I recently had the opportunity to participate in the 11th International Submarine Races, ISR 11, in Bethesda, Maryland. The difference this time was that I was there as a judge and not a contestant. It gave me a whole new perspective on the race and the goings on and the amount of work that goes into putting this race on.
As a contestant, all I was worried about was getting my boat in the water , making and hopefully completing a run and getting back in the que. Most other teams were concerned about speed but I just wanted to make it down the course. I thought that it was a distraction to have to do that wet and dry safety check, that presentation before the judges and of course that thing about proving that I could dive. Just let me in the tank so that I could pedal my heart out, well not me actually, my son Martin. I just design the contraption, I ‘m not getting into the thing. 🙂
Anyway, things looked way different from my new point of view as a judge. Here in front of us were 24 teams, 28 submarines and a couple of hundred divers. The subs ranged from tried and true to unfinished and untested. The divers also had experience levels of “inks not dry” on their c-card to superbly skilled divers, and everything in between. Everyone was anxious to race and it was up to the race staff, volunteers and our Navy support divers to make sure that everything went smoothly and SAFELY. Notice the importance safety gets, how about number one priority.
That wet and dry safety check. This is done to be sure that all of your safety devices are in place and in working order. Why? Because if something goes wrong those Navy divers will know about it and be on you so fast you won’t have time to worry about it. Some of you cannot look upward from your position in your sub, but about 15 feet above you is a boat with Navy divers following you and watching your progress. Their job is to be sure that you are safe the whole time that you are underwater and they take this very seriously.
The presentation before the judges. We actually had a couple of people tell us that it was nowhere as bad as they expected. What were they expecting, the Spanish inquisition? I don’t know. We just want to have the teams tell us about their subs and how all came about. BTW I didn’t like going into that room either when I was competing, way too air conditioned and dark.
That thing about can I dive. It all comes down to safety. Everything defaults in the direction of safety. I know that it feels lousy to be prevented from diving by the dive super. Believe me, it’s not that he doesn’t like you. He has the responsibility for making sure that all the divers are qualified and physically ready to dive. He doesn’t enjoy telling you that because you have asthma, heart issues or whatever, even if it is under control, that you can’t dive. He will do the same to volunteers, judges or anyone else going into the water. At the 6th ISR my son, the only other person on my team was prevented from diving. Deal with it and move on.
It makes everything go smoother if everyone gets their papers, forms, visa requests etc. submitted on time. Remember, we are dealing with a lot of teams and sometimes things take longer than you’d expect.
Get your boat finished and get some water time before you get to the race. I am as guilty of not doing this as anyone. Bogus Batoid, my last sub, was put into a swimming pool for the first time about six hours before we left for ISR 9. I wanted to be sure that it moved when it flapped its fins, moved forward that is. how embarrassing would it be to leave the starting line and move backwards? Speed -1.5 knots? Take it from me that it is more fun sitting on the beach waiting to be called for a run than being outside trying to finish your boat.
Overall, I was really impressed with how smoothly everything went and would like to thank and congratulate all whose efforts went into making the 11th International Submarine Race a success. I would especially like to congratulate all of the teams for their efforts in getting their boats into the race, it will be something that you’ll always remember, even when you are like 58 years old like me. (Probably older than most of your parents) BTW my fins are from 1970 and still work fine.
This all having been said, I hope to see all of your teams at ISR12 in 2013.