BC Diary: Day 3

It’s Tuesday, the first of our two hardest days of the tournament.

To start the morning off, I’ve got 22 pools of 16ME, 30 pools of 14MF, and 8 pools of Div I MS. That takes every strip but the finals strip, which is good, because we’ve lost a few at check-in—we’d thought we would be short a strip this morning, which would have meant having to flight at least one pool of MS, not something I ever want to do in a Division I event.

Suddenly a saber referee is in front of me, asking for a second call on a fencer who’d withdrawn before the close of registration due to an injury. Of course, it’s a pool of 6. I grab the microphone and tell the saber referees to stop the fencing and bring back the pool sheets. Turns out the withdrawn fencer has a brother in the event and the wrong brother was withdrawn. Both are highly ranked, of course, and this being Division I, we redo the pools and start over with the correct brother. This costs us probably 20 minutes, but won’t much affect the overall schedule for the day, because the saber pools will still finish well before we need strips for anything else.

As the saber gets going again, a coach comes and asks whether the one or two bouts fenced before the correction will count, and I tell him no—it’s as though they didn’t happen. He looks disappointed. A few minutes later another coach asks the same question, and is pleased to learn those bouts are thrown out.

At 11:30, I’m going to need the foil and epee pools done (they’ll each be going to 16 strips for their DEs), so I’ll have someplace to put the 13 pools of 14WS and 9 pools of Div I WE coming in then. That’s where the crunch will start—the foil and epee pools will take longer than planned, and we’ll pick up more delays as the day progresses.

Once again, the morning’s saber DEs will go on 4 strips instead of the 8 planned, because there are not enough high-level saber referees available. The event will take longer, but the fencers and coaches will be happier—and once again, I pick up those 4 extra strips to use somewhere else.

Gradually, as the foil and epee move off the strips they won’t keep for their DEs, we get the second group of events out. Now I have to start looking for space for the events starting in the early afternoon: 12 pools of 12WE, followed at half-hour intervals by 19 pools of 12MS (flighted, of course—I’ll be able to give them no more than 12 strips to start with) and 20 pools of 16WF.

Now we’ve got a black card in the Div I MS. Normally all I need to do for a black card is sign the report as BC chair, but this time the fencer decides to appeal. This means we have to organize a meeting of the official bout committee—the BC chair, the head referee, and a representative of the Tournament Committee. Eventually, after interviewing the referee and the fencer and other witnesses, and reviewing a written statement from the fencer, we vote unanimously to uphold the black card. The whole process probably takes at least an hour and a half, during which I have to keep popping in and out to figure out which freed-up strips should go to which events coming in. When we used to have co-chairs for SN, one of us could handle strip management and the other took care of protests and angry coaches and ranting parents. That’s a luxury that went away when the financial deficits appeared.

The extra strips have arrived! Once the fencing shrinks down later in the day, Ted [Li, head armorer for SN] says they’ll replace the two banana strips and do something about strip 58, which we really need usable for Wednesday.

Everybody slogs on through the afternoon. Somehow we eventually find the strips to get the last of the round of 32 matches out for the 19MF Team, and we’re on the downhill slope—from now on, strip usage will shrink and our only challenge is endurance. How the referees can still see anything at all is a mystery to me.

The voucher dinners are getting pretty grim. We’ve discovered that the BBQ place at the top of the escalator has better and more choices than what’s available within the hall, and now we’ve got Chick-fil-A as long as their supplies last, but usually by the time we BC folk manage a few minutes to go get food, everybody else has run out and we’re stuck with the hot-dog-and-a-drink again at the main concession stand. Well, at least this SN is keeping my out-of-pocket expenses really low.

Despite the delays, we manage to start the last rounds of bouts and matches before midnight, so we’re allowed to let them finish. Otherwise, we’d have had to make the remaining competitors come back early the next morning to finish before the regular day started—there’s no way they’d have fit into “normal” fencing hours on Wednesday.

Ted Li tells me that the banana strips have been replaced with straight ones. For strip 58, they will move the strip so it’s not placed on top of the access plate. (He can’t put a sectional strip in the same place because the plate would damage it.) But it turns out it can’t be done until morning because he needs the house electrician to move the power lines out of the way. He promises it will be done before fencing starts in the morning. I hope he’s right.

While the final team matches are going on, Tanya and I sit next to each other at our laptops. She’s converting today’s tournament files to PDFs and uploading them to the USFA website. I’m working on the strip plan for tomorrow, the really ugly day. Suddenly we can’t help laughing at each other—we’re each muttering out loud, talking ourselves through what we’re doing so we don’t make mistakes.

Tomorrow’s going to be a killer.


  • Number of individual competitors: 907
  • Number of teams: 38
  • End time: 12:30 am
  • Hours worked today: 17.5
  • BC hours cumulative total: 51.75

Alarm’s set for 5:15 am.


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