What does a Clerk of Course do?

A day in the life of a rally organiser (Clerk of Course).

Cutting and removing a fallen tree from a rally stage, 2 weeks before a rally.

Time to Cut and remove a fallen tree from a rally stage, 2 weeks before a rally.

Organising a car rally is a big job. Even at state championship level, the role of Clerk of Course can be paralleled with that of a CEO in a medium sized organisation. There are many factors to consider, there is a huge amount of responsibility and a lot of people that your are directly and indirectly responsible for.

Here is just a day in the life of a Clerk of Course. It’s just under a  week to the actual rally.

6:00 am-  Alarm comes on and it’s time to get going. Sunday morning. What day of the week it is means nothing this close to a rally. Breakfast is eaten in front of the computer, replying to and dealing with the various emails that have come in overnight. Most are from the event secretary (who works even harder than the Clerk of Course) and some officials who are wanting to sign on for the event.

6:55 am- Almost an hour has passed and the ¾ eaten cold toast sits on the plate as the list of morning items is updated and crossed off as they are completed.

7:10 am- The boots are pulled on and it’s out to the garage to prepare the chain saw and other items for the day. The plan is to head out to the forest and check the rally route. A week ago there were many fallen trees over some of the roads and they will have to be cut up and removed as checking is completed. We only had time to remove a few last time we drove the rally’s roads. The route needs to be safe and clear for rally cars to hurtle through the stages in a week’s time.

8:30 am- The rest of the small clearing team  of volunteers arrives, chainsaws, gloves, safety items, chains, straps and ropes are all stowed. The route chart known as a road book and the safety matrix for each stage is also in the car.

9:30 am- The start of the most far away stage from rally HQ is tackled first. On the drive in to the stage, we have noted many trail bikes and off road vehicles heading into the area the rally is due to run in. It’s going to be a busy Sunday.

10:30 am- We have barely covered 3km of a 20km stage and we have stopped and spoken to at least a dozen bikes and 4WD’s. These members of the public are actually illegally using the forest and their presence jeopardise both the safety of the rally and the environment. Many ride or drive in environmentally sensitive areas; through water courses or just plain off the tracks and through the bush. Signs and gates that once stood at the entrance to many of the forest roads have been ripped down and many users treat the forests as their own personal playground without considering their own safety, the safety of others or the environment. For us it is particularly disappointing. To gain the necessary approvals to run a rally is a long and stringent process. Not only that, the event and the sport as a whole pays tens of thousands of dollars annually for road grading and repairs, for little benefit.

11:00 am and we’re making progress. Luckily the govt dept that looks after the forest in this area has been able to send a machine through to clear many of the fallen trees. We check each intersecting track, note any new or potential areas we may need to close on the day of the rally and move through the stages. Some of the minor tracks, we drag logs across to form a temporary closure. This helps to reduce the amount of bunting required the day before the rally and helps to better delineate the route for the competitors.

11:30 am- More cautions to off road vehicles and bikes. The list is getting pretty long. By the end of the day, we have noted the registrations of some 30+ vehicles that should not be in the forest. The details are forwarded through to the relevant govt authority for further investigation. More than half the stages have been checked and they all seem clear so far. Logging in the forest has created vast open areas that require more safety marshals on the ground and recent heavy rains have created some deep water ruts in the roads that need to be noted for the competitors.

1:00 pm- All the stages have been checked and the roads are clear of any fallen trees. There’s a slight edge of disappointment as we didn’t have to start the chain saws once today. Some of our small team had wanted to test their new tree cutting machinery. The good news meant that it had been much faster to check the rally route than first thought. Up at the rally HQ (which is a full time hotel) a few kilometres from the forest, we meet with the hotel owner to discuss the set up of the venue. We order some well deserved lunch and talk about the stages, the roads and the running of the rally in general.

2:00 pm- We walk across the road from rally HQ and survey one of the town’s oval known as the village green that will be used for the service park during the rally. Recent earth works on the oval means we have to alter our plans on what we site where. It takes some time to calculate how everything is going to fit, especially with nearly 50 teams having entered the rally.

3:00 pm- Back home and there is still plenty to be done. It’s now time to sit in front of the computer again and send more emails. Today’s survey of the rally stages has raised a few items we need to deal with quickly.

6:00 pm- Time for something to eat. Luckily left overs make it quick to prepare dinner. The week ahead will leave little time to cook and prepare proper meals and quick easy food will be our staple diet. Over dinner we discuss some of the issues regarding the rally and what the plan is to tackle them.

7:00 pm- Process some official’s registrations and arrange where they will be and what they will be doing on the event. By now, we have finalised maps, meeting points and critical officials such as stage commanders and time control officials. All the officials we have on the list so far are due to be emailed the next day, so the preparations have to be checked and re-checked before sending out.

9:00 pm- Onto Facebook for the first time today. This is no idle visit. A large portion of the rally community use social media and Facebook leads the pack. Two particular Facebook pages contain details about the rally and are a good source of information when searching for officials or to update competitors on the rally’s progress.

10:00pm- Process another couple of officials that have come through during the evening and reply to some earlier emails that required extra information before sending. Shut down everything and hit the shower before bed. Monday will be a busy day again.