The start of a sailboat race is one of the most exciting and demanding moments in a sailboat race. A good finish requires a good start. A good start requires judgment, timing, teamwork, and full understanding of how your boat will react in the existing wind conditions. It requires an understanding of wind and weather; and knowledge of strategy, tactics, and rules. Starts demand dexterity at close quarters, maneuvering and the ability to stay cool and concentrate in an environment packed with distractions. One of the keys to a good start is to ensure it sets you up well for the first leg of the race. Think through your strategy to rounding the first mark.
There are two basic approaches, follow the fleet or take a contrarian course.
1. Following the fleet you will ensure that you receive the same advantages of wind puffs and disadvantages of the lulls as the rest of the fleet. You will also have to guard against being in the wind shadow of another boat when following the fleet. Most of the times the fleet will start on a starboard tack which gives each of them the right of way over those on the contrarian start tack.
2. The contrarian start generally will start on a port tack and place you on a tack for a longer run before you tack, and that may mean a longer distance to the first mark. You will be dependent on a different set of advantages of wind puffs and disadvantages of the lulls as the rest of the fleet, which may or may not favor you. You are generally not affected by the wind shadow of other boats on this start. It could set you up for a longer run on a starboard tack with more speed as you approach the first mark.
Rounding the mark
It is often better to come into the mark wide and exit the mark tight. Remember if you are overlapped by a boat on your inside in the three length zone around the mark, you must give room to that boat to round the mark. Likewise if you are coming in wide and fast it is very possible that you can overlap a boat and cause that boat to alter its course to allow you room on the inside.
There are several copies of a Racing Tactics DVD in the shed at the club. You are welcome to borrow a copy of the DVD, but please be kind and return it within two weeks.
To help racing sailors get familiar with the Racing Rules of Sailing, UK-Halsey Sailmakers presents a series of animated race course situations http://www.ukhalsey.com/RulesQuiz/quiz_list.asp
A new regatta is added to the schedule this year. A long distance race will be held on June 19. This will be a little more relaxed race with longer legs of the race. Come out and join the fun.
The Jolly Roger Regatta – Approximate Course – June 19, 2010
Doug Roberts – Racing Chair