Do you tough it out and hid behind the Force Majeure rule at all times or do you look at how you make it fair for the competitors?
July saw Hero run the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial which the event itself was, I feel, a great success, however, it proved a particularly challenging week to be a Clerk of the Course and route planner. To achieve a route for some 60 pre-war cars both with starting and finishing within the M25 was a challenge I did not relish. I certainly believe that we managed to achieve a fair and interesting route for all the competitors over the majority of the days however the issues we always have related to the first and last day.
Traffic and the density of the population in this area make it challenging to find interesting roads that are not too narrow or are going to cause hold ups for competitors on regularities but despite my best efforts we had a number of issues and the question is as an organiser how do you deal with them? Do you tough it out and hid behind the Force Majeure rule at all times or do you look at how you make it fair for the competitors? We included within this year’s event the joker which allowed crews to reduce their maximum late penalties at any regularity time down to 5 seconds. This allowed anybody who was unfortunate enough to be held up by a non-competing car have the penalty reduced. It would also mean that anybody who makes a mistake on a regularity has their penalty reduced so some could say that this penalises those good competitors who do not make any mistakes, another discussion.
On the 1000 Mile Trial, we had one regularity where a double decker coach had got lost on its satellite navigation. We sat at the start whilst we cleared the initial blockage and I made the decision with two minutes to spare to run the regularity. In hindsight maybe it would have been better to cancel it as the coach reappeared on a number of occasions and the regularity affecting over ¼ of the cars i.e. more than 15 cars were affected by being held up and getting a maximum penalty at a timing point and then the knock on effect of then trying to make up time in a queue of cars. I made the decision, rightly or wrongly, to neutralise the regularity and treat all the controls as passage controls. When I actually looked at the results with and without the regularity included it made virtually no difference to the positions on the event as most of the crews who hadn’t already used the joker used it on that regularity. I felt that, as it affected a number of the lower order runners it gave them another maximum which had some impact on the class positions as it was over 25% of the field affected. I then had a number of queries on the final day where one or two cars had been held up by a tractor and other road users and the question was raised as to why I didn’t cancel that regularity. My view has always been that the fairest thing to do if a good percentage of the crews on the event are held up by a non-competing vehicle or an incident such as cows being moved across the road and such like then I would make the same decision again.
There are no hard and fast rules for this and there is no way in which you can please all the people all of the time. I think the use of the joker system on, what I would call a lesser competitive event, where you have limited time penalties for example over the five days the lowest score on regularities was just over one and a half minutes averaging less than one second per timing point by the top three navigators – but all of them at some point in time used their joker reducing their penalty at a single time point down to five seconds.
It was also a taxing week for queries and it seems to be a mind set on this and I believe on HRCR events to query the results in order to attempt to mitigate your mistake by arguing that your interpretation of the regulations is not the same as that of the organisers. I had queries relating to stop astride penalties wrong tests and others – all of which we proved by the check sheets and marshals that the offence had been committed then crews attempted to use their interpretation of the rules and regulations to have these penalties removed.
It was an interesting discussion with the CLO and once the results had been finalised with the Steward this seems to be an increasing trend and maybe as organisers, we need to tighten up the regulations but we as organisers also need to stand by our regulations. If people wish to query them then they need to effectively put their hand in their pocket. This I believe also has been a feature of a number of HRCR Clubman Championships events where queries have kept results from being finalised early allowing crews to return home. I’m not sure what the answer is but I am sure that it will be on the agenda for heated discussion over the next few months.