Organizing the Big One

Organizing the Big One! -- by Herb Motley from the 1995 Winter IOD Class Newsletter
In Scotland, one June Saturday afternoon in 1990, then World Class President, Tom Allen, was asked what he thought he'd do to match Princess Anne's visit the following year when San Francisco was slated to host the Worlds. "Buy an Etchells!" was his quick reply.

Taking on the responsibility of hosting a major regatta can be a daunting prospect. Any small detail can balloon into a major impact, and it requires a small army of volunteers to bring one off well. As a result of several requests for my "notebook" for the worlds in Marblehead, I thought it might be useful to set down some of my guidelines for running a big regatta.  Though I have to add quickly that most of these lessons have been well-taught by every other IOD fleet we have visited in the last several years. Perhaps this can be a combined exercise in collective institutional memory.  Every regatta chair will find his or her own answers, depending on local conditions. Most will have to answer the same questions, however.

Money is always an issue: up to $20,000 can be involved for a Worlds. It's important to have a well-defined budget and clear limitations on authority to spend it. Many items are donated by members of the class, and some fleets have been successful in attracting "angels" or corporate sponsors. But the budget should be the first element in the planning process, as this shapes the event.  I divide a regatta budget into three major areas: On the water including trophies, which is covered by entry fees. Social events (and daily lunches) which should be self- funding. Souvenirs and clothing which should also provide a modest surplus.

How big will the event become? I have successfully used an average measure of seven people per visiting team for planning purposes. Most will attend a majority of the social events, and most will buy some souvenir shirt or sweater to carry home.

Volunteers and Manpower
The volunteer committee is most crucial. I became involved with regatta management for our class in 1986. The harmony of that Marblehead group planning a worlds was terrific. There were about ten people, each with a different area of responsibility, and a remarkable unanimity of purpose to make the event the best possible for the visitors. Such an attitude makes life easy for the poor chair-man or -woman.  It may be worthwhile doing a little sensitivity training, as I once did for an Olympic Classes Committee early in the planning. You don't need to take everyone to Outward Bound. But setting some goals for everyone to agree upon as to why an event is being hosted and why each individual has volunteered to help it succeed can get a lot of air cleared early. Frankly, it takes away from everyone's enjoyment if one or two people on the planning team have their own agenda to achieve some type of personal recognition out from event. Every community has its own history of personal rivalries. For an event to succeed all sides must participate with grace, and the wise chairman will try to find a way early on to bridge any ancient grudges for he good of the whole. It's surprising how often simple civility can go by the board otherwise.

Rules, Sailing Instructions, International Jury
Next, what about the rules? This is not as simple as it
sounds, but there is a lot of help available. The IOD Class has secured recognition from IYRU to use the term "Worlds" for our regatta, as we meet their minimum guidelines: Five countries and two continents. (Sweden, don't get lost again. We need you!)  Interpretation of the rules is provided by the Jury, and the Class has usually taken the step of establishing an International Jury, so there can be no appeal of their decisions. The minimum requirements are five judges of whom three must be certified "International Judges" [IJs] and three different countries must be represented. For the most part we have been fortunate to have the services of competent judges who are sufficiently involved in the class to pay their own transportation to the venue. Once on site, it is customary to house and host the jury at the social events without charge. And recent events have gone almost without incident, leaving the jury time to enjoy the social events. The Corinthian attitude of our class means no heavy lifting for the jury, which should be encouraged!

Sailing Instructions have become increasingly more standard in recent years. The IYRR rule book has a sample set of SIs, which form the base for our championships. And in recent years a committee including Tom Allen and Bill Widnall has re-written the class championship regulations to conform to this practice. By now it should be possible to take the SIs from one regatta to the next with very little change.  Departures from the Championship Regulations set forth in the World Class Constitution to meet local conditions can be permitted by a vote of the World Class Officers. As a regatta chairman, I found it very helpful to appoint the jury and select a chairman well in advance, so I could benefit from their expertise in preparing SIs both to comply with the rules and to avoid ambiguity.  It was also helpful last year to have the host, Northeast Harbor Committee involve the World Class Executive Committee almost a year in advance of the event. The first draft was extensively revised over the winter, due in part also to a change in personnel on the Race Committee, and the document appeared in final form six weeks before the event. Once this has been accomplished, it would be a good idea to distribute the document among the boat owners who will loan boats. If local issues such as roll-tacking arise, it would be better to have them arise and be dealt with before the opening skippers' meeting.

Qualifying to compete at the worlds—Notice of Regatta
The first communication to visiting teams should be a Notice of Regatta, which should be sent to Fleet Captains about 3-4 months in advance. This should cover the essential details such as dates, fees, social events, housing, arrival and departure times, travel information, weather conditions for clothing, equipment allowed aboard--in general everything you would need to know in planning a trip to a major regatta. It does not need to include the same material as will be handed out as Sailing Instructions.

The number of boats available will govern the number of invitations to compete. (Don't forget to keep one boat spare in case of catastrophe.) Multiple invitations are determined by the World Class Association and go to fleets with the largest number of participants in their respective qualifying series. The rules count each boat, even if she only participated in a single race of the qualifying series. This is properly determined by a report of each fleet to the World Class Secretary with the complete scores at the end of the qualifying series. In practice, fleets should also "copy" the host regatta chairman of the Worlds with the same information.

It is appropriate for the host fleet in its Notice of Regatta to establish a cut-off date for entry information to allow both host and competitors reasonable time to plan. Six weeks would seem reasonable. There is frequently a lot of shuffling even after this deadline, which delays planning of housing in particular.

The various fleets should arrange scheduling of their qualifying series with regard to the need for the host fleet to have advance notice of competitors. There needs to be time to determine how many boats from each fleet sailed in the qualifying series to determine which should receive multiple invitations.  As an incentive for people to send their entry fees in time, I have made it known that they would receive the sailing instructions by return mail or fax as soon as the entry payment was received.

Communicating with incoming crews is a lot easier if you can find a fax machine with capability to send information to multiple fax numbers. If you set up the list as it becomes known, getting out last minute information is quick and easy!  I was fortunate to have a well-equipped office to use for faxing, etc., but $20 per boat for printing and postage was budgeted, and I reimbursed my company for postage and long distance from this amount.

Boat Preparation and Rotation
Boat preparation is also a critical part of the drill. In a fleet where all the boats to be used are raced regularly, it is easier to tell if they are set 'up with relatively even speed. If the rotation will include some boats that aren't raced most of the time, it would be a good idea to have them sailed in competition once or twice before the event by good sailors as a shakedown.  It is important for the host owners to have a clear plan well in advance for equalizing the boats and allow sufficient time to do so. This can be a useful part of fleet development, to help bring slower boats up on line with their traditionally faster sisters. For the most part, simply checking that the mast is in column and comparing the rake measurements with main halyard at partners and at the fantail (about 47" difference) is a good start. Plastic ties like the phone company uses are a quick means of sealing cranks for headstay and other permanent adjustments which may not be changed during the regatta.

Remember that Class By-Laws prohibit electronics such as flux gate compasses, so disable any in local use. Another issue is VHF radios. In a busy harbor like Marblehead, they are an important safety issue for getting a launch or calling the Race Committee's attention to a boat in difficulty. Yet the large, thy-sailed (and less Corinthian?) Etchells fleet prohibits radios being carried aboard lest someone gain advantage by eaves dropping on the Race Committee deliberations.

Some care should be taken in preparing a boat rotation. There must be several possible draws which keep the local teams out of their own boats. It is also a good idea to work out a scheme such that one crew doesn't follow the same people into their next boat throughout the event. We have used a rotation that included one more boat than there were competitors, so that a different-boat was "spare" in each race. If local sailors are crewing for visitors, this may be an added consideration, though this may be a "nicety" if there is a small fleet. Several of the local sailors should look at the rotation and get a sense if any one draw seems to provide a disproportionate number of "good" or "slow" boats to a single team. And don't forget to have a diver or other means of cleaning all the bottoms within a day or two of the event.

Equipment Carried Aboard
The World Class has no uniform policy as to equipment allowed to be brought aboard by competitors from fleet to fleet or event to event. Perhaps there should be. In Bermuda, great pains have been taken to standardize all the boats and rigging for the Gold Cup match-racing series, and this carries through to International Race Week and the Worlds. Scotland had all their boats set up so you could "take your lunch and foulies" and go sailing. On the other hand, most fleets are not so uniform and it is recognized that the competitors will benefit by having some of their own equipment for familiarity, if for no other reason. My personal feeling is that such items as light spinnaker sheets or a bow-launch "turtle" should be permitted. Extra tools and hardware carried along from boat to boat are essential components of the well-prepared crew. Unless a fleet is as truly uniform as Bermuda, it seems to me that competing crews should be given the freedom to prepare well.

I would like to see the policy for each venue established without ambiguity in the Notice of Regatta, so people coming from a distance would know carrying their own spares was permitted. As competitors each year, we try to ask the question about equipment informally to get the lay of the land. If you ask during the skippers' meeting, a "No" answer is hard to overcome.

Race Committee—On-Water Management
Race Committees and on-the-water preparation are crucial to a well-run regatta. Fortunately, our IOD World events are most-often single-class events, which makes things relatively simple. We are spared the complexity of a big circus like the Olympic Classes Regatta in Marblehead with up to 12 classes on four different lines run by as many different line captains. Nonetheless, it is important to have an experienced line captain (or Principal Race Officer). Large ports like ours can rely on one of the established clubs for committee and support boats. Smaller places may need to make special arrangements to borrow a committee boat and one or more stake boats to provide on-the-water management. Even in Marblehead, I had to struggle to enlist a Race Committee and jurors last year when we agreed to host the North Americans on short notice at the end of a long and busy sailing season.  The best boat rotation support fleet I have seen was in San Francisco, where they borrowed two hard-bottom inflatables. Even in rough conditions these could be brought right alongside the Internationals for crew changes without any fear of damage to either boat. This was timely and efficient, though more comfortable when we moved into the lee of Angel Island for the changes. The rotation plan is the truest challenge to any well- planned schedule. We were lucky to have light airs and calm seas in Marblehead for the 1992 worlds, which allowed us to spend most of our on-water time racing rather than sailing back and forth into the harbor for changes. Few places are so close to their moorings as Northeast, where it is very convenient to do the changes with the boats tied up and still.

In any event, the smooth running of the event will depend on having a large number of support boats with competent people to man them. In an emergency, when an IOD needs assistance, it's no joke. Support boats need power and stability, and a 12-foot runabout won't be sufficient.  It's a good practice to have the judges on a separate boat or boats. Most of this help is donated, and the Race Committees in Marblehead don't ask for a contribution toward their boat and paid staff. I did budget a $30 per boat "fuel fund" to cover out-of-pocket costs for some of the additional support boats, like the judges' boat and the costs in bringing boats up from Fishers Island.  So, five jurors, four or five on the race committee, two or three support boats with two people, hopefully, in each, and you're talking a reasonable crew of 16-20 each day. They need to be recruited and they also need lunches! Don't forget that when you're planning the budget.

Regatta Schedule
Next is the racing schedule. The Class calls for a seven race regatta with a minimum of four. It is customary to have a practice race. And the boats must be rotated between races. All of this must happen in only five days. And the competitors like to have one complete lay day to relax and tour the surrounding area if possible. Simple, n'est-ce pas? Actually, the best approach seems to be cramming as much racing as possible into the early part of the week so a spell of bad weather doesn't put you out of business. The 1992 Worlds in Marblehead followed directly upon the Olympic Classes Regatta, so we couldn't start racing until Monday. We held a short practice race and two counting races that day-- only one boat change on the water--then followed with two more races on Tuesday. With four compete races we had a regatta "in the can" at that point, so when light air permitted only one race on Wednesday, we could still grant a lay day on Thursday and plan on two more races Friday to get in our seven. That worked out, but even so we could have had a good week with only six, and we knew by Tuesday evening that the regatta was sufficient to count for the record books.

Budget and Fees
Once all the various parts of the puzzle have been identified, it is possible to establish a budget for the event and determine a proper entry fee. Some items, like insurance, are pretty well fixed, so there is not a lot of flexibility. Most recent worlds have charged $500 for the week. Summing up, we allowed $30 per boat to wash bottoms, $100 insurance premium (non-refundable including a personal liability option from U.S. Sailing); Boat and repair fund $85; Race Committee Lunches $35; Fuel fund $30, Printing and postage $20, Trophies $60, Favors (pins) for all visiting crews and guests. That leaves a little margin for the unexpected.

The damage deposit is a separate item above and beyond this amount and hopefully will be refunded in full within a week or two of the regatta at most.  Insurance and damage deposits are a necessary evil for a borrowed boat regatta. We've had good success with the U.S. Sailing program, although we actually withdrew the only possible claim, so I cannot speak from that experience. In discussing the potential claim, the agent in Chicago was very efficient and helpful.

Over the years, I have heard some grumbling about the speed with which the damage deposits have been handled. Being sensitive to this, I have always planned the budget for the event to include a part of the regular entry fee ($85 per boat in 1992) to form a small "kitty" for replacement of small items. This pool easily covers most normal wear and tear during the event. Fortunately we had no major accidents, but had there been any, the responsible party(ies) would have left their damage deposits to cover the deductible, and the innocent would not have shared the burden. Placing this direct burden on each skipper should have the effect of making him or her more responsible for the borrowed boats.

Some fleets have used a shared liability pool, with each skipper forfeiting a percentage of his deposit to make up any deductibles for the entire event. I don't believe this is a good practice. We refunded all the damage deposits about two weeks after the worlds. For both of our North Americans, I simply returned the deposit checks at the end of the weekend. In Bermuda in 1993, skippers received their damage deposits back at the Awards Dinner at the end of the week. This seems to be a good practice, particularly since the overall expense of competing, travel, entertainment, etc., is not insignificant. 

One last technique to ensure personal responsibility of visiting crews, developed in Bermuda, is to have each team carry a single spinnaker along with it throughout the event. The sails must, of course, be equal. But this removes the i"temptation to leave a wet or to sail in the bilge for the next crew to deal with.

Housing and lunches
Housing visiting crews is one of the major responsibilities. Again, Marblehead hosts many events, and the sailing community here is extremely willing to provide beds. Last year when we considered picking up the ball to host the North Americans on short notice, my first consideration was to call ten or twelve "friends of the fleet" who very kindly agreed to host IOD visitors for the third year in a row. We have made a point of delivering a plant to each hostess the afternoon the crews arrived. This small gesture has great impact. We also invited all the host couples to join us for the opening cocktail party and cookout (in the rain) that year. Since this was a fleet-labor event, the cost was small and the good feelings tremendous!

Particularly in resort areas, it is good practice to request space several months (if not a year) in advance of the event, so people can plan. Assign people to the homes of the active sailors in the fleet last, so you have the flexibility to deal with last moment emergencies. I also have made a practice of sending housing information to the competitors at least several days in advance, so they can make contact with their host families, get directions, etc., before they arrive. Since one crew was tied up in air traffic until midnight, this meant they could find their way long after the rest of us had gone to bed.

It's also nice to provide lists of competitors and host families and phone numbers to everyone involved. This is just one more area where it's hard to remember how we did all this before computers and word processing!
Depending on location, it can be very useful to arrange a single purveyor for lunches for the week or weekend. This should be a break-even proposition for the fleet. We were able to do this for $5 per lunch without drinks and it worked out pretty well. It's important to get a healthy sandwich and stay away from the junk food like fritos. People will supplement on their own. Northeast Harbor provided excellent variety and nutrition in lunch menus this year.

Trophies, Favors and Souvenirs
Trophies and favors also need some long-term planning. A small item, like the traditional enamel lapel pins, should be given to every participant. These need to be ordered up to six months in advance.  The World Class perpetual trophies are customarily augmented by "keepers" for the top three teams. For the World Champion team, at least, it is usual to have something for each member of the crew. And sometimes awards have been presented for the winner of each individual race. Glassware is always popular. Another popular tradition is the custom of painting sail battens with the race results for each team, which serves as a visible "ladder" of standings during the week at the host club, and then become awards for every skipper who participates. And if you can still find it, Arthur Knapp's Race Your Boat Right is presented to the "anchor" team. In 1992, I budgeted $60 per boat of the entry fee for the trophies. We had a small regatta-40 boats--and a larger fleet would provide the funds to spread the trophies further down the list.

There are two other income streams for a regatta, which I have always kept separate from the on-water entries: social events, and souvenirs such as hats, shirts etc. Each part of the event should be self-sufficient--"every tub on its own bottom," as we say here in New England.  We don't have any "angels" in our fleet, so it was important that the regatta be self-funding. We have had very modest success here in Marblehead attracting financial sponsors. In the great scheme of things, the Internationals are a loved but small part of the overall sailing scene, and the demands in town are many.

Social Events
Since our fleet is roughly evenly divided between two of the major yacht clubs, we chose to open the event at the Corinthian and close it at the Eastern. These events were the most expensive of the week. To keep costs of other social events down, we have relied on fleet members to "cater" many of the events during the week, so the money laid out goes mostly to food and drink and little to expensive staff. As the week went along, and we got a more accurate sense of the cash flow, I added extras such as a cheese tray on the porch after racing and a more generous wine service during the final dinner.

Each host fleet does a wonderful job of providing some opportunity for local color events. We took a group back to the Peabody Museum of Salem to its "American Yachting" exhibit. Opening a museum for a private showing is expensive. We chose not to party there due to cost, but then went on to a local restaurant for a $20 dinner. We also took pains to provide one lay day with no racing at all, so some of us could return to our offices while the visitors could do some sightseeing around Boston.

Finally, we ran a small store with shirts and other items such as canvas bags and sweaters, even foul-weather gear, all embroidered with the event logo. We opted for top quality fabrics and were content with about 10% markup over our cost. My retail experience indicates that the choice of logo is a key factor in the success of the sales. It should have the event name (World Championship), location and date as minimums--that's what people want to show off when they go back home.

We were fortunate to work with Marblehead Embroiderers here, who do their own embroidery on the premises. Susie Brown was very accommodating in backing us up during the week as items sold out, so we didn't have to make a major investment in inventory, and could accommodate sizes other than large and extra large. We started out with 40 Outer Banks shirts, 10 Rugby shirts, 10 V-neck sweaters, one heavy canvas bag, and I bought a High Seas windbreaker to wear and model. Other items were displayed without monograms. We actually sold about twice this amount for a regatta of ten teams. Since the logo was fairly large, Susie couldn't do the
baseball style hats in her shop. My only regret was that I didn't order enough hats in advance, as they could be sold for $12.50 and were an important low end price point we missed.   In general, visitors look for a souvenir with some local color. Locals want some badge of remembrance to carry out into the world on other events. If the selection of merchandise is durable, such as Outer Banks cotton shirts, or a tough canvas carrying bag, the demand will be there.

As I look back over these "notes," they seem to go on for pages. If you've gotten this far, you're ready to come up for air. If you gave up early and skipped to the conclusion, it's this: Have fun! The most important part of the week happens on the water. If you stir up a storm as I did by not giving the Race Committee their own table in a limited dining area at the Awards Banquet, give the job to someone else nine years later when it's next your turn to host the event. As a visiting competitor I have never had anything but a wonderful time at an IOD event.