Race Duty Instructions


It is the policy of the club to ask all members to do two race duties a year.

Since this may be a novel experience, and since even for experienced hands it is all too easy to forget how to do these duties after a lapse of many months, this pack is intended to ease the path of all those who will be on race duty, regardless of how experienced - or not.

Race Officers

 On Sundays     

On Wednesdays         

 If you cannot fulfil your duty, it is up to you to organise a replacement beforehand, and to inform your OOD. The OOD should be in contact with the team during the previous week, to ensure that all can be present. The team should arrive an hour before the first bell


Before arrival

Please bring with you 4 pints/2 litres of milk for the teas, and put it in the fridge. Reimburse yourself from the cash box kept underneath the kitchen counter

On arrival

Setting a course

Points to be aware of:

There are six marks (numbered buoys) in the boat shed. You don't have to use all of them. Decide how many you want to use, and place them upstream in ascending numerical order.

The bottom buoy (the one marked no. 1) should be placed below the start line, roughly in line with the upstream end of the jetty

The finish is usually upstream, after boats have rounded the bottom [no. 1] buoy

The course for the slow fleet can be shorter (e.g., not as far as the top buoy, or maybe one lap less)

If uncertain how the wind will hold during the race, make provision for shortening course on the course board

Shortening the course

Having decided to shorten course, as the leading boat in the class approaches the start/finish line from upstream, give 2 hoots, and raise flag S. Repeat for each class - i.e. keep the flag up, and give 2 hoots for the lead boat in each class.

This gives the OD the option of finishing the lap with an upstream finish  after mark no. 1 (if the race is taking too long), or carrying on with the full short course (as indicated on the racing instructions board), i.e., continue up to 2 with a downstream finish.

Boats over the line at the start

If you can identify the boat(s), give individual recall:

If the offending boat(s) return and recross the line correctly, lower the flag.

If not, note the boat(s) number(s), leave the flag up, and do not give boat(s) the finishing signal at the end of the race. The boat(s) are then disqualified from the race.

If there are too many boats to identify, then give general recall:

If a whole class has been recalled, then continue with start sequence for other boats as normal, and after they have been started, restart the offending class.

To restart after general recall:

1 minute later:

After 3 minutes: 

The Medley Course

In this example of a Sunday race in summer:

After racing

OOD and the rest of the team together


By the time the "first bell" (in reality we use the electric hooter in the starting box) is to be sounded [1400 for the spring and autumn series: 1415 for the summer series], be in the starting box, with the signing-on sheet, taking with you one of the two-way radios and the little blue atomic clock (kept in the cash drawer in the kitchen area).  All races are run on that clock's time

Bring a pen or two, and some spare sheets of a4 for rough notes. Use them to note the sail numbers of all of the competitor boats, and to record the progress of the race, and note the times of finishing

For pursuit races, there are lap charts in the results folder - this helps to keep track of race positions

It is useful to have a calculator with you, or use the calculator function on your mobile phone, for doing yardstick calculations

After the start of a race, replace the signing-on sheet in the clubhouse, so that helms can sign off as they come off the water

Run the race(s) according to the laminated chart in the race box.

During  the race

After the race:

Launch driver:


If you feel you need instruction on the operation and/or handling of the service launch, contact a member of the committee some days before your duty day

There are instructions on how to operate the outboard motor at the end of this guide - 'Outboard Engine Instructions'

There are detailed instructions on the operation and handling of the launch at the end of this guide ('service launch handling notes')

On arrival

Please be aware that the concrete launching slipway can be very slippery, especially below the waterline. Do not attempt to enter the water whilst launching or retrieving unless you are confident of keeping your footing. Bare feet are not advisable.

During the race

After the race(s)


Operating the race sequence


There are three sorts of races run at medley:

Pursuit race: Each type of boat starts at a different time,  according to the list at the end of this pack ('medley sailing club pursuit race start times'). Slow boats start before the faster ones. The idea is to give all boats an equal chance, through this system of handicapping.

Unlike the other two sorts of races, a pursuit is finished by the OOD on the water, from the service launch - see 'Pursuit races (spring and autumn)' below)

Class race: Boats are divided into three fleets - moth (self-explanatory), fast (e.g. enterprise), and slow (e.g. mirror, topper). They start in that order, and the results are calculated with reference to the Portsmouth yardsticks  - see 'Portsmouth yardsticks and how to apply them' and 'Class races (Sundays in summer)' below.

Handicap race: One fleet only.  All boats start together. Results calculated with reference to Portsmouth yardsticks - see 'Handicap races (Wednesday evenings in summer)' below.

NB: there is a laminated chart of the flag sequences used for class and handicap races on the desk in the starting box.  It is reproduced below.

Pursuit races (spring and autumn)

Class races (Sundays in summer)

Handicap races (Wednesday evenings in Summer)

Service launch operation and handling notes

BEFORE you let the launch down the slipway into the water, make sure that (1) the BUNG is securely in place at the bottom of the transom (the boat will SINK without the bung!), and (2) the mooring ropes are securely fastened to their respective bollards or rings (you don't want to have to swim after the boat as it drifts under Rainbow Bridge!). Loosen the black air vent screw on the top of the tank cap, remove the cap, and check the fuel level. If the tank is LESS THAN HALF FULL, ask the Race Officer (OOD) to get it filled up for you. REPLACE THE FILLER CAP SECURELY, and close the vent.

With the launch securely tied alongside the staging, pointing UPSTREAM, or in it's usual berth at the upstream end of the staging, OPEN THE AIR VENT ONE FULL TURN.

At the ENGINE GEAR CONTROLS, ensure that the larger lever is in the VERTICAL POSITION.

On the ENGINE, check that the RED ENGINE STOP SWITCH is UP, pull out the CHOKE KNOB next to it, and squeeze the bulb in the fuel line until resistance is felt.

Pull the 'T'-SHAPED RECOIL STARTER HANDLE FIRMLY; the engine should start. If it doesn't, try ONCE MORE. If the conditions are particularly cold, it may be necessary to use the small accelerator lever: push it as far forward as it will go. If the engine still doesn't start, go through the whole procedure again. If it still won't start, GET HELP.

With the engine started, check there is a STEADY STREAM OF WATER from the starboard underside of the engine casing (left-hand side as you look at it). IF NO WATER, STOP THE ENGINE IMMEDIATELY AND SEEK HELP.


When you are ready to go, with the engine running smoothly, CHECK BEHIND for dinghies and also for any cruisers approaching from up- or down-stream. Cast off the STERN rope, turn the steering wheel to STARBOARD i.e., to the RIGHT, cast off the BOW rope, put the gear lever into REVERSE, and GENTLY reverse into the stream, centralising the wheel as you go, until you are in approximately mid-stream, keeping a gOOD lookout all round for dinghies and other vessels.

Select NEUTRAL, then FORWARD GEAR, and GENTLY move off in the direction you want to go, and accelerate to a reasonable speed.

There are Environment Agency BY-LAWS concerning navigation at excessive speed and creating unnecessary wash, and the Service Launch should be driven so as to cause as little disturbance as possible to other river users. By keeping a station as close as you reasonably can to those sailors you consider to be the most vulnerable in the prevailing conditions, and therefore most likely to need your assistance, you can minimise the distance you might have to travel at high speed.

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LEAVE THE STAGING IN A FORWARD DIRECTION. You will only drag the propellor through the gravel bank at the upstream end of the staging, damaging the propellor, filling the engine cooling system with grit, and possibly stalling the engine in the process.

Whilst patrolling the course, keep an eye on the cooling water jet. If it STOPS, or reduces to a DRIBBLE,slow right down, make for the MEDLEY bank, STOP THE ENGINE, beach or anchor the boat, and get the blockage cleared (there is a probe in the box under the console). If conditions are quiet, you may beach the boat on the Medley bank, in  a position where you can see most of the Reach. Keep the stern of the boat in the deepest water. When you move off again, push the boat into deeper water before starting the engine.

On your return to the Club, preferably moor the boat in it's dedicated berth at the upstream end of the staging. If this is not practicable, bring the boat into the staging facing UPSTREAM. Secure the BOW line first, then the STERN line, and stop the engine.

At the end of your tour of duty, land the buoys, recover the boat into the Boat Shed, remove the bung to let the boat drain, close the fuel tank vent, and leave the boat clean. Ensure that the slipway broom is put back in the launch.

 Yardsticks and how to apply them

PY  numbers used at Medley

Pursuit Race Start Times

 For the Spring and Autumn Series. These pursuit timings are derived from a modified set of Portsmouth Yardsticks. The RYA recommends that they be referred to as River Yard Sticks.