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ABOUT THOSE RACE COMMITTEE FLAGS
by Morgan Stinemetz, dad.
Here it is race day. You抳e polished up your boat. Polished up your good manners so you won抰 abuse you crew. And you are ready to race. But are you?
Do you know that the start sequence for sailboat races has been a five-minute countdown series since 2001? If your club is still using the old 10-minute system, someone needs to take the 21st century by the horns and get things modified.
So, here抯 how the sequence goes.
If everything is on schedule, when you get out to the committee boat you will see an RC flag and an orange flag that delineates the committee boat end of the start line. If things are running late, you will see the previous two flags and the AP signal. That's a red and white pennant, which is also called the Answering Pennant.
When the AP comes down, it signifies one minute until the class flag is raised. The class flag is the one which is so designated by the Sailing Instructions. So, at this point, there are six minutes until the start.
The Class Flag goes up at five minutes before the start and remains up until the start. This is a warning flag only. The Rules of Racing (RRS) don抰 kick in for another minute. It is accompanied by a sound signal.
The P (Preparatory) flag goes up at four (4) minutes before the start. The P flag is blue with a white, square center. It is accompanied by a sound signal. This flag will remain up for three minutes.
The P flag comes down at one minute before the start. It is accompanied by a sound signal. The only flag still up is the Class Flag.
START: The Class Flag comes down. It is accompanied by a sound signal. You should be at or very near the starting line going fast.
OTHER FLAGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
X: Blue cross on a white background. It means that one or more boats have started prematurely. The race committee may, but is not obligated to, inform the guilty boat(s). This flag will be lowered when all premature boats have returned or after 4 minutes, whichever comes first.
FIRST SUBSTITUTE: This is a triangular flag with blue edges top and bottom and a yellow center. This flag indicates a General Recall. Everybody starts over. New start sequence, etc.
I: Yellow flag with solid black circle at center. This indicates that Rule 30.1 (the around-the-ends rule) is in effect at the start.
BLACK FLAG: This flag is all black. It means that any boat on the course side of the start line within a minute prior to the start is disqualified.
Y: Diagonal red and yellow stripes. This flag means that all competitors are required to wear personal buoyancy.
L: Diagonal yellow and black squares, two each. Ashore, it means that a notice to competitors has been posted. Afloat, it means come within hail or follow me.
M: Blue Flag with white X. This flag means, "The mark is missing. Round me instead of the missing mark."
S: White with blue square. This flag means, "The course has been shortened. The finish is between this flag and the nearby rounding mark,"
C: Red, white and blue horizontal stripes. This flag means, "The course has been changed." Look for compass heading to new mark and/or + or - sign indicating leg will be longer or shorter.
N: Blue and white checkers. This flag means, "The race has been abandonned." It should be accompanied by 3 sound signals.
N over A: This combination means, "Races have been abandonned. Further signals will be made ashore."