Has your club got someone to turn to when there is a dispute on the water? How do you resolve contentious racing calls before they spill over to the bar or someone gets so disillusioned with racing at your club they don't bother coming anymore?
Get racing right at your club and you will keep people sailing more regularly, but get it wrong and see your club racing die a slow death. People feeling like they are always going to get a fair crack of the whip during a race is a key part of their motivation and enjoyment, so how can you improve that?
Having a Club Rules Adviser to hand can definitely help tick that box, and over the winter more than 30 people from in the Midlands attended two Club Rules Adviser courses at Staunton Harold and South Staffs to help their clubs more effectively resolve rules disputes this summer.
Instead of instantly heading for the protest room, it’s possible to address the issue through ‘mini-hearings’. These are called Advisory and RYA Arbitration hearings.
Alan Skitt from Blithfield was one of those people who went along to the South Staffs course at the start of January, and his club are already benefitting from the knowhow he picked up.
Alan explains: "Since I attended the course I have chaired one protest committee and how much I needed to exercise proper control of the process surprised me. The course taught me lots about how to interpret the rules, not just the new rules, and how to run a protest and Advisory Hearing correctly.
"The biggest thing I took away from the course was the importance of 'the last point of certainty' in the case of differing evidence at protest. Working through the protest in a logical way i.e. use the correct process, get the facts, apply the rules, make and convey the decision. It did help to make you think clearly.
"I hope that by watching and listening to the protest process, especially for Advisory Hearings, it will encourage members to protest more often and enhance their knowledge of the rules and encourage them to be more rules aware. Everyone could learn something by attending the course."
Club Rules Advisers course in the Midlands are run by the Regional Club Rules Advisers, Steve Watson and Nadina Lincoln.
The purpose is to train people in clubs who have sufficient knowledge of the rules and confidence to resolve issues on-the-water in a way that is balanced, non-confrontational and educational. It might be anything from suggesting retirement from a race in a friendly way to a scoring penalty, but the key is this person or people are the club’s go-to authority in rules disputes.
The one-day course not only provides a balance of theory and practical but also enables people from different clubs to share ideas and experience as to what has and hasn't worked for them before.
As well as having already chaired a protest, Alan is also trying to communicate what he learned on the course back to Blithfield members so they can better grasp the options open to them in disputes.
He continued: "Posters outlining the differing forms of protest have already been located in positions where they are certain to be seen and members will have time to stand read them.
"I also plan to hold Advisory Hearings that are open to everyone to watch and learn from the process. Follow up discussions can also take place that are driven by the ‘audience’. At the end of a day’s race when there are plenty of people about is much better for really sparking constructive debate."
How do we get a Clubs Rules Adviser?
Speak to Steve or Nadina (their contacts can be found here - Regional Representatives) about what you think you need and why.
Dates for the next courses will be posted to the RYA Midlands Instructor Facebook group and RYA Midlands Facebook page as well as advertised through the RYA Midlands website. Or if you want to run a course at your club get in touch with Steve or Nadina with potential dates and venues and they will work with you to get something set up.
Don't forget - Steve and Nadina would also be more than happy to come to your club and run a 90-minute update session on the rules (both new and old), tailoring it to your club's requirements. The sessions are free aside from travel expenses and are designed to get everyone involved, debating and enjoying the rules.
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