The rostered shift of Officer of the Day starts a few days before the actual race day, as part of the responsibility is to be across the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecast and the weather patterns forming over the days leading up to race day. During these days, I also like to phone the rostered volunteers in the key positions such as Race Officers, Radio Operators and Patrol Boat Skippers to touch base and make sure they are ok to fulfil their positions on race day.

The night before race day I am always a bit anxious with excitement, I like an early night to make sure I am up in time for the weather checks and the 9 am sked. As many of the BYS competitors come down from Melbourne on the morning of race day the decision to race which is made by the OOD needs to be made and communicated via the weather sked at 9 am on the morning of the race.

A BOM issued ‘gale’ warning will result in activation of the BYS rule of cancelling the race, anything less than a gale forecast will mean the club flag goes up and we are racing!

I like to arrive at the club about 2 hours prior to the warning signal of the first scheduled race. During this time, I again check the weather forecast and get across all of the races scheduled and start to think about which courses will be suitable for Keelboats and Off the Beach (OTB) fleets, it’s really important for safety that there is enough separation of the two fleets. At this time, I also start to prepare the daily briefing.

Around 1.5 hours out from the start of the first race, the day’s volunteers start arriving, it’s always a stress point up until now wondering if the volunteers will all turn up, or turn up on time!  I gather the team in the Commodores Lounge for the daily briefing. The briefing is really important to communicate the program for the day to make sure everyone is aware of their task, the weather forecast, and to discuss the plans for the OTB or/and keelboat racing. After the briefing, the Radio Officer communicates with the On-Water volunteers about the day’s patrol boat operations. There are around 20 volunteers all performing important roles ensuring the racing goes off without a hitch, the club really couldn’t function without their dedication.

As the race competitors start to arrive, masts go up and sails are unfurled on the OTB boats, the buzz around the club is quite electric, there is banter being thrown around and laughs being shared, it is really a special thing to be a part of.

Having been watching the conditions for about an hour and checking the Willy Weather, Windy and BOM websites, it’s time to decide on the course for each fleet; the main element that decides the course is the wind, too much or too little? A short course that would normally take 10 minutes can take 40 minutes in light to no wind conditions, giving skippers with advanced light air skills the winning edge. Whereas days with heavy weather, safety is the main concern, however, there will always be the diehards on these days who want to get out there and race! It makes me thankful on these days, I am tucked up warm in the tower.

Once the course has been decided, the corresponding flags are sent up the yardarm. Watching the course flags being hoisted up is one of my favourite times of the day, the history and tradition that comes along with this, often sends a little shiver down my spine.

An hour out from the first race start, the Radio Operator and the Start Box Team are in the tower, ready for the customary radio checks and reporting the number of people aboard each boat (POB). And as the OTB boats leave the beach, the Start Box Team are noting sail numbers and classes.

All is calm and looking good for racing starts.

If the start is 2.30 pm which is actually a 2.35 pm start, I need to activate the automated start system at exactly 2.24 pm using the GPS time, this then activates a series of lights that can be seen from the water and used to determine which division and the countdown to start.

As each fleet nears the start line, I need to make sure that no boat has unintentionally snuck over the line. Usually, it is a ‘clear start’ however, sometimes one or two boats can sneak over and as long as I can identify the sail numbers we push the individual recall. If there are boats over the line that cannot be identified, it is a general recall where all of the boats are back to the line for a restart after the last division has been started.

Once all of the division fleets are away and racing, it’s time for a coffee and a little snack for the next 90 minutes or so while monitoring the fleet and keeping one eye on the weather, watching for shifts and squalls – the safety of the race fleet(s) and volunteers is paramount. Having been watching the racing closely we know which boats are leading and heading for the finish line, as it’s the OOD’s job to call the finishes as the boats cross the line while the Start Box team record the times.  The finish times for the keelboat are really important to record correctly as they can have an effect on handicaps and determining the division’s winners.

Once the racing is all done and all of the sailors and patrol boat volunteers are back ashore safely and everyone is accounted for, it’s a chance to oversee and assist with the collating and finalising of the results before the fun begins in announcing the winners and presenting the prizes on the upper deck with a drink in hand. This is also the perfect opportunity to thank the volunteers with a complimentary drink card, and thank the race sponsors.

As the sun is setting over the bay on a splendid day of racing, and my shift as OOD comes to an end, it’s a chance to sit down to a quiet drink with friends and relax while reflecting on a job well done by all. One of the great things about BYS are the volunteers on any given race day, there is a great deal of camaraderie that develops during the race day. It’s a great way for members to get to know one another and build lifelong friendships.

If you’re interested in volunteering as OOD, or in any other position for BYS, please contact the sailing office on 03 5925 9620 or [email protected]

*This account of a day in the life of an OOD is fictional writing with input from experienced BYS OOD’S. A big Thank You to all who contributed.