From the Ground School Manual:
Determination of conditions as indicated by flags and lights is ultimately set by the UW Lifesaving Station, which is operated by the State of Wisconsin. The flag pole is located in front of the Boathouse. Lights are located at the top of the Lake Safety Tower which is on the northeast corner of the Helen C. White College Library.
The UW Lifesaving Station may sound the steam whistle located on the top of the Lake Safety Tower upon closing the lake due to a storm and one hour before sunset (to inform sailors they should begin to head in). In the event of a storm, red lights shall flash from the end of Picnic Point, the Tenney Park Locks, the Lake Safety Tower, and the UW Lifesaving Station. The mechanical warning devices are subject to failure so the flags take precedence if in conflict with the light signal. Hoofers are required to obey the following flags which tell current weather conditions. Flags may change in the middle of the day (green to blue, or non-yellow to yellow)—penalties will be incurred for not following the current flags. (Penalty: one week “ratings hold” on all fleets. In the case of red flag, one week “no sail penalty.”)
Light winds up to 18 mph although this limit may be lowered to 15 mph for gusting winds and large waves, or if there are too many capsizes for the rescue services to handle. Sailors with a light weather rating may sail.
Heavier winds 18 to 30 mph or winds over 15 mph with too many rescues for the rescue services to handle. Sailors with a heavy weather rating may sail, excluding scows.
Cautionary flag requires sailors to stay within the "Yellow Line" area which is an imaginary line running from the tip of Picnic Point to the red and white Oscar Mayer smoke stack.
The yellow flag appears in addition to the green or blue flag and is flown when:
- Storms are possible
- Water temperature is less than 60 degrees F
- Visibility is very poor
- One hour before sunset (evening steam whistle warning)
Very heavy winds greater than 30 mph, but no storm is expected. The yellow line is in effect regardless of other factors. The following are the only boats allowed out and the requirements of each are as follows:
- Windsurfers - when the sailor has a short board extreme rating.
- Techs — when the skipper has a heavy weather Tech rating and a heavy weather rating
in any other fleet besides windsurfers.
- 420s — when the skipper has a heavy weather 420 rating and a heavy weather rating
in any other fleet besides 420s, techs, and windsurfers, and the crew has a 420
heavy weather rating.
- Lasers are allowed out when the skipper has a heavy weather Laser rating and a heavy
weather rating on any other fleet other than Techs and windsurfers.
- Keelboats follow keelboat policy addendum (Appendix D).
- No other fleets — including any scows even if for Mendota Yacht Club racing — can
Lake is closed. No sailing equipment is allowed out. If the lake is closed because of a storm, all sailors must return to Hoofers by the most direct method.
Lake is closed or the flag hasn't been put up yet. Ask the Boathouse staff what the flag is before going out. See section called “Sailing While UW Lifesaving Station is Closed.”