"It is a great challenge and changes every time we go out."
Race Officials are a vital part of our sports. Without their knowledge, expertise and patience, racing wouldn’t be possible. Here at Irish Sailing we’re encouraging as many people as possible to get involved in the six different aspects of racing organisation – judge, race officer, umpire, measurer, mark layer and event safety coordinator. We talked to two young women about becoming race officials.
Meghan Enderson is 22, a Laser sailor and a member of Bantry Bay Sailing Club. Bantry is rural community club with up to 10 types of dinghies racing and has competitors with a wide range of ages and experience. They also have a relatively novice Race Official team which has spearheaded a big change in the club structure with the introduction of club race nights on PY (Portsmouth Yardstick). PY is a system of handicapping which allow different classes of boat to race against each other. Meghan is part of the Race Official team but decided to refresh her skills with an Irish Sailing course earlier this year.
Learning from our mistakes
When Covid hit, the courses moved onto Zoom which brought about some surprising advantages. “Zoom was new to us all then and it was a novelty to learn from home” Meghan says. “It went really well with different perspectives on rules from other clubs around the country with more experience. It was a good place to make connections too and it opened new doors and ideas for us all.”
Twelve club members did the course; eight women and five in their late teens or early twenties and this has created a fantastic sense of teamwork amongst the members. The impact on the club has been significant Meghan believes: “the club has grown so much this year because of it [the course] as everyone is learning together and able to plough forward together. It helped us to get the racing series off the ground and we are learning from each other’s mistakes.”
Caoimhe Totterdell is 19 and a member of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. She did the Irish Sailing Local Mark Layers Course and started working with Dublin Bay Sailing Club as a volunteer. She is enthusiastic about being a Race Official: “I like it when people come off the water and thank us for a good day’s racing. It feels good that I can put effort into something and give so many people a good day on the water. I get to go out on the water and be part of the social side of events. Mark laying and working as a race official is like a big puzzle and putting all the parts in the right place at the right time. It is a great challenge and changes every time we go out.”
Can you lift an anchor ?
Traditionally, race officials have been mostly men. We talked to Meghan about what that is like. “I often get offered help I may not need, which can make you feel you may not be able to do it yourself ! But the club has a great team spirit, so we all help each other”. Meghan adds “I love to prove that I can do things on my own and am well capable. You build people’s trust, and by partaking in the races you break the stigma and you can show that you can do as well as anyone else can. Our whole race official team is 70% women and we all work well together.”
Caoimhe adds “I used to turn up at events to volunteer and people would question my ability after one look at my age and stature. I am 19 and get pigeon-holed as being physically weaker and lacking in experience. I remember one race officer telling me I couldn’t partner with a friend, because we probably couldn’t lift an anchor. We proved him wrong. I find you can learn ways of dealing with different situations and put your weight behind it. There are physical limitations sometimes and I am not afraid to ask for help if I do need it. Doing the Mark Layers course and becoming qualified has really helped a lot, as I can reassure the team that I have experience and a qualification to back it up”.
Some practical tips
Meghan encourages others to get involved: “I think that it is tough to go from doing the [Irish Sailing Race Officials] course to actually implementing it straight away. You need a bit of practical knowledge to help it all make sense”.
Caoimhe has some great practical tips here:
- Before you go on the water know the race-course plan, number of boats etc, so you can do some of the calculations yourself and be in the correct area and ready for the Race Officer to give you instructions
- Always prepare for any eventuality. Prepare for the worst
- Ask if you need help or are not sure if you understand. Everyone would prefer to make sure there is a good race. If you drop a mark line, tell the Race Official why there is a delay and he or she will understand
- Communicate with your crew and ensure you explain yourself properly
- Check the weather with your own apps – I like to use a mix of Met Eireann, Wind Guru, Accuweather and Dublin Bay Buoy
- Check the engine, fuel, lines and anchor
- Check your own safety equipment and your crew’s safety equipment
- Ensure everyone is dressed for the day ahead
- Bring your own water and lunch (and always insist on your own reusable bottle !)
To find out more about the roles and how you can get involved contact our Racing Officer Sarah-Louise Rossiter on email@example.com, 087 939 0488 or go to: https://www.sailing.ie/Portals/0/documents/2018/POSTER%20FINAL.PDF