Preparing for an Offshore Race, OSR Section 3

Section 3 - Structural Features, Stability, Fixed Equipment


West Marine's Chuck Hawley, a strong supporter of Pac Cup, has posted an exceptionally thoughtful and thorough discussion of the Offshore Special Regulations as applied to races like ours. These are on his blog, and he has allowed us to repost them here.

We think of Section 3 as being the "naval architect's" section, since it involves so many aspects of the boat's construction or dimensions which were decided at the time that the boat was built. If you own a Crab Crusher 35, and you don't know if your boat meets the requirements of Section 3, engage a naval architect to help you decide. 


Inside-outside latching mechanism.

Regulation 3.08.4 is a challenge to many owners of production boats who wish to race. It says that you can't lock someone down below, or lock someone from coming below, using the companionway latch. The thought is that either party (below decks or on deck) should be able to gain passage to the other location. We've seen solutions with a single rotating latch that can be operated from either side of the drop boards as well as securing pins which could be pushed out from above and below decks. Your boat may require a slightly customized solution, so look at some other veteran boats to see how they have solved the problem.



Drop boards with lanyards to prevent their loss in heavy seas.

Regulation 3.09.3 says that a bilge pump cannot share a cockpit drain as a means to rid the boat of water. Some ULDB designs have large, properly located cockpit drains which can rapidly empty the cockpit if a wave boards from astern, but also have a bilge pump connection to the drain. In that case, reroute the bilge pump discharge to a separate though hull.

Regulation 3.09.8 describes the number and size of cockpit drains so that a flooded cockpit will drain in a reasonable amount of time. It's just not that easy to understand, and some older production boats may have inadequate scuppers/drains. Boats under 28' must have 2 x 25mm drains, while larger boats much have 4 x 20mm drains or the equivalent. Heavens, who can figure this out? On the other hand, draining any cockpit expeditiously is a virtue that will aid in the boat's ability to survive a storm, so by all means upgrade your drains if you are close to the margin.

Two of the Morning Light crew attempt to start a Coast Guard
Damage Control Pump. This, unfortunately, may be what saves
you if you cannot find the source of a leak in your boat.

Regulation 3.10 says that, with a few exceptions, you need to have sea cocks or valves on through-hull openings below the waterline. Is that the heeled waterline or the static waterline? The Regs are conspiculously silent, but the point is that you need to be able to close off holes your hull with either valves or tapered plugs. 

In the vast majority of situations, gravity and your standing rigging provide a force which is more than adequate to keep your mast on its step. But in extreme conditions, or when there is an unexpected reduction in shroud tension, masts can shift or jump and end up as a potent source of hull leaks. That's the reasoning behind regulation 3.12, which requires that masts be attached to their mast step. We've seen stainless steel bolts, pieces of 1x19 wire with wire clamps, Spectra lashings, and other solutions to this challenge. You never, ever want to be on a boat with a mast butt that is jumping around, so make sure your solution immobilizes it.

Regulation 3.14 goes on and on about lifelines and stanchions. Small boats (less than 28') need to have either single or double lifelines of 1/8" diameter, depending on their age. Medium length boats (28-43') need to have double lifelines of 5/32" diameter, while boats larger than 43' need to have double 3/16" lifelines. Due to the corrosion that may occur undetected in vinyl-coated wire, it's now required to use uncoated 1x19 wire or the same diameter of Dyneema single braid. Note that Spectra is the same as Dyneema, and both lines are very strong, low stretch, and abrasion resistant. Read all of Reguation 3.14, because it goes into detail about openings in the lifelines, as well as the distance between stanchions (2.2m maximum). 


While the original concept was to allow one LPG cylinder
below decks, larger yachts have stretched the original
intent by have three burner, self contained stoves.


Racing boats take widely varying approaches to preparing and cooking meals at sea. Some Transpac and Pacific Cup skippers will have prepared meals from fine mainland restaurants or caterers which are popped into the oven and served with fine wines. Other crews suffer mightily, eating three meals a day of "salty green slurry" in the words of Stan Honey. Cook stoves are now allowed to use small LPG containers which exist inside the hull, but which contain so little gas that if they were to empty into the cabin, the resulting atmosphere would not be explosive.

Regulation 3.21 deals with potable water. This is where various races really vary in their requirements for several reasons:


  1. The race organizers don't want you to run out of water.
  2. The race organizers don't want you to use potable water for movable ballast.
  3. The race organizers understand you may have a watermaker. 
Seal it, label it, and don't use it.

Transpacific races have frequently required 15 gallons per person at the start, and two gallons (total) at the finish. Check your NOR to make sure you understand the amount of water you need to start with, and the amount of water you can make and move. If you're dumping water on one gybe, and making water into a non-centerline tank on the opposite gybe, you're likely cheating.

Many wonderful, seaworthy boats have bilge pumps which discharge into a scupper, and therefore violate 3.23.2. You'll need to reroute the discharge so that it either discharges through the hull, and not directly into the cockpit unless you have a open-transom boat. You may question the wisdom of discharging your bilge water into your cockpit, but that's up to you.

You need two manual bilge pumps; one operable from above decks and one operable from below decks (3.25.5). Boats with segmented bilges often show up at inspection with a movable intake line that can be moved to wherever the bilge water accumulates. It's debatable whether a permanently installed pump can have a movable intake hose, but we leave this to you to debate with your inspector. 



LED side lights above the sheerline.

Ocean-going yachts need to show navigation lights just as ocean-going ships need to. Sails present a challenge, since they are variable in size and aspect, and can obscure the most professionally installed navigation lights. For maximum visibility, the Special Regulations require that lights be no lower than the sheerline, and preferably at the height of the lifelines (3.27.2). Realistically, if your boat is under 20m (65') in length, the best way to meet the navigation light requirements is with a masthead tricolor light, which is visible over long distances due to its height, and seldom masked by sails. 

In addition to a set of navigation lights, the Special Regs require a second set of "reserve navigation lights" (3.27.4) which also meet the COLREGS visibility requirements. Since your boat has an engine, and since you cannot use a tricolor light for motoring, it's presumed that you also have deck-level sidelights and a stern light, so those can be used for your "reserve" lights. What's not acceptable is to conjure up a loose set of wires and lights and alligator clips with duct tape to present to your inspector as a reserve set. Nor is it acceptable to have a trio of small boat flashlight-style lights that are unacceptable for a panga in Nicaragua, let along a Crabcrusher 35. Have two sets of "real" lights that work independently, so that if a single system on your boat is incapacitated, you won't render boat light systems inoperable.

Category 1 boats generally have to have inboard engines, although the Pacific Cup has allowed outboard-powered boats in the past, and the Singlehanded Transpac didn't require any engine at all. Race organizers are concerned with two situations: first, that an engine is only useful if it's immediately available to propel the boat, and second that a fuel or exhaust system that is not permanently installed may pose a danger to the crew.

Good seamanship and practicality dictate that you need two batteries, especially if you are reliant on your batteries to start your engine to charge your batteries (3.28.4). Again, this varies from race to race. Some races allow a "greener" alternative to using the propulsion engine to charge batteries, but regardless of your charging source, there will be a time in every sailor's life when s/he tries to use a battery which is dead as a doornail. A second battery, fully charged and easily accessible, is vital.



This extremely well-maintained yacht has a "rubber duck"
antenna at the masthead, compromising the crew's safety in
exchange for a reduction in weight aloft. Pretty embarrassing.

Finally, you need to be able to communicate with your race committee, the Coast Guard, and (possibly) your family. This generally means that you have to have a 25W VHF radio with a masthead antenna (please, not some rubber-duck antenna with no gain that's strapped to your mast), and a waterproof handheld VHF radio, and either a single sideband radio or a satellite phone for long distance communications. If you want to have a long-winded debate, walk into a yacht club bar and express a preference for satellite communications Vs. single sideband. While it might be an interesting debate (or not!), it only really matters what your race committee requires. Everything else is just a personal opinion, and an option that you can add if you like.

Tall masts require lots of coax to reach the masthead, and that coax has loss along every foot. Helpful sailors have calculated just how large the coax has to be to reach the antenna with less than a 40% loss in signal strength. (Hint: you're required to have larger coax than you actually want.)

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