms for both lasers and other boats, penalty turns/retirement form, binoculars and chronometers.

Ensure Patrol Boat Helm and Crew are ready. There is no racing without a Patrol Boat on the water. Ensure the Patrol Boat Helm gets the Patrol Boat on the promenade, checks the oil level, runs the engine, and checks that the boat has a radio, handheld radio as back up, compass, first aid kit and a survival blanket. The boat should also be equipped with a flare, knife, bolt croppers, an anchor and warp, a small buoy and 2 paddles.  Check that there is a full tank of fuel.

Brief the Patrol boat crew on the course to be laid and the required number of buoys for the course to be set.  Ensure they have a burgee for determining wind direction.  Ensure that there are enough people changed to safely launch the Patrol boat and standby to receive advice from course layers regarding conditions. If a course change is necessary post flag “L“ with two sound signals and change the course on the board.  If a complete reversal of the course direction is necessary, due to wind direction change, the Patrol Boat can communicate this before any starting sequence by raising a Green (Leave all marks to starboard)  or Red flag (leave all marks to port) accompanied by the ‘L’ flag indicating course change, and two sound signals.


Ensure that novice sailors are given assistance to launch, if required.

RACE RECORDING SHEET It is essential that the Race Officer and/or Assistant Race Officer provide clear, legible race results: 

a,        The precise timing for each lap for all boats

b.        If a boat is OCS (on course side) DNF (did not finish) DNS (did not start) NSC (did not sail the correct course) RAF (retired at finish) DNC (did not compete – this means did not sail in starting area between 5 min signal and 5 mins after the start).

(A supply of blank forms can be found in the Race Office filing cabinet.)

At Force 4 or a declining sea state ensure that all Club Boats come ashore.

If the Patrol boat is overwhelmed with capsized boats needing assistance, the race should be abandoned. Advise them that a damaged boat should be anchored until it can be retrieved safely with the assistance of more people.

Ensure that all boats have returned to shore safely before instructing the Patrol boat to return ashore.

Ensure that warning notices are put out and that all winch operations are carried out safely by suitably qualified members over the age of 18.

At the end of the day, ensure the Patrol Boat Helm arranges for the Patrol Boat to be washed, the engine run in clean water, and all equipment to be put away in its correct place. If any gear is damaged or broken the Coxswain must be informed.

Ensure the boathouse is locked up and if advised the storm boards are put in place, or appoint another member to do so if you are not the last person to leave.


To ensure the safety of the fleet (be vigilant at all times and remain in touch with the patrol boat)

To record the number of laps that each boat sails.

To register the finishing order, or in a handicap race the elapsed time of each boat to the nearest second.

The Race Officer should be familiar with the Emergency Plan as displayed on the office notice board and remind the Patrol boat crew that lives must be saved before property.

If you have any queries, please speak to any member of the Sailing Committee.



Sunday Racing (first start 1100hrs) 

In Spring, Summer and Autumn there will usually be three back-to-back races.  

Race 1 and Race 2 are Fleet Series Races.  In each race there can be, one, two or three separate fleets (dependent on numbers of boats competing), each with a separate Start Sequence, and the Laser being the first fleet to start, followed by the Slow Handicap fleet (Tasar, Miracles, Buzzes, Toppers, Visions etc), and the Catamaran fleet is third, but often included in the Slow Handicap Fleet,

Race 3 is usually part of a Handicap Series (e.g. The Sovereign Handicap Series) and all boats start together in the same Start Sequence.

In Winter there are usually three back-to-back races, the first being part of the Winter Fleet Series, and Races 2 and 3 part of the Winter Sovereign Handicap.


In  normal Club Fleet and Handicap Racing, all  boats in each fleet start at the same time, and finish in succession, with their individual times recorded for each lap, (After the racing, the individual times  are entered into Sailwave software programme and automatically adjusted where necessary, according to their RYA Portsmouth Yardstick rating, to give final finishing positions).  It is therefore very important that the Race Officer enters all information regarding each boat and rig type – this must be given by each competitor on the Signing-On Sheet.  It is the responsibility of the Race Officer to ensure safe, fair and enjoyable racing for all participants.  The basis of this is clear communication of the race plan and all race signals.   It also requires a keen eye for rule infringement (albeit this is a Self-Policing sport) and unsafe situations, prompt accurate starts, and accurately recorded finish times for each boat at the end of each lap.  The recorded finish times are submitted to whoever is available to use Sailwave software for the calculation of actual times after ‘Portsmouth Yardstick’ adjustment. 

The Patrol  Boat Crew should be briefed comprehensively on the race plan, and made aware of any developments or changes during the race. 

‘Normal’ 5-4-1-0 Start Sequence for each fleet  (Once started, the automatic hooter will run this sequence without further input.  This also means it needs to be stopped after the last fleet starts)

The Race Officer may postpone at any time prior to the Start Signal.  (AP Pennant up, with Two hoots.   It can be dropped with One hoot and One minute must then pass before the 5 Minute Warning).  

  1. At minus 5 minutes   –  Fleet flag  goes up with long hoot  (Laser flag, Catamaran Flag,  or Handicap fleet flag (Num. 2 Pennant – white circle on blue pennant)
  2. At minus 4 minutes    – Preparatory flag  goes up with long hoot  (Usually the Signal ‘P’ flag – white square on blue background) This can be replaced by a different flag in some cases*
  3. At minus 1 minute       – Preparatory flag  comes down with long hoot
  4. At 0 minutes                 – Fleet flag comes down with long hoot

In multiple fleet race starts, the 0 minutes Start’ also acts as  the ‘minus 5 minute warning’ for the next fleet to Start


Please Note that any recall sound signals should be made with the manual hooter button, and the automatic hooter should be left running until all fleets have started successfully.

When The ‘P’ Flag (White square on Blue Background) is used for the Preparatory Signal (this is almost always the case in Club Racing at HSLSC, however there are alternative Preparatory signals) the OCS (On Course Side) Rules apply as follows:

If the Race Officer sees any part of a competing boat’s hull *,  On Course Side (over the line) at the Start Signal, RULE 29.1applies and The RO shall (i.e. they Must!) signal an Individual Recall (Flag X – blue cross on white background) with One sound signal.  

*Please Note that this Rule was new in 2021 and it means that any other part of the boat, equipment or crew does not count as OCS as it used to. 

This flag shall be brought down once all OCS boats’ hulls have returned to the pre-start side of the Line, or after 4 minutes if they have not. (this is to avoid confusion if another race is in the Start Sequence)  Any identified OCS boat not returning its hull to the pre-start side of the line, will not receive a finishing hoot, and will be marked OCS on the recording sheet. They will effectively be disqualified from that race, although we don’t use that description.

 In the event of a number of boats’ hulls being On Course Side at the Start Signal, with the Race Officer being unable to identify all boats, the Race Officer may (i.e. they do not have to, if they think it would be fairer to most of the fleet not to) signal a General Recall (Display First Substitute flag with Two hoots.).  

In multiple fleet starts, and in the event of a General Recall of one of the fleets, any subsequent fleet will continue with its starting sequence, which will already be in progress, and the recalled fleet will begin its starting sequence after the other fleet or fleets have started.  It may be necessary to postpone, and if so, remember the RO may postpone before the starting signal.  In which case, remember that the automatic hooter will need to be stopped, and re-started at the appropriate time. 

RACING RULES OF SAILING:  PART 3: CONDUCT OF A RACE:  Rules 29 to 37 cover much of the things needed to be learned by a Race Officer in order to conduct a fair race.


The race ends after the prescribed number of laps has been completed, or on the decision by the Race Officer to ‘Shorten The Course’.  Shortening The Course is done as the Leading boat rounds the penultimate mark, by putting up the ‘S’ Flag (Blue Square on a White background) and sounding two long hoots.  Normally, a race duration of 40-45 minutes for the leading boat is the guide for this timing.  The Race Officer should use their judgement to determine the appropriate duration of a race, taking into account the sailing conditions.  Rule 32.1 details this action.  

The Finishing Line for Shore-based race management is a line between the Orange Flag pole  and the Pin Outer Distance Mark – (ODM) used at the start. 

The Finishing Line for a Committee boat (on-the-water) race management  will be  between Blue Flag hoisted on the Committee Boat  in place of the Orange Starting Flag) and the Pin if the full number of  laps have been sailed, or between the ‘S’ Flag and the Pin if the course has been shortened.   All boats that have Started and Sailed the Course  will be finished as any part of their hull crosses the finishing line from the course side, a hoot is sounded  and their time recorded by the RO.

The RO may Abandon the Race at any time by raising the ‘N’ flag and sounding 3 hoots.  Rule 32 .1 details Shortening and Abandoning a Race.



In  normal club handicap racing, all  boats in a fleet start at the same time, and finish in succession, with their individual times adjusted where necessary, according to their RYA Portsmouth Yardstick rating, to give final finishing positions..  In a club pursuit race, the start is staggered, with the slowest handicap (highest Portsmouth Yardstick number) boats starting first, followed by the succession of faster boats at different times based on their PY rating.   All boats are finished at the same time and each boat’s finishing position in the fleet is recorded. This becomes the final result, with no adjustment.  In theory, if every boat performed to their PY rating, they would all finish together, but varied performance etc. means the boats are usually well spread out

RO Considerations

With boats scattered around the course at the finish, it would be difficult for the Race Officer to log every position from the Starter’s Box, so when the Finishing Hoot is sounded, the Patrol Boat is used to motor through the fleet, in the opposite direction to the course, to log positions starting with the first boat, and motoring back through the fleet to the last boat.


The Patrol  Boat Crew should be waving a Blue Finishing Flag to indicate the end of the race.  With this in mind, the Patrol Boat needs to be getting into position at the front of the fleet well before the finishing hoot is sounded, and it also needs to be equipped with the Blue Finishing Flag before it sets out.  Obviously,  the Patrol Boat may be diverted to assist sailors at any point in the race, it is therefore important for each competitor to remember the boat and sail number of the competitor immediately ahead and behind.  Competitors can then provide the RO with this information in the Club House after the race, if needed for the results. It is also particularly important to keep a record of  positions of each boat in the fleet on every lap during the race, just in case (for example) a capsized trailing competitor rights themselves near the front of the fleet!


The Race Officer Duties prior to the racing are, in the main, as described under the heading RACE OFFICER DUTIES on the Club website and in the Race Office folder. There are a few differences:

Additional Communication for a Club Pursuit Race: (On Race Notice Board and directly with Patrol Boat Helm and Crew)


There is, in the Race Office, a pre-calculated sheet showing a ‘Datum’ class e,g. Laser 4.7 which  is used as ‘0’ minutes (the ‘start’,) with all the other classes given a time after ‘0’ minutes based on their relative PY rating. The ‘Datum’ boat is usually the slowest boat (highest PY number) otherwise slower boats would have to start at ‘minus’ times which would mean the ‘5-4-1-0’ could not be used, However, if the ‘Datum’ boat used is too slow, then the rest of the fleet has to wait a long time to a race which, for them is very short!  It is not necessary for the ‘datum’ class to actually compete in the race, in which case, no boat actually crosses the start line at ‘0’ minutes, as the first boat actually racing would start at its allotted additional minutes after ‘0’. 


Duration of the race; 90 minutes is a reasonable, and the usual, duration for a Club Pursuit Race. Data sheets for a range of Pursuit Race durations are available, so a different duration could be used, and the appropriate Data sheet used to determine start times for each class of boat.

Normal 5-4-1-0 Start Sequence 

  1. At minus 5 minutes   –  Handicap Fleet flag  goes up with long hoot  (Num. 2 Pennant – white circle on blue pennant)
  2. At minus 4 minutes    – Preparatory flag  goes up with long hoot  (Signal ‘P’ flag – white square on blue background)
  3. At minus 1 minute       – Preparatory flag  comes down with long hoot
  4. At 0 minutes                 – Handicap Fleet flag comes down with long hoot

Each competitor is responsible for timing their own start after ‘0’ minutes, but the RO should sound a long hoot at each entered class start time.  

Alternatively, the RO could sound a long hoot every minute after ‘0’ until all boats have started, but this is probably not necessary for our racing. 

Either way, this should be communicated prior to the race and the competitors are responsible for starting at the correct time. 

  1. Theoretically, the Postpone flag can be used  up to the ‘0’ start, in the normal way, and if necessary, but in practice it is best not to use it once the starting sequence has begun. 



At 90 Minutes, (or whatever duration has been chosen),  having warned the Patrol Boat well in advance, a long hoot is sounded and the finishing positions are noted.   


These are the final positions and are published as the results with no adjustments.