Take Notice, Make it Snappy

When ISAF rewrote and simplified the Racing Rules of Sailing in 1997, they shortened, reorganized, and clarified the rules. But I think the rules committee missed a couple of obvious changes. Rulemakers are committed to accuracy and brevity, so I'm surprised they missed the chance to change the name of the sailing instructions to race instructions. After all, the SIs don't teach us how to sail. But even more obvious than that, they could've deep-sixed a boring little preposition and made the notice of race, simply, the race notice. Wouldn't it make sense for the rules governing our events to be called the Racing Rules of Sailing, the Race Notice, and the Race Instructions? Let's try it out for the rest of this column.ISAF did, in fact, do a good job reorganizing the rulebook, neatly moving the info on writing things like the race notice to the back of the book (see Appendix J) so you don't trip on it while looking for right-of-way rules. But just because it comes later in the book doesn't mean the race notice shouldn't be a top priority.In essence, the race notice is a set of rules for an event that bridges the gap between the racing rules and class or handicap rules, on the one hand, and the race instructions that guide the conduct of a regatta in progress, on the other. There are several reasons to read this notice carefully in advance of the event.First, the race notice tells you what, when, where, and to an extent how the regatta will be run, so you can decide whether to compete. If your answer is yes, don't overlook the schedule, and make sure your crew understands it, too. All your careful boat prep quickly goes down the drain if one of you arrives even 15 minutes late. Likewise, if you're missing any required equipment--which if only you'd read the race notice you'd have known about--you're likely to arrive on the starting line a frazzled, nervous wreck.Second, the race instructions are rarely written well in advance; the race notice will give you the fundamentals, so you can begin to get oriented to the race or regatta venue and format. Read it more than once--knowing the rules often gives you an edge when you least expect it.Third, the race notice will usually include the entry form. Use it early and you can avoid paying late fees.Finally, thousands of events take place every year. You may already be involved in running your share, but if not, your time is coming. Better to be clued in now rather than after you've goofed. Learning from others mistakes is much more fun--see Dick Rose's Rules column for some examples of gremlins that can creep into the race instructions.By the way, if you've just been appointed to your club race committee, there are several less-traveled sections of the rulebook like Appendix J you'll find useful, perhaps none more so than Appendix K, a guide to writing race instructions. US SAILING also published an excellent, revised version of the Race Management Handbook last year, which provides good information and perspective on the A to Z of what's involved (1-800-877-2451 or www.ussailing.org/merchandise).One piece of advice I always hear when I'm writing a race notice is to keep it short. I agree wholeheartedly. Let's start with the name.