Critics of the RORC's Fastnet decisions are missing the point


Congratulations to RORC on some excellent decisions and a very well-run Fastnet Race, in particular to Janet Grosvenor, the RORC’s quiet and competent racing manager.

Janet is the unsung hero of this race, indeed of British offshore racing. She has been at the RORC since 1969. She left for a bit but returned in 1973 and has worked alongside such great figures as Alan Green and Mary Pera. There’s not much that Janet hasn’t seen or dealt with.

In the last week, the RORC’s decision to delay the race has been subjected to a fair amount of critical scrutiny. Personally, I think they were completely vindicated. Those who decided to retire were all within hours of safe havens. The only casualty was back in the bar the same night.

Meanwhile, the bigger boats went off to set a record. As I write, some canny skippers of smaller boats are still finishing. How can you ask for better?

Commentary about the number of retirements – 211 of 271 starters – has missed a key point. Everyone who put into port did so on the basis of seamanship, and good for them. But no-one who retired was forced out of the race. Had they wanted to, they could have gone back out at any point, motored to where they’d retired and resumed racing. There isn’t a time limit on the Fastnet race.

The real question, I think, is how the idea has come about that racing ought to fit into pre-planned time, something you can block out of your Outlook calendar. Or did 200-odd crews think that if they had no chance of winning, the race wasn’t worth completing?

3 comments:Reasons for retirement are many and varied. Although I am now in the fortunate position of being able to spend almost as much time as I like at sea, it was not always so.

Sad to say, a lot of people have to get leave of absence from work and/or home in order to compete in the Fastnet. The prospect of a week or more and then a couple of days (at least) for delivery back to the Solent runs them out of exeat time and into trouble with the boss or the family.Peter Eustace.

I think that the decision to delay was absolutely right. The issue to me is that so many boats retired.

Why? Are the boats not up to it? Is the required practice insufficient? Is the style of offshore racing currently practiced in amateur cruiser racers (where boat design requires crew to sit out on the windward rail) inappropriate for this type of race?

The comparison is the Figaro race where singlehanded, admittedly mostly professional competitors, sailed through equally bad weather, mostly completed the various courses with relatively little damage although the organisers there too took action to avoid danger and changed the course to avoid the Fastnet Rock on one leg.David B.

Sod’s Law dictates that when you name a start date and time well in advance the weather may well not co-operate. The French have rather belatedly learnt this lesson after some destruction Derbys, and have postponed some starts recently, and rerouted others. Now RORC has done it with the Fastnet.

This an outbreak of commonsense. Flexible start times should be the norm, with the published start merely being the first opportunity. Arguably the delay should have been longer. A published policy like this could increase start numbers (and finishers!). Race organisers should resist commercial pressures and operate a strict safety first policy.David Bains