Race Officials Roles

The RYA provides a qualification framework for five disciplines of race officials (Judge, Mark Layer, Measurer, Race Officer and Umpire) but there are many more roles needed to make an event happen.

Race Officer

The Race Officer (RO) is responsible for the actual conduct of the racing on their course. The RO is an on the water manager, who lets the team get on with their jobs whilst keeping an overview of what goes on around the entire race course. The RO will liaise closely with the Principal Race Officer at larger events. The RO will usually represent the Race Committee at protest hearings and hearings for redress requests, although, exceptionally, this role may be delegated.


Mark Layer

Mark Layers are an important aid to the Race Officer.  They are responsible not only for laying marks to set the course but also giving information to the Race Officer on wind strength and direction across the course area.
Between starting and finishing, the Mark Layers may also be used as a patrol/safety boat, although their main task is to stand by for alterations to the course in the event of a wind change. 



Judges must have an excellent understanding of the rules that apply between boats when racing.

Judges normally work as a member of a team of three to five people in a protest committee to resolve disputes between boats or between boats and the people responsible for running the competition.

Often Judges are required to spend time on the water monitoring the racing. This can be in an entirely passive role, watching the racing and making notes of any incidents they see or proactively monitor compliance with Rule 42, the rule that governs permitted body movements and penalise at the time any breaches they see.



Umpires operate on the water and are required to instantly decide any right of way dispute between boats. They do this by following the racing at close quarters in a motor boat observing and gathering facts. When an incident occurs between two boats the Umpires must decide which boat broke a rule and penalise the boat.

Although the majority of an Umpire’s work is afloat, they must also have a good knowledge of protest procedure as they will be called upon to resolve disputes during hearings which will normally take place on some rafted up RIBs afloat. Umpires are typically used in team racing racing, match racing and some league style fleet racng or medal racing so that the winners are known when the boats cross the line.



An official Measurer is someone who has been appointed by the MNA of the country where the control takes place (the RYA in the UK), to carry out certification control and when the class rules permit, certification.

Their role is not necessarily related to an event and they will likely be required when someone has purchased a new piece of equipment or made a modification. Their role is to check that the equipment complies with the class rules and either certify it by applying a mark or sticker, or to submit a report to the Certifying Authority who can then issue a measurement certificate.


Race Management Team

In addition to the Race Officer, there are a number of other roles which form part of the race committee and are vital to running the racing.


This role is, after the Race Officer, the most important position on the Race Committee, because more starts have been spoiled by a distracted Timekeeper than any other single cause. It is a position which requires single-minded concentration and a good clear voice.

Visual Signals Officer

The Visual Signals Officer will be responsible for ensuring the visual signals are ready for display and removal at the appropriate time. They take all their timings from the Timekeeper.

Sound Signals Officer

The Sound Signals Officer works closely with the visual signals officer. They have responsibility for all the sound signals that accompany the visual signals. The tasks of Sound Signals Officer and Timekeeper may be combined if the sound equipment allows.


The Recorders are responsible on the water for:

• recording the competitors in the starting area;
• keep the log of actions and communications;
• wind direction and strength;
• course used;
• noting all the boats identified as being OCS;
• the sail numbers of the boats incurring penalties;
• sail numbers of boats correcting errors;
• the finish.

A back-up recorder is advisable at the pin-end boat and at the finish. A good Recorder compiles a diary of the race. Tape recorders could also be used to record finishing positions as they are called while actually crossing the finishing line. This is very handy for sorting out any confusion later on, particularly where a lot of boats have finished in a close group.

Pin End Boat Crew

The person in charge of the pin end line boat is normally an Assistant Race Officer. The crew of this vessel are required to judge the starting line and very quickly communicate with the Race Officer the boats who were on the wrong side of the starting line and therefore ‘On The Course Side’ (OCS). It is important to emphasise that they act in an advisory capacity only meaning the decision as to which boats are over, or if the line is ‘clear’ (no boats over), rests solely with the Race Officer. Communication with the Race Officer is best by mobile phone, but if this is impossible, by VHF.

Event Safety Team

The size and scope of the Event Safety team will vary dependent on the disciplines and event size but a large dinghy regatta would likely feature the following roles.

Event Safety Officer

The Event Safety Officer deals with safety and rescue operations under the guidance of the Race Officer. In practice, they both work together very closely although the Race Officer is ultimately responsible for the safety of the event. They are responsible for the production of the event risk assessment and for the management and control of the events safety resources. At large multi-course events they may be based ashore from where they manage an on-the water team of Course Safety Leaders who each manage the patrol/safety boats on their individual course areas.

The Event Safety Officer must be familiar with the regatta venue, the characteristics of the classes competing, the class rules and the sailing instructions. Cooperation with local Rescue organisations and harbour authorities is highly recommended. 

Course Safety Leader

The Course Safety Leader is responsible for managing the team of patrol/safety boats on an individual course area and will assign each of the boats to different areas of the course. They will liaise closely with their Course Race Officer with regards to any safety related decisions such as postponing or abandoning racing on the course area.

Beach Master

The Beach Master tasks include ensuring the orderly and systematic launching of boats and retrieval on their return. They also take care of important safety checks such as noting who has and has not entered the water, and similarly, who is still to return - they usually operate a signing in and signing out system (or a tally system). They should report these actions to the Race Officer. They will have radio contact with the Race Officer and will advise them of the time when the last boat leaves the beach and the expected number of boats in the starting area.

Bridge Operators

The Bridge Operators are responsible for displaying signals on the shore based flagpole and for monitoring and logging all relevant radio information. They are the key communicators through whom information flows from shoreside to waterside operations.

Race Office Team

The Race Office Team are the glue that holds the event together. They provide the interface between the competitors, officials and volunteers.

At the start of the event they will manage entries and registration and then during the event they are responsible for managing and resolving any queries that come in.

The race office team may be split into a 'front office' team who are the face of the event and provide the interaction with competitors and a 'back office' team who need to undertake their work without distractions.


The scorer is a vital member of the race office team. They are responsible for receiving the recordings from the committee boats after each race, inputting them into whatever results package may be used for the event and then ensuring they are published. For larger events they may also be responsible for managing the allocation of competitors to flights.

Jury Secretary

The Jury Secretary is responsible for supporting the Protest Committee or International Jury. They will help competitors with protest queries, receive all hearing requests and work with the Chair to schedule the hearings for the day.

Equipment Inspection Team

The Equipment Inspection Team will be led by the Chair of the Technical Committee and may consist of a number of Equipment Inspectors. At larger events the event may be significantly bigger during registration as pre-event equipment inspection is undertaken and then shrink in size during the event to undertake post-race inspection.

The Equipment Inspectors are responsible for checking competitors boats and equipment to ensure that they comply with their class rules and any equipment related rules of the event. This may include checking weights or dimensions, or applying event limitation to certain equipment such as sails or foils.


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