(Or "Do as I say, not do as I do!") by Paul Robinson

A quick look at the results of the 2002 Ross Traders will highlight the chaos and confusion caused by the innocuous looking instruction – "This Regularity is timed to the minute"

At the finish most Novice Navigators couldn't understand how they incurred such massive penalties, whilst the Experts were kicking themselves for forgetting the basic rules or just not remembering they were on a section timed to the minute. Virtually every crew was caught at some point in the event.

What is a Regularity Timed to the Minute?

Unfortunately, there are several different versions but the method favoured by the esteemed C of C of the Ross Traders, Paul Loveridge, is quite straightforward and is certainly the fairest way of humiliating poor Navigators that I have come across.

Intermediate Controls, Route Instructions and Average Speeds are presented in the same way as a normal "timed to the second" Regularity. The difference is that the Marshal at an ITC records only the Hours and Minutes on your Time Card. This can give you a large time window in which to arrive. Imagine a 2.25 mile section at 30 mph. Your Ideal Time would be 4 mins 30 secs but as long as you arrive at any time between 4 mins and 4 mins 59 secs your Time Card will show 4 mins and you will be penalty free. Easy – isn't it?

That bit is easy and virtually everyone cleans the first section. But this is where the fun begins. Your Time Card shows the start time for the next section – in this case it just shows 4 mins, so 4 mins 00 secs is the start time for Section 2. Believe it or not, you should have started your stopwatch for Section 2 before you even knew where the Start Control was!

If the Ideal Time for the second section were, say, 4 mins 35 secs then most Navigators would think they should arrive at the end of the second section at 9 mins 05 secs (4:30 plus 4:35). WRONG! The correct time for ITC 2 is 8 mins 35 secs (4:00 plus 4:35). This gives you a massive 1 minute penalty even though you thought you were right. The next section should start at 8:00 – again it starts before you get to the Control – and so on. Most crews find they collect 1-minute penalties at alternate Controls. This can be very frustrating when you have worked your socks off to save a couple of seconds on a Test or normal Regularity.

What should you do?

There are many ways of coping with this but here is the method I use – when I remember!

  1. It is important to have at least one clock or stop watch that is accurately synchronised with Rally Time so that you always have a check when each minute starts.
  2. Time the first section as normal and as you pull into the first ITC stop your watch, hand in the Time Card, reset your trip, check the Marshal's clock, write down the ideal time and distance, check that the Marshal has written down the correct time, get a signature for the last Code Board, give your driver his next instructions, change your average speed tables……. All the usual things we are supposed to do in under 15 seconds but this time you have something new and it is now TOP PRIORITY.
  3. Watch the seconds on your Master Clock. Start your stopwatch when the seconds next read 00. This should be exactly one minute after your next section started – even though you may still be in the Control.
  4. Read the speed tables as normal but remember to add 1 minute to the time shown on your stopwatch. This means you could be a minute down just as you move away but very few drivers will complain at having the opportunity to drive a bit brisker to make sure you have regained your schedule before the next ITC!

What can go wrong?

  1. If you forget to re-start your stopwatch at the correct moment then re-start it at the next full minute. Now you have to remember to add two full minutes each time you check your speed tables.
  2. Unscrupulous organisers can set the Ideal Time for a section just a few seconds either side of a full minute. If you see a Control ahead and your second hand is showing 50 secs you have to make a snap judgement as to whether you should dash in and try and beat the minute or ease off and get the next one! Fortunately, this is now frowned upon and most organisers will position the Controls so that each Ideal Time ends in the window between 15 secs and 45 secs after a full minute.
  3. You may forget how many minutes you should be adding to your stopwatch reading. I try to remember to tell my driver how many minutes I am adding. It is then their job to remember for me (they like having something to do). As a last resort you can guess the distance from the last Control (if you marked it on your map!) and calculate a very approximate time from there. A check with the Time Card will show you the BBC time you started the section and a bit of mental dexterity should enable you to work out which minute you should be in.
  4. If your brain has totally gone (and this is the organiser's aim) then just press on to the next Control as best you can and start again. Judging by the results on the Ross Traders you will not be the only person to drop the odd minute (or three).
  5. Remember that your actual speeds may be much higher than the organiser's specified speed. You can often start a minute or more down. If that section is, say, 2.25 miles @ 30 mph you will only have 3 mins 30 secs left to complete it, not the 4 mins 30 secs you would expect.

Easy - isn't it? In theory, yes. The only trouble is that it could well be another 12 months before you get to practice it on next year's event. And by then we will have forgotten it all.

Happy Days…….

Paul Robinson