Race starts and finishes for ocean events

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9 years 7 months ago #14929 by Kneewall49
I couldn't find, after a quick search, any discussion on race starts for ocean events.

I'd like to get some opinions, and I'm sure I will.

Why? Well this year's 20 beaches demonstrated a couple of issues, mainly the unsuitability of ocean racing boats and difficult surf break conditions.

These boats are development class craft, ie designers pushing the envelop on performance design, and that performance is for sustained downwind bump running. Additionally a majority of the paddlers making up the field are not and do not practice surf starts, jump starts or beach landings. Not because they don't enjoy it but simply it's reasonably inappropriate for this type of boat and for the type of paddling they usually doing.

Wearing PDFs, drink systems, sun protection, safety gear, etc. why put yourself in a situation where you could be dumped from your craft and the stress it causes at a race start?

We saw expensive craft damaged or written off at starts taking place in inappropriate locations.

My view is that all ocean events start as deep water starts, and finishes, or seated lemans style in enclosed waters.

In our case paddlensw should mandate this for event authorisation.

Alternatively events should stipulate that they will exclusively hold jump, surf starts, and we could all practise and prepare for this style, or not enter.

I realise start locations are a result of many comprises but for the long term growth of the sport we need to encourage participation, not discourage it through unnecessarily difficult start and finish locals.

Neil

Northern Beaches, Australia.
[Fenn Swordfish, Fenn Spark, Carbonology Zest Double
Pain is temporary, glory can be even less so...

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9 years 7 months ago #14930 by Stew
I think the actual starts are of more concern. It's getting ridiculous the situation of breaking starts and creeping lines. Absolutely every single race is broken these days.

In regards to getting through the break, it's a skill, same as riding runners, and is developed through practice. A course like 20 Beaches, means you are going in and out of the break zone. I don't think too many paddlers would support the race being cancelled due to this if Paddle NSW or a similar body were to not sanction the event. I think we're very lucky in Sydney to have many courses which offer safe entries and exits, as well as different types of racing, such as ocean and then calmer harbour events.

It is really rough seeing guys cart their snapped or damaged ski up the beach, after training hard to get the the start line of an iconic event, so I can certainly see your point.

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9 years 7 months ago #14931 by portmanm
I agree with Stew - creeping starts at every race. This is my first season of racing in the Ocean & Harbour series and experienced all the various race starts/finishes.

Being a newbie to the sport it was pretty nerve racking looking at some of the beach starts (eg 20 Beaches & Narrabeen) - however, there were other safer options and the more experienced paddlers suggested where to enter - I listened, took my time and managed to survive. Didn't experience any large beach breaks for the finishes but would have just taken my time coming back into shore on the back of some white wash.

For the deep water starts with large beach break entry points, would have been better to have the race briefing 30(?) minutes earlier and include alternatives for people to enter. This would give people some time to unload at a safer part of the beach and paddle to the start point.

The Le Mans beach start was interesting & good experience but I was more concerned of taking out other competitors or whack someone with a paddle as we were all pretty close together for the start. Not sure if you can spread it out further across the beach or have various waves of competitors (elite, intermediate, newbies)

Like any sport, there's always risks to persons and/or equipment, it's your personal call whether you compete or not. Practice in all conditions minimises the risk but it still exists never the less.

Cheers, Matt

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9 years 7 months ago #14935 by Tim
If 100 yachts that are far less manouverable than a ski can get off a start line without breaking I can't see why the same procedure won't work with us.
Yes, most starts in Australia are a shambles but it's the paddlers breaking, not the organisers. It's about time we all took responsability rather than blame the venue or method; be it Le Mans style, rolling start, beach start, deep water start, etc.
For me there is only one way that will work for all venues in all conditions, is safe for competitors, won't damage craft and has the best chance of being fair and that is a deep water start.
Why can't we have a 10 and 5 minute warning gun giving plenty of time to set watches and position yourself on the start line.
Anyone over the line after the 5 minute gun is given a time penalty.
Get some officials out there with a camera, take some numbers and penalise those that break.
If too many break to identify, the gun (or siren or whatever) is fired twice for a general recall and the whole field lines up again.
We need a system that works for all venues, and importantly is policed.
If the penalties are handed out and names published it won't take long before we have something that resembles a fair start and can look foward to no more bitching about the starts.
The start line doesn't need to be 500M long as I would like to think most people know their ability and realise the front line may not be the place for them.
I don't think beach starts are the answer as it would be highly unusual to have a break that is fair across 25M of beach let alone a length line required for any of our races. I certainly don't want my ski damaged off the start line or my drink system and safety gear over the side or damage someone else's craft.
I'm ok with beach finishes as by that time the field is spread and it's a personal choice when to enter the break.

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9 years 7 months ago #14938 by antonsa
Well said Tim. I have organized and started hundreds of events and paddlers will jump starts as they know that they can get away with it. And it is always the same suspects! I like the yacht start option but we need a well defined line at sea (could simply be do not be ahead of the safety boat)- no need for camera - let the starter call it and the penalty for crossing line early must really hurt - say 5 minutes. Beach starts are nice and easy to manage but they are often unfair due to surf or shortest line options. Beach finish is ok and same for all. I agree that craft breakages and risk to life and limb should be minimised but at the same time surfskills are important to all who paddle.

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9 years 7 months ago #14945 by andrew wheeler
Certainly an interesting topic. Two issues raised here - starting and finishing through the surf line and the creeping start.

My views on the first issue (and this is from a Sydney perspective where you get 100+ in most ocean races):

1) Starts should be deepwater from the open beaches unless the conditions are benign. No one wants to break their own ski, see someone with a broken ski or worse still head out through the break while an unmanned ski careers towards you.

2) Finishes should be to the beach unless conditions are deemed unsafe from both a competitor or craft perspective by the organisers in which case a deep water finish is appropriate. As someone who was cleaned up coming into Freshy in the recent 20 Beaches I have no one else to blame but myself for not holding it together and thought it was ok to have a beach finish in those conditions.

Now the second issue. Race starts in Sydney. Nothing really new this year but a continuation of the usual Sydney start where it seems everyone is so on edge that as soon as they see someone turning an arm over in their peripheral vision they believe the race has started and the contagion spreads. This issue doesn't seem to arise in races I have done outside Sydney.

Possible solutions:

- clearly defined (and loud) countdown signals (eg 10 min, 5 min, 1 min, 30 sec)
- real penalties for those who break (always threatened but I can't recall seeing any enforcement)
- if the pack just goes by itself without regard to the starter (seems to be unique to Sydney) the organisers must bring it back again and again until the message gets through. PS: If organisers do this please wait for people to turn their skis around before starting again.
- graded start groups - in a smaller start group you will be less likely to break early. I understand that this may be the case in South Africa so would be good to hear if it works or not.

In my view an example of a clean start was this year's Lion Island race. Why? A nice wide start line meant competitors weren't on top of each other and each had their own space and could be on the line if they really wanted to. Well policed by the IRB's from end to end and clear signalling. Another good feature of this race was the decent length to the first turning buoy so there was no major traffic jam at the first turn.

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9 years 7 months ago #14946 by postal256
I prefer rolling starts. May as well build in the inevitable creeping and let everyone try to perfectly time their passing the start buoy right as the timer finishes the countdown. This works well in controlled water, not so sure in offshore though..

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9 years 7 months ago - 9 years 7 months ago #14948 by Michael Smedley
Personally I am not a fan of the beach start. I think there are too many boats condensed in one spot and it creates too much carnage. Same goes for a turning can 1/2km off the beach. Again it creates too much unnecessary traffic in one spot.

This is amplified in tricky surf when you get paddlers falling off and you are then faced with boats barreling towards others.

Also, the rules state leg leashes must be worn. Does this mean we all jump on, then fiddle with our leashes in the break? Or, perhaps we just turn a blind eye, because nobody wears them anyway.

Beach finish is different. Since the race is now well divided you don't have the same problems with carnage like the start.

It also adds for an extra bit of excitement. The races are getting so close at the top these days that a risk taken in the surf can be the difference, as in this years 20 beaches.

The beach finish also makes it much easier for the time keepers, which is important if we all want correct times and places recorded.

As for those who can't do surf, suck it up, or do some intermediate races until you can. For the sport to go forward we can't always cater for the weakest paddler, we have to cater for the majority.

Deep water starts with no turning can should be considered more. Which ever format used, the same guys always seem to lead out. I am not sure how much difference it makes that someone jumped the start by a boat length in a 20km race.
Last edit: 9 years 7 months ago by Michael Smedley.

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9 years 7 months ago #14965 by AR_convert

andrew wheeler wrote: Now the second issue. Race starts in Sydney. Nothing really new this year but a continuation of the usual Sydney start where it seems everyone is so on edge that as soon as they see someone turning an arm over in their peripheral vision they believe the race has started and the contagion spreads. This issue doesn't seem to arise in races I have done outside Sydney.


Don't worry, this problem is alive and well over in Perth as well.

Quite frankly it's a farce at races when race directors threaten disqualifications or penalties as some have suggested, they just aren't enforced.

As for beach starts and finishes I have started to avoid races with conditions where I could chance damaging/breaking my ski. I just don't have the $$$ to repair or replace it.

Yeah I am only one, but I wonder if others think the same way.

I guess if race organisers did what many other sports do after big events and actually ask the participants by way of an electronic survey what they thought, they may get some feedback that could possibly allow them to grow the event rather than have those new to the sport like me do it once then not bother a 2nd time.

I'm sure there has to be a fair way to start deep water races

How about a long rope line, weighted down that sits a couple of feet below the water and have a line with a float extending up every 5 metres or so. Easier to see which boats are over the line.

I'm sure once the sport grows and prize money grows there will be grumblings if people feel cheated about start line issues.

Someone said "what's a boat length over 20km?", well for some of us getting on a good lead wash if you are not heading straight into a downwind can make or break your race.

I don't envy a race director, the conditions on a start line are usually very noisy, busy and instructions yelled from a start boat, sometimes via a loud hailer that cant be heard anyway are usually ignored because the attitude seems to be if guy next to me doesn't seem to be paying attention, so why should I :whistle:

Someone suggested graded starts. I think that would help a great deal in very big events, that way you haven't got hundreds of paddlers pushing one another to the line and clashing paddles and skis to make space.

Always looking for the next boat :)

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9 years 7 months ago #14971 by Kneewall49
Seems we have agreement on these issues (at least from those replying).

I think the wave starts (by age/sex/craft) resulted in a better start for the 20 Beaches this year and allowed a clear indication of who you were racing against, and a far less crowded and more orderly start.

Start lines should be very wide or multiple in line buoys, to minimize crowding and jostling.

Start lines should ideally be into the wind and any turning buoy should be at least 1km away from the start to allow dissipation of the pack.

Beach finishes are OK if surf conditions are manageable by the average racer.

Jump starts should not be a part of ocean racing

Start lines would be best set well before the event and preferably have an IRB anchored and hanging off each end of the line, not roaring up and down in front of the line causing even more chaos and wash.

Yes adopt the sailing start procedure with horn and flags.

If IRBs are anchored at both ends of the start line, a video camera can easily then be used by a crew to capture start creepers, and their results excluded during presentation.

IRBs anchored at both ends of the start line (and thus stationary) will also be far easier to see than some buoys that can be obscured by the fleet itself.

PaddleNSW needs to set mandatory and common start rules for all accredited races.

Northern Beaches, Australia.
[Fenn Swordfish, Fenn Spark, Carbonology Zest Double
Pain is temporary, glory can be even less so...

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