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Winter Series Session 6: The Weather Mark

I love a good parade!  Many fond memories.  Top of the list was the electric light parade at Disney World.  But If I’m honest, I have to admit the last few I attended with my kids were becoming a bit old.  Especially waiting curbside in the December slush for Santa Clause.

So I was really glad when Walker recommended that we avoid joining the Starboard-tack parade too early on the approach to the weather mark.  There are several good reasons:

  1. We’ll be sailing in the bad air backwinded off the boats ahead
  2. Since many of those boats are from slower fleets, we’ll effectively be slowed down to their speed.
  3. Our pointing ability will also be compromised.
  4. And judging the layline from a distance is tricky.  Odds are we’ll either miss it, or overstand. Neither are good.
  5. If there is a knock, we’ll have to put in two extra tacks in quick succession (emergency tacks)
  6. If there is a lift, we won’t get much benefit from it, aside from being able to crack off sheets a bit.

Instead, he advocates that we stay 100m+ below the layline for our approach, and then join the parade about 100m+ from the mark

  1. That’s far enough to have clear air, so we can sail fast and high
  2. If there is a lift, we get the full benefit
  3. If there is a knock, well, we were planning to make two tacks anyway
  4. We’ll nail the layline from a much closer position.

This is great advice and should be worth a few boat-lengths.  A couple of tricky things we need to consider to take advantage of this option

Joining the parade

When we join the parade, we have to choose whether to lee-bow a boat on the layline by tacking just to leeward of them, or to push through to the windward side.  The main considerations (in rank order):

  1. How do we want to exit the rounding?
    1. If we want a bear-away set, it is worthwhile to push through to windward so that we have clear air when we hoist
    2. If we want to jibe-set, the inside position is better
  2. Are we sailing in light air?
    1. Push through to windward no matter what.  Accelerating after the tack will take all the clear air we can get
  3. Are we still pretty far from the mark?
    1. Push through.

But in moderate air, when we are near the mark and want a jibe-set, we should go for the lee bow.  When we do that, we have to pay attention to the rules, particularly if there is a neighbouring boat that calls for room to tack.  That’ll be exciting!

Putting in a good hoist

Yes, I am guilty of joining the parade early.  But it has been primarily because I have wanted to allow the crew ample time to set the pole.  For this reason, in high wind, I think it is still best for us to join the parade early so that we can have a good secure pole in place before the hoist.  A nice tidy bear away will always be more important than some backwinding on the layline in these conditions.  But in moderate wind and light air, we will be just fine hoisting without the pole and setting it after the kite is flying.  We’ll just need to practice that.


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