Couta Boats – RRS 34 – Mark Missing  

Why was Ben’s VSR attached to the Hitch mark with a Scottish Flag on Saturday?

No it wasn’t some sort of Brexit statement, it was actually Code Flag M which has a specific meaning under RRS 34 – Mark Missing.


If a mark is missing or out of position, the race committee shall, if possible,

  1. replace it in its correct position or substitute a new one of similar appearance, or
  2. substitute an object displaying flag M and make repetitive sound signals.


You all saw some of what happened, but not everyone saw the whole event so here is the replay:

  • In the rush to reset the course after the persistent wind shift, which was pretty slick, the Hitch mark that got laid was Pink instead of Orange.
  • After Div 1 got the start away with two individual recalls, it was noticed that the wrong color hitch was laid.
  • Div 2 was in sequence
  • Is a Pink 1A hitch mark a mark of the course? Nope, it is not in the sailing instructions!
  • Would sailors expect to go round the pink mark laid where the hitch mark normally is? Yep, it looks like a hitch and they know we changed some mark colours but can’t remember which ones
  • Choices we had were:
  • – Do Nothing – Let it run (and let the fleet sort out the problem),
  • – Pull the pink hitch out (it’s there for safety in stronger winds)
  •  – Abandon the race and start again (we’ve been out here long enough with the reset caused by the persistent shift and the breeze might build over the limit)
  • – Use Plan RRS 34 (b) – (it’s a really cool rule because it anticipates that ships happen to make mistakes).

Of the many choices, the best decisions at the time were to:

  • grab Flag M from Volunteer (while they were running a start and go up the middle of the Div 1 fleet at speed so they could all see that something different was happening.
  • Attach the VSR to the pink mark
  • Display Flag M and make repeated sound signals
  • That meant that Judge Judy became the Hitch mark (but would everyone remember what these actions meant in terms of the rules?)
  • Make a call over the VHF Race channel (that everyone is required to monitor for safety) that the Blue VSR, displaying Flag M, with an anchored pink Mark attached to it was now the Substitute hitch mark 1a.

The interactions about this were pretty funny during and after racing. Here’s a couple of snippets:

“We didn’t know what the flag was but figured if you’re over there, it just be for a good reason so we went there”

“We don’t know that rule, but we heard on the VHF so we knew what to do”

“Yeah, that’s what you have to do, if you hadn’t then we could have left out the hitch mark and would have been able to go from mark 1 straight to the gate. Others would have gone around the pink mark that wasn’t a mark and we would been in protest room all bloody night”

There were also quite a few nods and thumbs up as the boats rounded the hitch and lots of smiles.