[CUCBC Captains] Wind forecast

Thomas Walton cuwbc at cucbc.org
Wed Oct 22 22:28:36 BST 2008

Dear all

inevitably the first use of a flag has created a deluge of questions and complaints. Somewhat frustratingly, this happens every year and I will try to deal with several issues in one go:

1) As has been stated explcitly several times now, the flag status is given ONLY ON THE WEBSITE, there is no longer a physical flag. This avoids the problem repeatedly experienced previously of the web and actual flags being different, and can be changed more rapidly as does not require a person to have access to any boathouse in order to change a real flag. Committee members cannot be expected to be by the river permanently.

2) We use red and yellow flags not because we think a single experienced crew can't handle the current conditions (extremely unusual on the Cam), but because of the inherent risks associated with an over busy river and many crews of widely different standards doing different things being out at the same time. Note that this means the flag status may change during the day even if the conditions don't (eg red early morning may change to yellow after 0900, reflecting the much reduced pressure on the river)

3) the flag is a 'blunt instrument' - we are well aware conditions can vary along the river, and can change rapidly. There may not be a committee member in place to change the flag status the instance this might be required, while any such change is also inevitably a judgement call. With or without a flag being used, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY each time you go out to assess whether the conditions are appropriate for YOUR crew - if not, do not go out, and if they worsen during an outing then change your plans and return to the boathouse. Note that, as the person responsible for the control of the boat, the cox has final say at the point of boating.

4) Questions have been asked about the eligibility of fours under flag conditions, since the rule concerned is based on numbers of Mays eights in the top division (for women) or top two divisions (for men). Common sense to me says that fours should be eligible if their crew members are drawn from what would be eligible eights (ie for most clubs this will mean two fours will be eligible), and this interpretation will be in place with immediate effect. Again, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to assess the conditions and ability of any given crew at the point of boating. I am discussing with the committee whether and how we should suggest to captains a change in the wording of this rule, and also whether we should now move to make eligibility the same for both men and women.

5) Note that, under consultation with CUCBC, events may still be permitted to run on yellow and even red flagged days. This is because control of crews is very different throughout events, with limited numbers of crews boating at any given time, all doing the same thing, generally of a similar standard, and with the river under control of event marshalls. 

6) Boating in contravention of flags will result in fines but, obviously, if the crew concerned was already out when the flag status changed it won't be fined. Given the way reports are sent to us, this may mean cancelling a fine on appeal, once we can investigate the circumstances.

7) Fines - contrary to popular belief, our intention is not issue as many fines as possible! Fines are issued for various rule infringements. These may be witnessed and reported by people with an 'official' role (marhsalls, committee members, certain other 'senior' river users), or are reported to us by someone involved in the actual incident, or any other third party. In order to fine or penalise on the latter two categories, we need to investigate the report and in particular try to obtain an independent verification. This can be remarkably difficult, and many incidents come down to opposing 'he says - she says' debates, which cannot be resolved. This is all too often the case in incidents that simply involve two college crews, with the disagreeing witnesses being simply themselves and their coaches and boatmen (I'm sure all have seen this type of incident, where in reality both parties are often equally to blame!).

8) It is very clear that only a small minority of rule infringements ever come to our attention. There is no possibility of anything else - committee members are volunteers, not a full time police force (and have no intention of being one). The basic principle that all clubs, crews, coaches should follow, for the good of everyone, is that the rules of the river (as enforced by various bodies on different clubs, in Cambridge - ourselves, the Conservancy and the CRA) are there for the common good, and everyone is best served by trying to follow them.

I'm sorry this is a long message, but please read it and do your best to put it into practice!

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