Equipment inspection at events

A common cause of discontent is complaints suggesting that a boat’s rated data is incorrect. How can this be simply dealt with? Get your club to do some inspections! It’s not hard and the benefits can be enormous. And not just at major events, even club racing can be spoiled by complaints of this sort. It doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult.

In GBR (and some other countries), an RYA prescription to RRS 78 gives a race committee the right to inspect or measure a boat at any time. In the absence of such a prescription, the authority to undertake event inspection is given by IRC Rule 13.6:

13.6        The Rating Authority or a boat’s Rule Authority may require a boat to be submitted for measurement at any time without giving reasons. Measurement will be undertaken by authorised measurers of the Rating Authority. A new certificate will be issued by the Rating Authority based on the new measurement data.

So, if necessary, the race committee starts with a call to the local IRC Rule Authority asking them for the authority to inspect boats at the event. Once they have that, for a club event, simply go ahead. For a major event, a clause should also be included in the Notice of Race telling everybody that there will be inspections and then when, where and what.

The Equipment Inspector(s) are then appointed by the Race Committee.

How then in practice does this work? For a major event the first step is for the inspectors to establish what facilities are available and (in conjunction with the RC) what will be possible/desirable in the time available. A plan can then be drawn up.

Plainly (we are not at the Olympics!), it is not possible to do everything. Some measurements are also difficult and/or expensive, weighing for example, although even that is not unknown. Unless conditions are very good checking overhangs (which would also require emptying the boats) is also difficult and time consuming. Primary hull measurements are unlikely to be wrong. It is suggested therefore that on most occasions the focus should be on rigs and sails, the items most likely to change. Other useful and simple issues that can be checked are rig details (No. of spreaders etc.), rig material, and internal ballast.

Achieving this will require a suitable sail measurement area and a measurement team. Sail measurement should be as close as possible to where the boats are moored. The event marquee or other centre is often ideal. Otherwise, an on-site sail loft works well. If all else fails, outside on the grass or a large tarpaulin can work but is subject to weather.

Requiring the boats to attend is as above through the NoR. They then need to be told individually what will be measured on each boat and a schedule. What to measure could be the same for all boats, or be entirely at random, or be based on a check of each boat’s certificate and ‘that looks small/odd’. It is suggested that (unless everything is to be measured/inspected) the requirements for each boat are not told to the boats until just before the event. There is no requirement to inspect all boats, although if time and circumstances permit, doing so is a good idea. As far as possible, inspections should be in public so that each boat knows that her competitors are being properly inspected.

It is sensible to set up an arrangement through your IRC Rule Authority to the Rating Authority so that any amended certificates required can be quickly processed. We are quite used to this and can help as required (normal certification fees will apply).

IRC Rule 8.10 then tells the inspectors when a boat is in compliance with her certificate,defining each item of rated data as a maximum or a minimum. Note that there is NO tolerance. This is often misunderstood.

Note that the inspectors are simply checking for compliance with a boat’s certificate. They are NOT helping her to optimise the data. But requests for amended certificates to take advantage of eg sails found to be smaller must be left to the boat and will not be processed through any special event certification arrangement.

So, what happens when a measurement is found to be wrong? The boat will then have a number of choices. She could choose not to carry a sail found to be too large. Or she could correct the error by for instance re-cutting a sail or moving a black band. Or, her certificate could be re-issued to include the correct data. Hence the need for a fast track certificate processing route.

And if the error is found during an event? The inspector reports to the RC who protests the boat. The outcome of that, including penalties which under IRC are not necessarily disqualification, is then determined by RRS 64.3 and IRC Rules 9 and 10.

What are the difficulties? Obviously pre-event inspection will add to the time that crews need to commit to an event. This needs to be balanced against the seriousness of the event. At major events, boats often wish to leave the marina to train. If that is likely then a clause in a NoR requiring them to seek permission will help. Most owners and crews are pleased to see inspections taking place and are very co-operative. Explaining quietly and rationally to those who object, always resolves this. Be wary of even slightly damp spinnakers. These will often be oversize. Before requiring any action, suggest first that the sail is dried and re-measured.

The benefits? Those who win can accept their prizes with a clear conscience. Those who don’t will be satisfied that the winners won fairly. In many cases, data will be found that is undersize. This will demonstrate to the owners of these boats the importance of getting the data right. Which can only result in fairer racing all round.

Oh, and a much better atmosphere at the event, both on the water and in the bar!