A short explanation of general club racing at Snettisham Beach sailing Club
(at the request of Tillerman)
Each fleet is responsible for running its own races. This includes setting the course, starting and finishing races, dealing with any arising issues such as protests etc. Each race has an OOD, selected because they came in second place in the previous race.
The OOD is responsible for choosing the course, number of laps, starting the race and recording the results.
To start the race a gate boat start is used with the OOD as the pathfinder. The advantage of this is that no committee boat and no other race officers are required and the OOD can take part in the race.
This is the start sequence. The OOD (pathfinder) takes up position close to the leeward mark and gives a warning signal (arm raised in the air for about 1bout 30 seconds) then sails away from the leeward mark on a starboard reach for about 30 seconds, tacks, reaches back to the leeward mark and goes close hauled on port tack. As soon as he has passed the leeward mark the gate has opened, each boat then starts by passing between the leeward mark and the pathfinder's stern, The gate remains open until the last boat has passed his stern and then the pathfinder is free to join the race.
Recording the results is a case of memorizing, with the help of the rest of the fleet, the finishing positions of each boat.
This system works well in small clubs with small fleets and the space to do gate boat starts. It relies on the integrity of each sailor to conduct themselves in accordance with the rules. In the time that I have been sailing at the club we have not had any protests.
Most of the time any infringement is dealt with by penalty turns, which requires integrity on both parties in any incident. (I have retired one one occasion because I didn't want to do 720 turn in a force 5 after a port starboard incident).
At the end of the day we want to remain friends and enjoy our sailing so it doesn't make sense to allow any situation to get out of hand. I would imagine that any incident that wasn't dealt with on the water would be initially tackled with a discussion on the shore and the protagonists given the opportunity to resolve the issue before taking the next step of a protest hearing.
Shortening course is normally done by discussion in light airs (i.e. shouting across the water at each other) or at the discression of the OOD if the conditions are becoming unsafe for racing. In this situation the OOD would need to decide where to stop the race (normally at a mark closest to the club) and hold their position there when they reach it and inform each boat as it passes that the race is shortened. Any boats ahead of the OOD at this point would soon realise that the race has been shortened when they see everyone else heading for the shore. On other occasions the conditions have deteriorated so much that if the OOD didn't shorten the race everyone else would and did! Good sense has to prevail.
So thats how we do it and I guess we are going to have to revise our system from time to time and adapt it to different circumstances but it seems to work ok.