Upper Thames Sailing Club



Guide to running the Race Control Box


Please ensure that you arrive for your duty at least one hour before the first race as shown in the programme.  If insufficient people are available to run the Box, then the Officer of the Day should request other members to assist instead of sailing.  Please remember to wear warm and waterproof clothing suitable for outside activities.  Not all the duties are in a nice warm Box – it can get cold and wet in the Safety Boat! The Officer of the Day will allocate duties to the team.


Risk Assessment of the conditions: The Officer of the Day must first carry out an assessment of the conditions – river, weather, river traffic and any other potential hazards:


1.         Look at the Environment Agency's website (see section on River Conditions) to determine the river conditions of stream and flow. Display the stream conditions (red, amber, green) outside the box

2.         Design the course taking into account the conditions (eg marks away from the marina in conditions of strong stream)

3.         Make the team and sailors aware of any potential risks

4.         Ensure that the Goose Fence is removed


Sound Signals:  check the klaxon, and the alternative sound signals - air horns and bell. 


Radios:  take radios from their charging points in the Committee Room and check that they are working. Make sure that all safety boats are equipped with a radio, crews are aware of their call signs and make a general call to confirm that radio communication has been established. Instructions are on the Box wall next to the radio control point.  The portable radio locked in the box is for the use of the box team when they have to leave the box.


Ensign and Flag Officer´┐Żs flag:  (that of the senior Flag Officer present) – hoist the ensign on the yard arm and the burgee at the masthead.  Do it when you feel organized. 


Winches:  There are two winches for the launching and recovery of boats, one outside the men's changing room and one in a fixed housing by the Fury boathouse.


Safety Boats – Tigris IV, VI and VIII.

Tigris IV         Dory (white boat) has a 2 stroke engine – red can for fuel.

Tigris VI         Rigiflex (orange boat) has a 4 stroke engine – green can for fuel.

Tigris VIII       Dory (white boat) has a 4 stroke engine with electric start and tilt.  Green cans for fuel. Note: Tigris VIII may only be driven by UTSC qualified helms.




The three safety boats should be launched and used as required using an appropriate ratio of safety boats to dinghies taking into account the conditions and the activities on the day.



Support Boat - Tigris V

Tigris V          Oyster (white hull/blue topsides) has a diesel engine

The primary function of Tigress V is for mark laying and general support activities.  She should not normally be used on safety boat duty. To refuel, the boat should be taken down to the marina, with whom we have an arrangement, and filled from the pump by their staff. 


Race Entry Sheets:  mark-up a set with details of all races and place on the table outside Box with a pen.


Setting and Displaying the Course

Load up the marks and get out on the river as soon as possible to lay the course, noting the wind direction and strength and any dead spots in the wind pattern; try to avoid laying a mark in a dead spot.  Decide on the direction of the rounding of the marks and the number of laps to be sailed. Windward marks should be rounded to port.  Races should last 60 - 90 minutes, so if in doubt it is best to set more laps than is necessary and then shorten the course.  If the programme indicates back-to-back races these should be 40-45 minutes long for the first race and 60-90 minutes for the second race.  If the wind is light set a short course for the first race and a longer one, if possible for the second. Set the course taking into account the river conditions.


Wind strength

If the wind is either very light or very strong you may need to delay laying a course, and postpone the racing until you have more indication of what the wind might do.  In very strong wind conditions, you should consider postponing or even abandon racing, if it is felt that the safety of competitors may be put at risk.  Speak to the competitors and gauge their opinion. 


Position of the Buoys (Marks of the Course) – The Officer of the Day has discretion to lay so as to create an interesting and safe race.  The normal position of the marks for club racing is:


Short Mark – above Spade Oak Quay opposite the bungalow 'Rippleby'.  This is within sight of the Clubhouse, which will allow racing to proceed with limited safety boat cover.


Medium Mark – approximately halfway between the Short and the Long marks, towards the end of Spade Oak Meadow.


Long Mark – just upstream of the sewage outfall, but if the wind conditions are good it may be laid anywhere between the outfall and the island.


Home Mark – 20-40 metres above the Club Start Line, but it may be laid below the start line if the wind conditions are suitable.  If you decide to lay the mark downstream then you MUST finish the boats on the Club line AFTER they have rounded the Home mark.


Gybe Marks – Take care in setting mark rounding that will require a gybe, particularly in strong winds.  It is good practice to set tack roundings upstream, and gybe roundings at the Home Mark provided the stream is not too strong when it should be set upstream to minimize the risk of capsized boats drifting into the marina. This gives a better view of the gybe mark, and provides a measure of entertainment at the Clubhouse!


Courses – Please do not set over-complicated courses unless your team is very competent in communicating and managing them, although some measure of innovation is to be encouraged to provide variety. 


Upstream / Angled Starts – For more experienced Box Teams, an upstream start may be appropriate in an Easterly breeze to provide an upwind start.  In many South Westerly breezes, the angled start may be used.  Display the correct sign (white with red border on Box right wall between desk and signal flags) outside on the balcony and make one sound signal and hoist flag Naval Numeral 4.  This flag remains hoisted until the start line is no longer in use.


Displaying the Course – this is done by the using appropriately coloured, Port & Starboard (Red and Green) boards displaying either S,M,L & H to indicate the direction of the mark rounding, followed by the white number boards for the number of laps.  Check that you display the mark boards in the order the marks are to be rounded.

Above these boards display the smaller yellow Class boards, for the classes that are sailing that particular course.  At your discretion, (and often to your advantage) you may set different courses for different classes – e.g. send the faster boats on longer courses.


Special course – If you set a special course that cannot be indicated in the normal way, or you wish to deviate from the Sailing Instructions in some way, write the information on the official notice board, and fly flag 'L' with a single sound signal.  This information must be posted at least 30 minutes before the warning signal(s).


Starting Flags – Attach the various class flags, preparatory signals (Blue Peter) and the postponement and general recall flags to the halyards on the balcony.  On most occasions only the Thames A Rater, OK and Inter-class Start flags will be used.  The positioning of these signal flags can be indicated in chalk on the balcony top-rail.  The flags should preferably be set to be 'broken-out' at the top of the halyards, but in strong winds, or if you have trouble tying the flags so that they 'break-out', then you can hoist the flags already broken-out.

The warning signals for classes sailed are as follows:

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Arrange the team ready for the starts. The suggested allocation of tasks within the box is one person on the clock and 'X' Board, one person on klaxon and watching the line, and one/two people on the flags.


The safety boats should be ready, the engines having been test-started, and possibly left running during the start sequence.  At least two members of the team should be dressed in life jackets and wet/cold weather gear (if appropriate), and ready to use the safety boat.


In the event of a serious incident on the water during the start sequence, then do not hesitate to abandon the start sequence and attend to the incident immediately.  Remember that races can always be restarted, but it may be critical to recover somebody as quickly as possible.




Do not start a race before the advertised time.

Postpone the start if you are not ready – display 'Answering Pennant' (AP), plus two sound signals.

Postpone if it is apparent that not all competitors are ready, but are likely to be ready very soon.         

When ready, lower 'AP' plus one sound signal.

After one minute commence start sequence.


The Starting Sequence


Lock door of Box at least 1 minute before start.

Clock-person is in charge of start sequence and will call time to flag person.

Call time at:

5 minutes to go – break-out class flag(s) and one sound signal.

4 minutes to go – break-out Preparatory signal (Blue Peter) and one sound signal.

1 minute to go – haul down Preparatory signal (Blue Peter) and one sound signal.

30 seconds

10 seconds

5 seconds

4, 3, 2, 1, GO! Haul down class flag and one sound signal.


If at any time during this sequence, the timing is wrong or there is any problem, postpone as described above and restart.  If you have made a mistake the competitors can request redress.


The Line-person is now in charge, and should be the only one to speak.  This person should not say anything until all the boats have started unless a boat is over.  As soon as the Line-person indicates that a boat is over, he/she makes a sound signal and the Clock-person displays the "X" board (or Flag) and writes the numbers down.  Remember that if you do not display the "X" Board (or Flag), the boats are entitled to believe that no-one was over. 


This should be displayed until all the premature starters have returned back across to the pre-course side of the line and restarted, or 4 minutes after the start, whichever is the shorter. 


Advising Premature Starters:


The 'X' board (or Flag) must be displayed until premature starters have re-crossed the line or for a minimum of 4 minutes.

The onus is on the boat to restart.  Do not call out boat number(s) as this can cause confusion. 

Mark any boats that are over the line and that do not re-cross as OCS (On Course Side)


General Recall


If most of the fleet is over the line, or it is not possible to take all the numbers of the boats over the line, then the Line-person should call "General Recall" and make a further sound signal (total of two), and the Flag-person flies the General Recall Flag (First Substitute).  Follow this as soon as possible by:

Lowering First Substitute flag accompanied by one sound signal. 

One minute later restart the starting sequence as above.


After the Start


Get the safety boat with two crew on the water positioned near Spade Oak (don't forget the radio).

If windy, have second safety boat with two crew to cover top end of course.

Mark the sheets as boats round the Home mark on each lap.

Note first and last boats' times on separate paper.

Keep in touch with the safety boats by radio.

Get ready to shorten if race looks likely to last longer than 90 minutes.

Give one sound signal for each finisher as their bow crosses the finish line, preferably using the bell rather than the klaxon.  This is crucial if another start sequence is in progress whilst boats are finishing a different race.

Record finishing time. 


Time Limits


Unless you are running a cup races that is specifically noted as a long distance race, the time limit is 2 hours for the leading boat and the target time for the first boat is 60-90 minutes.

Any boats that have been lapped by the winning boat will be allocated a result based on their average lap times and a place allocated.  Any boat finishing more than 30 minutes after the first boat in their class will be scored DNF (Did Not Finish).

Keep galley and bar advised if racing is delayed.

Be aware that your intention is to ensure safe and enjoyable racing and use your best judgment in deciding whether or not to shorten.


For Spring Series and Series 5, the time target for each of the back-to-back races is 45 minutes.


Shortening Course


Only shorten if it is apparent that weather conditions require shortening for safety reasons or the wind has dropped and the first boat will take more than suggested time for the race.

To shorten the race, display flag "S" accompanied by two sound signals.


If you wish to shorten only one class display "S" with the appropriate class flag underneath it.


If it becomes necessary to shorten, you have several choices:


            Finish the fleet from the Box at the next rounding of the Home mark; display the "S" flag as early as possible so that the leader(s) are made aware of your intention.

           Finish the fleet at a rounding mark; set up the flagstaff in the launch and take with you a klaxon and the necessary flags.  Station yourself at the rounding mark setting a line between the flagstaff and the mark.  Fly a blue flag to indicate that you are on station at the finishing line, and shorten as described above.

           Finish the fleet at a line that you lay; take a distance mark as well as the equipment indicated above and lay a finish line that is as fair as you can make it to the competitors yet to finish.  (Remember not to obstruct the cruisers too much).  The line is then between the distance mark and the flagstaff on the launch and the procedure is as described above.


After the Finish


Safety boats should stay out until all boats are home.

Bring in the marks.

Store safety boats in their position in the Fury leaving the keys/kill cord in the boats. Return Tigris V key to the Committee Room.

Padlock the winch outside the Fury boathouse and padlock the Fury boathouse and Varnish shed.

Retrieve flags and race boards.

Work out results and handicaps, marking clearly for scratch (CPN) and PHC – using pencil in case of errors.

Complete the Tigris V log and any other reports of issues in the logs.

Replace the Goose Fence.


How to work out Personal Handicaps


Example: Competitor on PHC 1090 that took 45 minutes 12 seconds to complete the race.

Work out the elapsed time of each competitor in minutes and seconds                      00.45.12

Convert this to seconds                                                                                         45 x 60 +12 =2712

Obtain individual (PHC) or Class (CPN) numbers from sheets in box                                 1090

Divide the number of seconds by either PHC or CPN                               2712/1090=2.488073

Multiply the result by 1000                                                                                        2.488073 x 1000

Enter the result in the 'corrected seconds' cell on the race sheet                                     = 2488

The Winner is the competitor with the lowest total corrected seconds



How to work out Rater Handicaps


Calculate the time in seconds as above and then multiply by the handicap.  Thus a boat with a handicap of .92 would work out as elapsed time x .92.  This is the opposite to the way PHC and CPN are worked out.


Ensure race sheets are clear and fully marked up, including race details (name of series, race number etc.) date, wind strength and direction, and names of box team and place on clipboard in Clubhouse.  (Members who miss a series race because of a duty will receive for that race points corresponding to their average points at the end of the series). 

Return radios to charging points.  Lock Fury, Varnish Shed and sail locker and return keys to cupboard in committee room.  Lower the Club flags from the mast and lock box before you go home. 




Encourage the participants to take advantage of the Racing Charter informal procedures.  If they do not agree to this, provide protest forms as requested, and remind the protestor to read the Racing Rules and Sailing Instructions thoroughly.  Write down on the protest form (in ink) the time of receipt of the form, and sign it, as this time may be crucial later.

Contact a member of the Sailing Committee or a Flag Officer as soon as possible, so that a preliminary hearing may be arranged as quickly as possible – preferably on the same day.

If in doubt about the protest procedure please ask the Sailing Secretary or a Flag Officer.


Back to Back Racing


It will almost certainly be appropriate to use short courses for these races, so that you have the whole race in your sight.  You should advise all competitors to remain on the water after the first race, as the second start will be signaled as soon as possible after the finish of the first race.