I feel obliged to write this small article it the hope that Race Officers might consider a more lenient approach to getting a fleet of Dragons away “cleanly” from a starting line, instead of sometimes completely destroying a competitors regatta……. We have already seen this year in Germany, a total of 19 boats DSQ from the first race of the European Championship. Also a number of “Black Flag” incidents upset many competitors at the UK National Championships…..  I can also remember only last year, a number of boats had their Gold Cup hopes dashed after a Black Flag start in Marstrand, when the line was so heavily biased at the starboard end, sailors simply could not keep their boats behind the line, thus sent home and in a none discard-able series, their overall position’s were in pieces…..  It simply does not have to be like this…. We are not bad people, we want to be competitive and race hard to win, but most times BFG’s can be avoided…….

Firstly, our Dragon Fleet has so many top International Sailors who have had success in so many other classes it is no wonder that if the line is biased, the majority of boats will want to take that advantage. Secondly, in my opinion, a line bias may not just be the simple arithmetic of wind direction and an angled starting line…  No a line bias could be because the right hand side of the course is paying so much that everyone wants to start at the boat and tack! Or the left side of the course gets you nearer to the shore, so a PIN end start and hard left will bring a huge gain….  Do Race Officers consider this ??   I don’t think so.  So many stand with their piece of string, or their wind index and study the ever shifting breeze for what seems like hour after hour…. when a simple hail to a nearby Dragon to ask for the wind direction would suffice.. then lay a square line and try for a start…  If the fleet is too keen and seems to be bunching at one end or the other… then recall the start and ask the question, was that “them” or was it an unfair line ??  If indeed it was the fleet’s fault then how about a “Z” Flag, keeping the Black Flag rolled up…  Try another start, if the fleet again start to go over at 20 seconds to go, then either recall and give each “seen” boat 20% penalty, but and this is a big BUT if it’s because the line is set wrong then just put up the AP… A wind shift or a simple dragged PIN end can easily justify a postponement of a start……No one gets a penalty and the line can be re-adjusted and off we go again with our starting sequence.

Just please please.. don’t ruin “our” regatta when we are not to blame!  We are the sailors paying a great deal of money to travel to events, supporting the World wide regatta’s to keep our wonderful one design keel-boat class at the forefront of International Sailing. Lets try to get the starts “right” so that they are fair, consistent, un-biased, controlled…   It’s not rocket science, the race officers should be there to enhance our fun, not destroy our sailing time afloat..  No one wants to be sent away from a race, when 9 times out of 10 it’s through bad management……….. Let’s see what we can do to get everyone racing in every race of a series…..  Okay we are going to get the occasional OCS but I want to see that dreaded Black Flag only used in exceptional circumstances..  Come on P.R.O.’s you are there for us, not yourselves!    Keep EVERYONE racing….   That’s what we all want….

Higher, Faster, Longer, Fairer…….      Stavros.

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