It ain’t over when you finish! Crossing the finish line may be the end of the race, but it definitely doesn’t end your responsibilities under the rules, and it should mark the beginning of your preparations for the next race. Here is a checklist of things to think about just after you finish the race.
• If you are protesting, inform the RC. This is not required by the rulebook, but many times the sailing instructions modify protest procedure and require you to tell the race committee (RC) at the finish if you intend to protest. Often you must hail the number of the boat you’re protesting (or tell them that you did a 720° turns penalty during the race). Make sure they acknowledge your hail before you leave.
• Look for witnesses. If you might be involved in a protest, try to find any potential witnesses as soon as possible after you finish. This way you can talk to people before they scatter ashore and before they forget what happened in the race.
• Hold a crew meeting to review the race. If you want to improve the overall performance of your boat and crew, it’s essential to spend time learning together. Right after you finish, when the race is still fresh in everyone’s minds, is the best time to pull everyone together in the cockpit to talk about speed, boathandling, communication, tactics and more. All crew are captive on the way in, so use this time wisely.
• Make a list of boat things you need to fix. Ask one person to start a list of all the boat breakdowns and things that need to be fixed or improved. At your crew meeting, ask everyone to do a brainstorm for this list. For each item on your list, write down the name of one person who will be responsible for fixing that item. The list-maker has overall responsibility to make sure everything gets done.
• Get ready for your next race. If you have to start another race soon after this one, I recommend preparing for the second race right after the finish. For example, overhaul your spinnaker gear and re-pack the chute. Sail upwind from the starting line to check your sail set-up and the wind. Then, if you still have time, you can take a break.
• Keep clear of other boats still racing. Once you have finished and cleared the finishing line and marks, the rules require that you avoid any kind of interference with boats that are still racing. Don’t just cross the line and become oblivious to the world – you must keep your head out of the boat and stay clear.
• Record your finish time and sail numbers of nearby boats. Recording all the finishers in proper order is one of the hardest jobs for any race committee. To be safe, assume the RC may miss your sail number at the finish, and make sure you can re-create your finish time or position if necessary.
• Write in your racing notebook. You can learn a lot by keeping a daily notebook of good moves, mistakes (i.e. things to improve), weather conditions, tactics and so on. When you’re done with your post-race crew debrief, find time to write in this log while everything is still fresh in your mind.
• Say “thank you” to the race committee. Usually the race committee does a great job, but they don’t get enough appreciation from sailors. So after you cross the line, go by the RC boat, give them a friendly wave and shout, “Nice job.” Even if you feel they made mistakes, you can still appreciate all the time and effort they have volunteered for the job.
• Compliment your competitors. Another thing that’s not done often enough after the finish is saying “Good race” to your fellow sailors. In particular, compliment any of the top finishers who aren’t usually up there. Or compliment someone who didn’t finish near the top but made a nice comeback or other good move.