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

  • Officer of the day [OOD]

  • Assistant officer of the day [AOD]

  • Launch driver

  • Caterer

On Wednesdays

  • Officer of the day

  • Launch driver

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

  • open the club (boat shed, clubhouse, toilets)

  • open the starting box, and hoist the club burgee (kept flying until the end of the day). NB: put the catch on the starting box door in the up position: it is easy to lock oneself out!

  • organise the sweeping clean of the slipway from algae and mud, using the wire-bristled broom (with red tape on the handle), which should be found in the service launch.

  • organise the operation of each race sequence (details below)

Setting a course

Points to be aware of:

  • the predominant winds are south-westerly.

  • since the river above Medley is oriented west of north, with one short bend to the west, it is difficult to set a racing course incorporating a decent beat to windward.

  • westerly winds are slowed and confused by the trees on the west bank

  • there are muddy shallows on the east bank.

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:

  • 1 hoot,

  • hoist flag X,

  • inform offending boat(s) via megaphone.

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:

  • 2 hoots,

  • and hoist flag First Substitute.

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:

  • give 1 Hoot,

  • lower First Substitute flag.

1 minute later:

  • hoot,

  • and raise the class flag.

After 3 minutes:

  • raise flag P,

  • give a Hoot,

  • and lower both flags.

The Medley Course

In this example of a Sunday race in summer:

  • the fleets sail upstream, leaving mark 2 to their starboard side, mark 3 to their port side, and so on.

  • There is a doubling back between marks 3 and 4 for the Moth and Fast fleets, to take up some time. The slow fleet does not do this, and has only one lap to sail.

  • The finish is normal (=upstream), the fleets having passed mark 1 in an upstream direction.

  • If a shortened course should become necessary (e.g. if the wind dies down), it will be after the boats pass mark 2 on their way upstream; they will then turn downstream, and get a finish as they pass the starting box on their way downstream. There is no provision for shortening the course for the slow fleet.

After racing

  • organise necessary cleaning of the clubhouse, compound and toilets

  • turn off all gas/electric heaters before leaving the club

  • be responsible for closing the club at the end of the day. If the OOD can't be the last person out of the compound, then he/she should be satisfied that the task of locking up has been delegated to a responsible club member.

OOD and the rest of the team together

  • think about a suitable course for each race

  • get the launch on the water, and lay the marks (it is recommended to get the launch on the water by 45 minutes before the first bell)

  • put the course markers and race information up on the clubhouse board. Aim to have this information on the board by 15 minutes before the first bell, to enable boats to be on the water in good time

  • put out the signing-on sheet - ensure that each helm signs off after the race.


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

  • record each boat's place at the end of each lap

  • record each boat's time of finishing the race

  • for class and handicap races, calculate the corrected positions, using the yardsticks of each class (details below)

  • the OOD has the option to time out any boat finishing much, much later than the first one in its class - traditionally 20 minutes - but this option should be used with discretion

After the race:

  • enter the results on the official race results form, and place it in the race results folder

  • if you have not time to do yardstick calculations, never mind - just enter the results on the official race results form. But it is essential to have the following information for each boat:

    1. sail number

    2. name of helm (necessary because some boats share the same sail number)

    3. time of starting

    4. time of finishing

    5. type of race (class, pursuit, handicap)

  • place the completed form in the 'race results' folder in the clubhouse, for the racing secretary to process the results later

  • check that all helms have signed off

  • after racing is over, clear up and lock the race hut

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

For those who merely wish to be reminded of how to start and stop the launch engine, there is a handy set of operating instructions on the driver's console. They are reproduced below, at the end of this guide ('operation of launch outboard motor')

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

On arrival

  • get the two-way radios charged - these are on top of the microwave oven in the kitchen. Plug in the charger at the wall, and switch on - take one of the radios with you to the launch

  • sweep the slipway clear of algae and mud, above and below the waterline, using the wire-bristled broom (red tape on the handle), which should be in the launch

  • launch the launch. Since it is a heavy boat, you will need to ask others to help. It normally requires at least three strong bods. Four or five is better.

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.

  • put the course marks aboard

  • start the engine

  • it is advisable to get the launch on the water, ready to cast off for the mark laying, by 45 minutes before the first bell.

  • get the OOD on board, drive along the proposed course and lay the marks, following the guidance of the OOD (and perhaps the AOD and/or another experienced member also).

During the race

  • it is always advisable to have another person on board during the race to assist you. Ask around. There is usually a volunteer to be found

  • stand by to assist boats which may require help

  • keep in touch with the OOD by radio. The OOD/AOD will find it useful to be kept informed of the progress of the race, and of the particular problems of any boat

After the race(s)

  • retrieve the marks, motor the launch back to the jetty, and organise putting it away in the boat shed (requires another batch of strong bods)

  • replace the slipway broom in the launch


  • The OOD should have provided 4 pints/2 litres of milk. Check that this has been done - should be in the fridge

  • Prior to racing, members may brew their own tea/coffee. For heating the water, there are a couple of electric kettles, a larger kettle for the gas stove, and a tea urn, for use on large occasions such as open days

  • Have tea and biscuits ready for the interval between first and second race (normally c. 15:00-15:45)

  • Take the money for the teas and biscuits, and put it in the cash box. The cash will be collected by the treasurer later.

  • Clear up in the kitchen and tables area, and dispose of the rubbish, after the second race commences (c. 15:45)

Operating the race sequence


There are three sorts of races run at medley:

  • Spring and autumn series (6 races each) are pursuit races

  • Sunday summer series are class races

  • Wednesday evening summer series are handicap races

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)

  • decide how long the race is to be (usually one hour). The idea of different race lengths is to take account of the available light at the beginning and end of the season. Thus it may be appropriate at the beginning of the season to run 2 of the (6) sunday races @ 60 minutes, then 2 @ 75 minutes, then 2 @ 90 minutes, and use the converse arrangement for the end of the season. However, the duration of the race is a matter for the OOD, taking account of conditions on the day.

  • Start boats according to the times listed at the end of this guide ['medley sailing club pursuit race start times']. There is a copy on the signing-on desk in the clubhouse.

  • Identify the lead boat throughout the race

  • Some 15 minutes before the end of the race period, get in the launch, and drive up the course. There is a yellow flag on a stick in the launch. Raise this to let the fleet know you are about to start the finish procedure.

  • Close up on the lead boat, and, on the expiry of the allotted race time, give it the winner's hoot (there is a hooter on the launch). Then motor back down the fleet, and record the positions of the rest of the boats. There is no need to hoot (or time) these, but it is advisable to let them know verbally that they have finished.

  • Since the differences between different boat types are already taken into account in the staggered start, no calculations are necessary after the finish. Just enter the sail numbers, names of helms, order of finishing, and type of race on the official race results sheet, and leave it in the 'race results' file in the clubhouse

Class races (Sundays in summer)

  • First bell is at 14:00 in the spring and autumn series: 14:15 in the summer series. Assuming the first bell is at 14:15, the sequence is:

    1. first bell - 14:15 - hoist moth flag and give hoot with the electric hooter (under race orders).

    2. second bell - 14:15 + 3 minutes - 14:18 - hoist fast and preparatory flags, and give hoot ( = preparatory).

    3. third bell - 14:15 + 6 minutes- 14:21 - lower moth flag, hoist slow flag, and give hoot. Moth fleet starts.

    4. fourth bell - 14:15 + 9 minutes- 14:24 - lower fast flag and give hoot. Fast fleet starts.

    5. last bell - 14:15 + 12 minutes- 14:27 - lower all flags and give hoot. Slow fleet starts.

  • Log each boat's position at the end of each lap

  • Give each boat a hoot as it passes the finishing line, and log it's finishing time

  • Repeat sequence for any subsequent race - there are normally two races on summer Sundays.

  • If you have time, you can calculate the results as worked out on the Portsmouth yardsticks. If not, please just enter the following information for each boat on the official race results sheet:

    1. name of helm

    2. sail number

    3. time of starting

    4. time of finishing

    5. type of race - and leave the results sheet in the 'race results' file:

Handicap races (Wednesday evenings in Summer)

  • for summer evening racing, there are only two designated officers: the OOD and the launch driver. If extra assistance is required, get/press gang others to help.

  • all boats are put into the same fleet - dubbed 'fast' for convenience - and there is thus only one start time

  • First bell is at 19:00

    1. 19:00: hoist fast flag and give hoot ( = under race orders)

    2. 19:03: hoist preparatory flag and give hoot ( = preparatory)

    3. 19:06: lower both flags and give hoot ( = start)

  • otherwise, proceed as for sunday races, logging and finishing each boat, and recording the results on the pre-printed official race results form.

  • if you have time, you can calculate the results as worked out on the portsmouth yardsticks. If not, please just leave the results sheet in the 'race results' file, with this information for each boat:

    1. name of helm

    2. sail number

    3. time of starting

    4. time of finishing

    5. type of race

Operation of launch outboard motor

1. Unscrew the winged knob on petrol tank and squeeze bulb in petrol line until it is full of petrol (i.e., hard)

2. Large lever is gear lever and accelerator combined. Put it in neutral (vertical)

3. The small lever is an accelerator only, and is only used for starting in particularly cold conditions - it should normally only be necessary to use the choke. To operate the small lever, push it forward, past the upright position

4. Engage the forked end of the kill cord onto the kill switch

5. Pull out choke on engine

6. Pull cord to start engine

7. Once the engine has started, push in choke on engine, and return the small lever (if utilised) to the off position (fully back and down)

8. Check that a small stream of water is coming from under the cowling at the back of the engine. If not, clear the outlet with the stiff wire provided or summon help. If you can't get the water to flow, switch the engine off

9. Engage gear by moving the gear shift forwards for forwards, back for reverse

10. Once the gear is engaged, push the lever further forward in the same direction to accelerate

11. To stop the engine, put it in neutral and remove the kill cord from the kill switch. Screw down the winged knob on the petrol tank

Gear lever/accelerator in neutral: small lever in down position.

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

  • Work out in seconds how long each boat took to complete the race - the 'elapsed time'.

  • Multiply this number by 100

  • Divide the result by the boat's PY number

  • This gives the 'corrected time' for each boat (in seconds), and thus the order of finishing

PY numbers used at Medley

  • S/H = Single-handed

  • aa = age allowance

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.

  • ** uno= 1 sail, single-handed. race = 2 sails, crewed

  • S/H = Single-handed

  • aa = age allowance