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Getting a great race start


The season is just around the corner and although the weather is lousy right now, we will soon be enjoying beautiful evenings on the bay.  And to help make them even more enjoyable, Alvin and I went to the seminar this evening to collect some tips on how to get a really good start to the race.

There was a lot of stuff covered, but these few tips and reminders were the big things:


  1. Have a strategy before the start: in other words, decide which side of the bay we want to sail on.  Some specific tips:
    1. Don’t cross the bay twice — the shore usually has more wind and there is a current from west to east down the middle of the bay
    2. Heading upwind to the west, the boat that goes closest to the wall gets an advantage. Note: as you approach the wall, there is often a knock, but persist, because there is usually a lift just after it.
  2. Figure out which end of the line is favoured (more upwind), and try to take advantage of that…but:
    1. Clear air and room to tack are more important
    2. Cross the line at full speed


  1. Get some separation from the pack
    1. When other boats are arriving early, stay away from them
    2. When everyone is going for the favoured end of the line, the middle is often a good choice
    3. Don’t be afraid to point lower and go faster than the others
  2. Learn to slow down and accelerate
    1. Rather than timing the approach to the line by sailing away and back at full speed, learn to sail at half speed and how to accelerate. This will give more flexibility in timing the line and choosing a good spot
    2. If you ease the mainsail, the boat will slow down and bear away from the wind
    3. If you ease the genoa, the boat will slow down and point higher in the wind
  3. Try a “Pick start”
    1. Stay about 5 boatllengths below the line and sail back and forth at half speed
    2. In the last 90 seconds, be heading on port tack along this line
    3. Pick a rival approaching on the other tack
    4. Aim for their ‘foretriangle’ (ie: between the mast and the bow), and accelerate
    5. Tack near them to trap them in your lee bow (note, we have to tack quickly and get back to speed quickly for this to work)

And of all of this, I think the bit about learning to sail slowly and accelerate quickly is worth practicing.

Can’t wait!

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