Proposed change to Class Spec S-V.7 - VHF Radios

Location

Lake Murray Sailing Club
235 Old Forge Road, Chapin, SC 29036
United States
34° 6' 16.8156" N, 81° 17' 12.7068" W

From my perspective, each of the advantages cited to justify amending Specification S-V.7 strongly outweigh the disadvantages.

On a strictly common sense basis, weather and emergency safety issues resoundingly trump concerns that radios or other electronic communication devices create a competitive advantage for those who use them.

With class growth a continuing concern, employing tools that help avoid the more serious competitor frustrations should be considered.  The new and less experienced FS sailor is precisely the demographic necessary to fleet and class growth.  It is this demographic likeliest to avoid participating in regattas if he or she spends the time, money, and effort preparing for and traveling to a regatta only to end up in 52nd in a 50 boat competition because the individual recall sound was not heard and the signal was not visible from the starting boat's position.

I have heard all the arguments about conveying advantage over those who choose not to carry a VHF radio.  This is, of course, a moot point with respect to the spec. changes concerning safety on the race course.  I have heard from the "been there; done that" crowd that the skipper is always responsible for knowing where he or she is on the line. This argument does bear more closely on the "advantage/disadvantage" issue, but allowing radio OCS recall does not change that paradigm.  Even the VHF carrying competitor may not hear the recall or the committee may fail for any number of reasons to hail the OCS competitor.  Further addressing the "advantage" argument, a competitor may elect to sail with older sails placing himself at a competitive disadvantage.  Those who elect not to use a radio for sanctioned purposes enter the competition knowing the risk and deeming it acceptable.  No one would think to handicap everyone with a specification that all sailors must compete with with sails used for a minimum of three years.   It is s hypothetical analogy, to be sure, but the arguments are similar.

The formerly unaddressed goal, however, is that we need competitors to keep the game going.  Quite a number of successful classes (some of which are growing) have found that use of the VHF radio has helped with regatta management and with competitor satisfaction.  They have also found that allowing limited use of the radio has encouraged most participants to purchase and use their radios with a salutory effect on the safe conduct of regattas.  The intent of FSSA specifications limiting the use of technology for competitive advantage is soundly grounded.  It forestalls money driven "arms races" that quickly drive up competitor costs and drive away those who can ill afford to fuel endless financial investment in the class.  This would be a formula for disaster, especially given that the FS is attractive to many of its owners because ownership and competition have remained very affordable.  That said, reasonable and judiciously limited accomodation to adopt some similarly affordable VHF radio technology into the class regatta and race management venue is timely indeed.

I will be sharing my 'Yes" vote with the Fleet 158 Captain.

 Ryan Gaskin, FS 5673

Comments

VHF Radios Would Become Defacto Requirement

Despite the underlined disclaimer in the Discussion (not the proposed revision per se) that no one would be required to purchase a VHF radio, this would in fact be necessary to be competitive in a regatta where OCS and transmission of information to "assist in the management of the event" are being communicated via VHF radio.  Who would take a week of vacation, drive hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to attend a regatta where VHF radios are permitted and not purchase a VHF radio.  You have got to be kidding, this change would be a defacto requirement to purchase a VHF radio if the competitor has any sense at all.

Frank
FS 5530

It's $50.

You can get a decent VHF for less than $50.  

http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-Compact-Waterproof-Handheld-Channels/dp/B00126K8BM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1389220578&sr=8-6&keywords=vhf+radio

Let's be realistic about this.  Are you telling me that spending $50 is too much when we spend thousands for new sails, $25 for a winch handle, or $45 for a case of quality beer?  <- :-)

For something that can make the racing more safe and enjoyble?  I for one thing this is way overdue.  There is no worst feeling than coming to the finish line and not getting a horn, and especially when there is no way of knowing who was over.  This is a courtesy, and not a requirement.

Maybe in the next decade we can talk about an auto-bailer.  I know, I know...it too is expensive and will ruin the purity of sailing a Flying Scot.  :-)

Dari

Interesting

Let's be clear, there is no rule against carrying a VHF today.  Carrying one for safety purposes in the event of an emergency is allowed and advisable.

The use of any communications device during racing is a slippery slope, and will become a defacto requirement.  If allowing radios is a path to activists in the class bringing in autobailers, etc, then I am opposed.  If they want autobailers, hiking straps or other such "improvements", there are many boats that offer these.  Maybe a pure one-design isn't for them.

One of the best tests of skill in our sport is to start on time.  Being over early is a big deal.  Does it make sense to reduce the penalty of infraction?

 

Phil Scheetz

FS 4086

Fleet 163, Nockamixon Sail Club

Sailing is a very hard sport.

Sailing is a very hard sport. It is an expensive sport. It is a time consuming sport. It is a weather dependent sport. Sailing is a very hard sport.

While you think the activists should go to another boat, I think more of us should become activists and do what we can to help our class of OD boats prosper. If that means we make minute changes so that we are not perceived as an extremist class, then by all means let’s do it now before it is too late.

(Even the Melges 24 class realized their extremest ways and changed the BOAT so that Taco Hiking was no longer an option.)

Like everything in life, proportion is THE key.

The race committee having the ability to communicate with the racers via radio as a courtesy will not diminish our pure One-Design status. The RC are a group of people that volunteer so that we can race our boats, we should make their “job” easier. If you have ever been on race committee and had to abandon a race after a successful start, you know what I mean.

This courtesy will not change the need to have the skill to start on time. It would give a second chance to a racer that did not think they were OCS. Let’s not fool ourselves, a very hefty penalty will still be paid for OCS, but that “second chance” makes racing more fun. And afterall, “fun” is the only reason we race.

Dari

Make the sport more friendly!

I have been keeping up with the comments above and feel the need to weigh in. A few years ago as FSSA President we voted to allow the use of VHF. It failed and many of the less visible sailors have hammered on some of us for letting that happen. So, here we are again and hopefully those who were loudly opposed have lightened up a bit;

So much for that. Having been a PRO for many years at Championships for local, regional, and national events, I have had quite a bit of experience with VHF running races for other classes.  

Let’s take a look at what this can do for the Race Committee. These are the volunteers who come out for our regional and national levels who value the ability to communicate with the fleet. Many feel that the fairest way to call boats OCS is via radio since all hear the notice at the same time no matter where on the line that boat starts. 

What about the I Flag? Might it be possible to notify boats OCS during the 60 seconds prior to the start? Just a thought, as under the current proposal this is not unacceptable. Wouldn’t it be nice for the RC to have the ability sometime when we are sweating in 100 degree heat to be in a position to notify us of a Shortened Course or abandonment? Radios turned off don’t get you there. 

The race committee now can communicate with the fleet prior to the Prep signal, but after that all goes quiet. If there is a General Recall getting boats to return to the starting area costs valuable time. This can be avoided by having the ability to notify the fleet (radios on) that a recall is in progress. The same goes for a last minute postponement or abandonment. OR, how about a countdown of time remaining at the start of a race?  

All the safety issues have been discussed and thoroughly gone over. This cannot be forgotten. If a Race Committee sees something developing it can notify all and direct boats accordingly.  Radios turned become useless at this point. 

Lastly and most importantly, all of this VHF stuff going on in our sport has come about in an effort to make our sport more friendly. It was initiated by the International Sailing Federation; not US SAILING. Think about those novices out there and what this can mean to them. I don’t know how many times sailors have come by the Signal boat not understanding what the Red/White vertical stripe flag means, or the Blue/white checkered flag, or that triangular blue/gold pennant. While this verbal advise may be legal under the current rules the RC may have to repeat this a dozen times. A simple radio announcement fixes this, especially if more radios are out there. 

I decent VHF radio costs about what you pay for a take of gas at your next regatta. This proposal is not perfect, but it is a good beginning.

Bill Ross  F/S 6020

Chairman FSSA National Championship Committee

My 2 cts.

There are really two aspects to the proposed revision of S-V.7.  There is the safety aspect, which for the most part is not controversial.  There is also the VHF use to notify OCS, which is controversial.  The proposal should be divided and the two parts could be addressed separately.

Below only discusses the controversial part of OCS notification.

First it is helpful to understand why folks are OCS.  Sometimes there can be a lack of situational awareness or overaggressiveness where competitors simply mis-time the start and are caught over the line.  These folks know they are over at the start so the proposal is not meant to address them.

The proposal is to help those of us who are battling for position and do not know for certain if we are over or not.  This happens for a variety reasons.  There are those who would counter that this is good since the start line should be an orderly line up and those troublemakers should suffer.  But the simple fact is if you are conservative and end up in the second row in a large fleet, such as happens at national events, you get spit out the back and have very little chance to be competitive.

Here the proponents have a good point.  If you are to be declared OCS you should at least know shortly after the start.  Moreover you should be confident the other competitors over at the start are also penalized.  The proposal addresses the first part but not the second.

If we go this direction it must be implemented so if one competitor is announced as OCS, all who are OCS are also announced within the same minute.  It would also be good if the pin end boat confirms the announcements.

Curiously the proposal indicates the VHF OCS notifications were trialed at the Midwinters 6 years ago.  Are there reports from the RC and competitors from that time available for review?  If so where?   Was there an assessment to determine how well RC was able to determine OCS correctness for (1) OCS identified correctly, (2) OCS identified incorrectly, (3) non-OCS identified correctly, and (4) non-OCS identified incorrectly as well as the effectiveness of VHF for relaying OCS calls?

If these are available they should be reviewed by the voters before making a decision.  

If they are not available we should postpone the decision.  I suggest we trial the proposal during the NAC preliminary rounds, making sure all the relevant information is gathered, summarized and disseminated.  This should include evaluations on whether or not it changes the nature of the competition and if so in a direction appropriate for the future of the Flying Scot class which respects its history.

Clearly the current proposal is an incomplete solution to a problem endemic to sailboat racing.  The question is whether the solution moves the class forward or not.

P.S. What we really need is akin to the light system on the recent America's Cup boats.  There was clear, unambiguous yet user-friendly detection and notification of OCS.  I suspect we are not far away from a such a system which is also cost effective.

Glenn Wesley

FS #5919 - DJ'

Can someone get on the radio and tell those people to get back

I think Bill Ross gave an excellent overview and a rational explanation for why, we as a class need to allow the Race Committee to call OSC via a VHF radio, But for me, its on a more personal level;  it invokes a more emotional response as to why we should do it.


I generally sail in the Challenger Division. I like to sail with that "group." When I go to a regatta, I'm on vacation. I am there to have FUN! Thats an important concept in my book. I want this to be a fun and an enjoyed experience as much as possible. Thus, I get frustrated when the Championship fleet has one or two general recalls due to too many boats being OCS.


As a competitor in a windy Mid-winter or national championship event with a long starting line, its hard if not impossible to hear the OSC call or more commonly, the general recall despite the committee boat's best effort. The Championship fleet competitors will continue to sail upwind not realizing that race is for nought. It often takes 10 minutes or more before all the competitors return to the starting line area and then the starting sequence begins anew. Sometimes this happens more than once before the "I" flag is hoisted. Meanwhile, those of us in the Challenger class are left to sail around behind the line, flogging our sails and sailing back and forth. Generally, we are taking a beating and going nowhere. My crew is not happy. I want to yell at the committee boat...


         "Can someone get on the radio and tell those Mother ....ers to get back to the starting line!"


Well, here's is the answer to my prayer and yours too. You just may not realize until you have sailed in my boat, so to speak. The committee boat will now have the ability to not only have the option to call OSC but in a general recall, the fleet will be able to return to the starting area much sooner than is currently being experienced. This is a win, win situation. It benefits not only the class that is racing but also the class that is waiting patiently to take it's turn.  Dont foget about us.


Our fleet will be voting "yes."


Enjoy your regatta more next time. Knotguilty 5639

VHF AT MIDWINTERS

In reply to Glenn:

I was on the Signal Boat as an observer for the FSSA during the MidWinters when VHF was used to hail OCS boats.  The results that were posted after each day's racing showed who was OCS.  I do not believe that there is any retrievable record of the results of each race, because that was 6 years ago.  However,  I can state with certainty the following facts (in the same order as Glenn's requests):

(1)  The RC determined with 100% accuracy which boats were OCS.

(2)  The RC did not hail any boats as OCS incorrectly.

(3)  The RC did not hail non-OCS boats at all, which is the correct procedure.  The absence of a hail means a boat is not OCS.

(4) The RC did not hail any non-OCS boats as OCS incorrectly.  

(4) (Second question)  VHF was very effective in relaying OCS calls.  The line was long, it was windy, and the current was strong.  After the race, at least two OCS boats told me they thought they started correctly, and would have not known they were OCS (due to the current) if not for the VHF hail.  They returned to start correctly and were grateful to be scored in their finishing positions instead of driving 1000 miles for an OCS. 

I should also note the following:  (1) The pin boat helped identify the OCS boats, and quickly relayed that information to the Signal Boat, who made the VHF hails.  (2) The "X" flag was raised and a single sound signal made (per the RRS) within 2 seconds of the start in every race where there was one or more OCS boats.  And the VHF OCS hails were made within 14 seconds of the start (I timed both).

Dan Goldberg, FS 4991

 

 

Dan Goldberg

Re: Comment Reply

Dan,

Thanks for the clarifications.

A key part of the proposal is to accurately relay OCS calls.  From your reply it is clear that this was accomplished.

Some of what I was trying to understand is how accurately OCS was determined.  To get this we need an independent determination of those over at the start and then compare it against what the RC called OCS.  One way would be via a video record of the start from various viewpoints.  So I would like to understand how your reply (1) was accomplished.  How do you know all those over were called OCS?  Was it not a large aggressive fleet?

Why is this important?  To get an orderly line we need to make sure all those who are over at the start are called OCS (and vice versa).  Otherwise it is possible or even likely some will get away with being over at the start.  From my (albeit limited) experience it appears those who stick out and are easily identified are called OCS.  Others who are hidden behind the mass of sails get away with being over.  Some get very good at attaining this position.

So while the proposal reduces the punishment for those called OCS it appears to do little to encourage a more orderly and fair start.

Glenn Wesley

FS #5919 - DJ'

VHF

Having been at the MW's which the VHF was tried out and the NAC's last year, I like to make a few comments.

At the MW's when the VHF was a trail run, I found that the VHF was handy and helpful as it really helped identify the OCS boats.  Being hard of hearing, it's very difficult for me to hear any Individual recall, especially on a long staring line or if there are any notofications on the water by the RC.

On a long starting line it's often difficult to tell where you are on the line, especially when you have a hard time establishing a reference line. For instance, at the NAC's at Lake Norman last summer, I had several close starts, but never knew if I was over early or not, that affected my boat speed and strategy as I kept waiting for either a Individual or General Recall as there were other boats in the same place near me. Those first few minutes are critical. 

Thus, have we had the VHF's, we would know sooner than later if I was OCS or not. In addition, getting the fleet restarted would go much faster.

VHF AT MIDWINTERS

Glenn,

There was no video to cross-check that the OCS calls were accurate.  However, I believe they were all correct based on the following:

(1)  The St. Pete RC was very experienced, and routinely ran large one-design regattas (including Thistles).  They are known for excellent race managment.  The PRO was a co-author of the US Sailing Race Management Handbook.

(2)  The pin boat also had experienced people and also helped identify OCS boats.

(3)  Had there been any questionable boats or unidentified boats, the RC would have signalled a General Recall rather than OCS.

(4)  There were no requests for redress from any OCS boats.  To me that means they accepted the RC identification of OCS boats. 

(5)  After the races each day, I did not hear any scuttlebut about anyone being OCS and getting away with it.

(6)  The fleet was not super-aggressive.  Most of the problems were due to current.

(7)  I was an eyewitness to all the starts.  None of the OCS calls were even borderline questionable, nor were there any boats that could not be identified.

 

Dan Goldberg

Complexity and Value

Fact this: Who will be hailed first when there is a case of individual OSC with more than one boat? The order of notification by this device is subjective. Seconds count. Boat on boat position is critical at the start. Every second up wind is more than double back. The primary process of Flag and secondary report as outlined in the RRS is non bias, and fair. That is the game.


Fact two: Added complexity , and, loss of consideration of basic fair rule is a loss to the sport. This idea is a loss, twice.


Fact three: Where did this come from? Please consider: This proposal is comming from the leadership, Not from the owner / membership.


So I say: Who and what are we trying to gain? added complexity? loss of fair game?


know the game, play the game. Race managment is for fair play of the Competitors, not the inverse.

To FS5609

I want to reply to FS5609's question of where is this coming from. It was my proposal and I am in fact part of your leadership team. However, I submitted this on behalf of several members - more than 100 - who personally asked me to do so or asked that it be considered. The leadership had lots of discussion pro and con, but the votes are coming from the members. If the members want it, it will pass. If the members don't want it, then it will not pass. Either way, the voice of the members is heard. In the end it is about all of you and what you want.

Diane Kampf FS 5857

VHF radios will become a defacto requirement

The arguments in favor of the change regarding safety and general recalls imply one thing for any of those benefits to be realized:  that we will all begin monitoring a VHF throughout the race.  I do not wish to see this become a defacto requirement for participating in a regatta, I would find it a distraction and choose not to do it.  One of the joys of sailing for me is being free of the electronic tethers that chain us to that other reality.  I don’t feel the time tested flag and horn system of signaling the fleet has proven to be so inadequate that it warrants this imposition.

I disagree about it becoming defacto requirement

I would disagree with you on it becoming a "defacto requirement".  It is a choice whether you carry and use the radio.  If you choose not to use it, the race committee is still bound by the rules to use sound and flag signals to communicate to competitors.  

If 60% of the fleet chooses to listen via VHF, and the race commitee chooses to abandon the race for whatever reason, you will still get a hint (your competitors are abandoning the race)  that maybe you should pay attention to the flags on the  RC boat instead of sailing away.

Please note that in the proposal, it clearly states:

"Information from the Race Committee to the competitors should be on a separate channel from the one used for communication with other race officials, and should be identified in the Sailing Instructions."

So the competitor channel should not have any chit chat, and thus no distractions if you choose to monitor.

re: defacto requirement

Mike is correct.  Whether you favor the proposal or not if it passes VHF becomes a defacto requirement.

Yes you are not forced to use it (yet) but if you want to be competitive you need to avail yourself of all the information available to your competitors.

Moreover fs5609 is correct that the order of OCS calls does confer a further advantage.  We can debate whether it is a significant advantage but it is an advantage.

 

Glenn Wesley

FS #5919 - DJ'