Have you ever wondered what goes through the minds of PROs? In our new series, Pro PROs, we’re sitting down with some of the best PROs in the business and asking them the tough questions: like what their favorite course type is and finding out once and for all whether they are pro or anti flags. We’ll share their best course setting advice and tips for you to take back to your race courses.
Known for his excellent race courses, and near unintelligible radio transmissions, Dick Neville is one of the best PROs in the business.
A racer turned Race Officer, Dick has been part of some of the biggest events in the world, including Key West Race Week and Block Island Race Week.
Keep reading to learn more about Dick, why he loves running events with Bots and his helpful tip if you’re trying to use a hand bearing compass in the Southern Hemisphere.
Tell us a little about where you are from, your sailing background and when you first became a PRO.
I am from Tasmania, Australia. I sailed to the US from Tasmania many years ago and spent tiem in offshore racing. I ended up staying in the US and settling in Annapolis, Maryland. About 25 years ago, while still actively sailing both inshore and offshore, I was asked if I could help run a regatta in Annopolis; and i enjoyed the challenge of trying to setup a good course. A few years later, I was participating in events like Key West Race Week and Block Island Race Week as a mark boat guy, rather than sailing in the event. In later years, I was invited aboard the signal boat as an assistant PRO and eventually, I was invited to be a PRO at events.
What is your best of advise for someone new to race committee?
Go with experienced RC folks and watch, listen, and learn.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without while running an event?
Hand bearing compass! Little known fact: a Northern Hemisphere hand bearing compass does not work in the Southern Hemisphere as the compass card “dips” and will not rotate. So, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll have to buy a Southern Hemisphere hand bearing compass.
What is the most egregious rule violation you have ever seen?
A boat cheating in a one design class by modifying the keel.
Where is your favorite venue?
Easiest or hardest course to set up correctly?
Easiest is one windward mark and use the start pin as the leeward mark. I’ve done this course alone. Hardest would be a 2-part start line using three committee boats, with short and long windward marks, both with offsets, plus a gate and a second leeward mark to leeward of the signal boat. You need good volunteers for that (or Bots)!
Are you pro or anti flags?
Not anti signal flags, but we stopped using them during Covid to minimize the number of committee on the signal boat and it seemed to work well; so for some events, we continue the practice.
Do you see a difference between running a race with Bots versus without?
Oh yes. Bots make a race officer’s life much easier and can give the competitors much better racing. I’ve been helping Annapolis Yacht Club lately and they cannot get enough race committee volunteers to man their events. This is not the only yacht club with this issue. Bots are the answer to this problem.