Thanks to everyone who took the time to send us their feedback on ocean racing entry deadlines. It was too late to get them in the June issue and we simply didn’t have room for all the responses here. However, we’d like to share some excerpts:
Daniel Willey of the Nauticat 43.5 Galaxsea: "In a singlehanded race, 10 days is not that bad. In a crewed race, crew selection is always an issue — best to wait and get it right."
SSS and St. Francis YC member George Mann of the C&C 35 Robin: "If you are not prepared for all kinds of weather, you should probably not be signing up for an ocean race. A simple case in point was the recent OYRA Duxship. The weather report the night before was for 6-11 knots building to 14 further north near Duxbury. As it turned out the wind was in the mid-twenties and there were very steep and confused seas."
Mike Fitzmorris: "I think the real question is what does the Coast Guard do with the entry list? Is there any possible value in a list of boat names being handed in before a search is begun? As long as the right people have the necessary information ahead of the race, what benefit is there in the list sitting around the Coasties’ office? Do they study the entry form and give the patrols a pop quiz on the boats entered?"
Sue Burns, from the Corinthian YC of Portland, and PRO for next year’s Oregon Offshore — a 1.5- to 3-day race from Astoria, Oregon to Victoria, BC — shared that club’s experiences with the permitting process for what’s also a potentially dangerous stretch of racetrack: "Our race entry deadline is always approximately 2.5 weeks before the start of the race to coincide with our kick-off party. This gives everyone, including the race committee and the racing boats and crews the time to make sure that everything is in order . . . Our Coast Guard permit requires review by multiple Coast Guard districts as well as Seattle Vessel Traffic before it is issued. We have not been asked for a list of racing boats at the time we apply for the permit, or before it is granted. We do have to give Seattle VTS a list of the racing boats, but that list is not faxed to them until after the boats have started . . . There is no reason for them to have the list ahead of time since some boats might not start. . . . Despite no requirement for a list of entrants before the race permit is granted, we still have the panic-inducing problem of not getting our permit until shortly — this time it was a couple of days — before the race."
Steve Wonner, owner Wyliecat 30 Uno: "I think it’s reasonable to require sign ups 10 days in advance for ocean races. There are lots of additional requirements for ocean equipment and new administrative hoops to jump through. I appreciate the intent of the Coast Guard to protect us from ourselves, but resist the added intrusion. I’ve had numerous encounters with the CG, and though well-meaning, most have little or no sailing experience and don’t really know what’s safe and what’s not. That evaluation should rest with the individual or, at worst, the Race Committee. That said, it looks like we’re stuck with a 10-day advance sign up. Get used to it."
Jeff Dunnavant, SSS member, of the Baltic 42 DP True North: "If the Coast Guard is giving permission to sail or not, and taking some of the responsibility away from the sailor, does this mean they take responsibility when they do allow a race? What if the race would continue without a Coast Guard Permit for the race? Other than reprimanding the organizing club, what authority do they have?"
Jeff poses a couple of good questions. Apparently, the insurance companies don’t seem to be too concerned about the permits. But, while a lot of the respondents dislike the encroachment the new permit process represents, no one feels it’s in any racer’s interest to thumb our noses at the agency our tax dollars pay for to come rescue our butts after we’ve exhausted every other possibility and done everything we can to prevent them from having to do that. Still, among many of the respondents, there was a rational fear that the new permitting requirements might lead to further restrictions on ocean racing down the line. The first brick in the wall, so to speak.
In the meantime, given that the permitting process is new this year, and that all the ocean-race-running clubs are responding — quite well — to it, we think there are definitely ways to streamline the entire process to cause as little disruption to sailors as possible. One respondent rightly pointed out that R/Cs having to issue refunds would be a tremendous burden on already overworked volunteers. But given that almost every yacht club now uses a capable on-line event management software, we think there has to be a way to streamline the entire process in such a way that satisfies all the interested parties.