Race Organisers Notes: advice on starts

The annual Race Organisers letter is sent out in February with the arrival of the new Racing Handbook, and outlines any changes in rules or guidance that organisers need to know about. With the recent discussion on the MRC’s desire to improve the fairness of starts, here is the section on guidance for starters:-

The start of any race is critical and fairness and consistency is our aim. It is therefore highly important that you carry out procedures and endeavour to ensure everybody has a fair start.

The rules that will apply for a major competition are already laid down in the racing rules and included in the year book. They can and should equally apply to ANY race. Once competitors who push the line or jump the start realise that that will get a 2 minute penalty, or be disqualified and asked to leave the start line, they will start to comply with your instructions.

Our aim is to make these rules the standard to which every race organiser works.

Some important points come from these rules which should be noted and applied on all starts:-

  • If you control the boats at a no more than ‘walking pace’ as they come up to the line, then it is more likely you will control them on the line.
  • Make sure that your ‘marshalling line’ is not too close to the actual start line.
  • Do not ‘hold’ paddlers on the start line for too long – this will merely result in them ‘pushing’ it. Bring them very slowly up to the line and start the race quickly when there.
  • If the majority of boats advance over the line – the only way to bring them back is often to get them ALL to paddle round and start again.
  • Do not penalise those who comply with your instructions and are on the line; by starting the race when others are clearly in front of the line….bring those paddlers back round. Be prepared to warn twice and then penalise with a 2 minute penalty or disqualify.
  • Refer to boats by their numbers or by the club colours not by the paddlers name and be prepared to record – or have an assistant record – any penalties given – by boat number. 
  • If you issue a penalty it must apply – it cannot then be ignored or withdrawn. If you disqualify a paddler do not start the race until he/she has removed themselves from the line and preferably from the water.
  • Do not tell paddlers that there is ‘ 1 minute to go’ and them start them before a full minute has elapsed. Be consistent…if you say you will not start them for 2 minutes – make sure it is a full two minutes before you do start them.
  • Have a whistle ready to blow if there is a false start and you are recalling the whole race – make sure that the paddlers know that is what a whistle means – STOP – there has been a total false start – come back to the line.
  • If you have paddlers ‘hanging back’ well behind the actual start line – give them the opportunity once to come up to the line – if they are unwilling to do so after being asked, then concentrate on the front line to retain control and accept that those behind the line are more comfortable in the ‘second line’ position.
  • You are within your rights as a starter of an event to ‘warn’ coaches and spectators who are blatant in trying to encourage their paddlers to ignore your instructions and ‘push’ the start. Do not be afraid to do so.

BY BEING CONSISTENT AT ALL RACES AND ACROSS ALL STARTS – PADDLERS WILL LEARN WHAT IS EXPECTED OF THEM.