Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Xtreme Xclusion Zone

I’m umpiring the Extreme Sailing Series in Cowes this week. With Addendum Q (like in the Medal Race) we follow the big cats and try to keep up. Sometimes it’s neigh impossible in the bumpy Solent, even at full speed in our small umpire ribs. But then we go to zone system and hope to catch all the infringements.
The biggest problem we have is not so much the rules of Part 2, but something called “the exclusion zone”.
Because of Cowes week the Solent is filled with fleets racing and they all have to pass the race area of the extreme forties to the finish. The solution the organisers and the Cowes harbour authorities have come up with, was to create a box where the extreme forties have to stay within to race and all the Cowes week’s sailors have to stay out.
Marked by orange cylindrical buoys parallel to the shore from Gurnard North Cardinal buoy, the box was to keep everybody separated.
Now add 20 knots of wind, high flying cats, a tidal current of 3 knots and lots and lots of seaweed gathering on the ground tackle.  The first day the buoys completely disappeared below the water…. No more zone.
The second day the orange cylinders where tied to bigger marks hoping that that would keep them afloat. But now the seaweed gathering on the ground tackle started to drag the marks…. fist more north and then effectively far outside any reasonable position. No more Zone again.
Hoping that this would eliminate the shifting marks, the next day the outside line was defined by the line between and extension off, two points. The race committee boat would anchor below Gurnard and those would be the two starting points.
In comes the tide and the committee boat starts swinging on its line. Changing the angle considerably. One moment a boat is sailing legally inside and the next it is outside. Not good either…..
Then there’s the speed of the boats. One look astern and deciding you are approaching the line, before you’re ready to tack, it is 3 seconds later and now you are outside.
All in all it has been an issue for the whole week and we as umpires are getting fed up with it. Sometimes because we are not able to get to the boats quick enough, sometimes because we ourselves unsure of the infringement. And because sailors have a lot of trouble complying with the rule.
Because the punishment has to fit the crime, we now accept a tack penalty as being adequate for infringing the zone.
All in all this “Xclusion Zone” defined in a Notice to Mariners (& in the SI) has been a challenge, indeed.


  1. Dear Jos;
    Would you please show us “the exclusion zone” and the racing area with map?

  2. It happens a lot of time a race committee saddle the jury up with their insoluble problems and mistakes and demands the impossible (see also Kiel 4, Day five). Do not fall into the trap. The competitors will put the blame on you when the results are not successfully, while it is not your responsibility. The race committee must take the consequences. When you are not in control of the situation and adequate umpiring is impossible, forget it.


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