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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Tactics, Boatspeed or Strategy – Which is Most Important For Success?

Strategy is the big picture game plan that you work out before the race starts and tactics are the decisions you make to execute the strategy.

Without boatspeed your chances of success are limited and this is something that you must have worked on during training and practice and prior to starting in a race.

Considering all three elements in the heat of a race can be overwhelming, but simplifying the decision-making process helps us focus on what matters most in the moment.

To have any hope of winning we must make unemotional, repeatable, high-percentage decisions that, coupled with solid boatspeed, will get us consistent results.

When working out your pre-race ­strategy, ther are four basic considerations. The big-picture weather forecast, current, geographic effects and the wind in which you will be sailing.

Track the wind patterns before the start, work out how big the shifts are, how long they last and what happens when there are changes in wind strength.

If the wind is oscillating, the favored end of the starting line becomes more important. Start in clear air near the favoured end, but the priority is to set  up for a quick tack to the right.

As an example, we want to go right after the start and have set up at the windward part of the line. Due to circumstances beyond our control it is no longer possible to be there, what we must now do, is work out where we can start in clear air but still have the ability to get to the right.

If the wind is steady and there’s no reason to sail to one side of the course, then line bias becomes the most important factor. If you don’t anticipate any major shifts, think of the favoured end as a head start.

Sailing in bad air toward the mark is often better than sailing in a clear lane in the wrong direction so constantly be reassessing where you are in relation to all the boats that you are competing against.

If there aren’t likely to be major wind changes, limiting your tacks and sailing in clear lanes becomes a more important strategy.

Just say your strategy is wrong, and this happens a reasonable amount of the time even to the best strategists. Don’t get emotional, quickly think about why it was wrong and update your strategy.

If your strategy isn’t working, there’s nothing wrong with observing what the ­good teams in your fleet are doing and letting them help you ­figure it out.

If your strategy has proven to be flawed re-connect with the pack and look for trends in their ­decision-making.

Watch and learn from those who have ­consistent success. 

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Top Tips For Starting Next Time You Race

Holding Station on the line –

  • Keep the boat flat to stop it going sideways.
  • If you end up head to wind, release the kicker/boom vang to help regain steerage. 
  • If you wish to go sideways, lift the centreboard.
  • If you want to go backwards, sit your weight forward to stop the transom from digging in. 

Accelerate From a Holding Position When the Gun Goes –

  • Practice this, ideally with two other boats of similar ability by lining up with one boatlength between boats and on a signal, accelerate up to speed.
  • It pays to set the boat up for slightly more power than you will need to go upwind so you can keep your height and not fall into the boat below.
  • Setting up for more power also assists to sail through the disturbed wind and water caused by the proximity of many boats in the starting area.

Hit The Line At Full Speed –

  • The boat will accelerate best when starting on a close reach before hardening up
  • You need to know your boats capabilities, especially in the confused seas and wind that will be present in the starting area.
  • In the pre-start, sail away from the line and then approach, taking note of the time it takes in the current conditions and number of boats in close proximity.
  • Monitor the difference caused by gusts and lulls during your timed run to the line.
  • If you are not confident in getting a good start, , place yourself where you can guarantee the best chance of starting in clear air.

Protect Your Space – 

  • Keeping a gap to leeward is vital to give you options and to give you space to accelerate into.
  • Keep your bow off the wind with the boom out and the sails flapping and this closes the gap. If someone comes in below you, they have to give you room and time to keep clear.
  • To create a space or to make it larger, work the boat up to above close hauled without sheeting the sails.
  • If you do use your space, look for another one straight away and don’t hesitate.

And finaly, remember, the favoured end may not be on the favoured side of the course so make allowances for this in your starting strategy.

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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Useful Tips For Championship Sailing

  • Watch your competition to get a quick understanding of your boats relative performance and once noted, do not wait to make changes.
  • When sailing to windward, bear off a degree or two and simultaneously ease your sails to increase speed.
  • Keep a constant note of your angle of heel. Too much windward helm indicates that you have too much heel and Lee helm indicates too little heel.
  • Heel is an important speed factor and this can be corrected with moving crew weight, changing sail shape or angle to the wind.
  • Always attempt to sail in clear air, disturbed wind and water has a dramatic effect on speed so always manouvre away as soon as possible.
  • In light winds and choppy water keep crew weight as low in the boat as possible.
  • Only carry out manouvres when the boat is moving as fast as possible for the given conditions.
  • When sailing downwind, the trimmer and helmsperson should communicate during every puff or lull.
  • Be the first boat to gybe in a lift.
  • Make sure you have the jib trimmed so that the telltales break evenly when you luff. On the mainsail the top telltale should be just on the edge most of the time.
  • When making changes, make one at a time and let the boat settle down. Watch for speed differences before changing something else.
  • If you notice that you are slow, take immediate action.
  • When trimming sails, remember that the correct shape is more important than the projected sail area. Sails work at peak efficiency when the draft is 35 to 50 percent aft of the luff.
  • In heavy air, carry the spinnaker pole a little forward of where you normally would and ease the sheet the same amount. This will make the boat more forgiving and less likely to broach.CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPEED

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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How To Make Sure Your Learning Time On The Water Is Quality Time

 

 

 

 

It has been said by many who should know, that sailing success is probably 5% talent and 95% hard work.

I have set out below some approaches that will assist you in making the most out of the time that you are training and learning on the water.

Have Learning Objectives for every time you Train or Race – 

  • Work on boatspeed by making one adjustment at a time.
  • When starting, get out of your comfort zone and try different starting techniques.
  • As a helmsperson, if you spend your time with your eyes slavishly glued to the telltales, practice also getting your head out of the boat.
  • When out training, practice tacking or gybing on every shift. This will help with your understanding of shifts and sharpen up your boat-handling skills.

Build Training Events into your Season –

  • Treat some events that you attend as training sessions and get beyond your ego by trying different things. Learn from the outcomes and don’t stress if you end up in a less than stellar result.
  • Many sailors race every week but hit a brick wall because they do the same thing race after race, they put in the hours but they don’t experiment and learn from mistakes.
  • When you do an event that you treat as a “win” event, you don’t need to experiment but simply apply the new things that you learned in earlier trainning events. 

Sail against Different People At Different Venues –

  • Techniques used in different classes and by different sailors can be adapted to your preferred class. Quite often we observe and learn from the sailors in our class and at our club, but sometimes the pool of knowledge can be quite shallow.
  • If you sail a Cat, don’t restrict your learning to that type of boat, sail in monos, sportboats and keel boats and vice-versa.
  • There is something new you will learn from every experience and what you have learned you can employ in your chosen class.

Sail against the best sailors in high standard fleets – 

  • Your learning will be accelerated by observing and talking to the best sailors. 
  • You will be surpised by how willing they are to pass on their knowledge. Great sailors realise that if the fleet improves, so do they.
  • You will always learn more and improve more quickly when you have to work hard to stay with the best in your fleet.

How To Consolidate Your Learning – 

  • After each race or event, make notes regarding observations, learnings and what worked and what didn’t.
  • If you sail in a crewed boat, have a team debriefing and talk through the race, getting each team members feedback.
  • If you sail a singlehander, go through the event in your head and make notes.
  • Before every race refer to your notes to refresh and remind you of previous learnings. 

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How To Execute Four Different Types Of Race Starts

Reach in Reach Out –

This is probably the most used starting technique because it is simple to execute and fairly straight forward. You take note of the time remaining and beam reach on port past the part of the line you want to start at.

Then you tack or gybe back when a little less than half the time remaining has elapsed, sailing back to the line on starboard tack. If you are a little early, you can luff a little to slow down or reach along the line until the gun goes. 

One downside of this strategy is if the whole fleet is doing the same thing you risk blocking each others air. This technique often works best when you are setting up for a midline start.

Port Tack Approach –

This type of start offers a lot of flexibility in finding holes on the starting line but requires heads up crew work with sharp boat and sail handling.

When there is two or three minutes left before the start, reach off on starboard tack away from the pin end and come back on port on a course parallel with the line, setting up two to three boatlengths below it. 

As you sail towards the fleet, keep an eye out for gaps and when you see one, tack on to starboard and aim for the weather end of the gap, leaving space to leeward should you need to foot off a little.

This strategy allows you to avoid big bunches of boats.

The Vanderbuilt Start –

This type of start consists of reaching away from the line on port tack heading on the reciprocal of the starting starboard tack course.

It differs from the reach in- reach out start because you are sailing away from the line on a broad reach, rather than a beam reach and this takes you to leeward of the reach in reach out starters.

The advantage of this type of start is that there is little chance of being forced over early and you also have a great view of the boats to windward.

One disadvantage is the danger of messing up your timing and finding yourself to leeward of the competition and choking on their bad air.

Dinghy Start –

This works best for boats that are quick to accellerate like centreboarders, sports-boats and catamarans.

With this type of start, you sail up to the starting line a few seconds early, luff up and park your boat in a good position.

Just before the gun, trim on, bow down to build up boatspeed and hit the line travelling fast.

The idea here is that, if you are not moving, you are not barging but you don’t have any rights either. Boats coming in from behind must give you time to get out of their way.

This works particularly well in large fleets where space on the starting line is at a premium, a word of warning though you must be particularly aware of boats coming from astern and to windward.

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Racing or Time Practicing, What Will See Your Results Improve The Most?

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To answer this question I spoke with Skip Lissiman who has sailed a myriad of different boats from Pelicans through to Maxi boats with perhaps his greatest achievement being a part of the Australia 2 crew which won the Americas Cup in 1983.

Brett: the first question I had here was how important is practice to improve your sailing rather than time racing?

Skip: Well, practice is essential to upskill your crew and yourself, to get to a point where you’re capable of being competitive at racing.

We used to have this saying on the 12 Meter, the six Ps, “Perfect Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

So, the sum of it is don’t practice bad skills when you go out practicing. So, make a list of all of your weaknesses and practice those and use the time on the water to tick them off as you improve.

And so you use the practice time to work on your weaknesses and to get your crew working and your crew’s skills up to a point where you’re competitive on the racetrack. It’s important to do it but racing is also important to just make sure your skills…and work out what your weaknesses are so you can go back out and do some practice.

But use your practice time wisely so you don’t waste time and don’t over practice. So don’t say, “We’re practicing all day.” Go out and do a two-hour session, come back in, work out what you’ve done, have a debrief, then go back out and maybe do another two-hour session the same day or another day.

But more than two hours at a time, you almost…you’re tapering off. You’re never really quite getting the real benefit of your practice time.

Brett: Now you mentioned the Ps. What do you reckon makes an effective practice session and how long should it take  You mentioned two hours is there any point in going out for a shorter time or a longer time? Are there any things that maybe you should do that take longer or shorter?

Skip: You know, the old rule of thumb. When you get in a match race event, you go off and do match racing.

This is…you’ve got a maximum of one hour on the water so you’ve really got to try and work on using your time as wisely as you can. So two hours is a pretty generous amount of time to go and use on the water.

Don’t…and start your practice as soon as you jump in the boat almost if you’re really tight for time. So whether it’s roll-tacking on the way out through the marina or whether it’s, practicing your tacking skills or whatever it is. But once you jump in the boat, effectively switch on and use the time wisely.

So if you’re out there for four or five hours, then it can be quite tedious and you’re not really maximizing your benefit that you could over a shorter period of time.

Brett: And how important do you think it is to sail in other classes? Most of us have a focus on one particular class or other. Maybe you’re sailing a one-man boat or two-man boat. Is it important, to sail in boats other than your own class or maybe even mix it up and sail with other people…sail other people’s boats within your own class?

Skip: The more sailing you do with other people, particularly people who are better than you, the more you’ll learn. And the more classes you sail, the better you’ll get a feel for what makes a boat work.

So, you know, I’ve lost count of how many different types of boats over the years I’ve sailed, everything from, dinghies to ocean racing boats to one design to match racing and you never stop learning.

So the better feel you get is by sailing different types of boat and getting a feel for what makes a boat go. And sailing just the one type of boat you get very entrenched in that particular style of boat.

But you won’t get that general basic innate knowledge of what makes a boat go until you sail plenty of boats and sail with plenty of different people and just try and work out from all the different people you sail with, particularly people better than you, what their take on a particular thing is.

You don’t necessarily have to agree with them all the time and, you know, I’m the first to admit I’m not always right. And I think most people would probably…good sailors would say the same thing.

So the more boats you…types of boats you sail, I would really encourage that. Particularly when you’re younger.

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What Is The Role of A Tactician?

Being the tactician on any boat is a high pressure position with quick thinking being a pre-requisite so it’s not a job for the faint hearted .

A tactician must be a strong leader, must be a constant motivator. They are the eyes and ears onboard so they must understand every aspect of the boat.

The tactician sets the pace on the boat and when they make the right calls the boat will perform better and the racing will be more fun for everyone. 

They need to be steady, upbeat and should only speak when they have something to say. If they are not the owner, it is important to have a good relationship with them.

The tactician must understand and work with the different personalities in the team. A lot of skippers react better when they are given options with others only wanting advice after they ask for it.  

The tactician does way more than choosing the boat’s route during a race, they also make final sail selections and call for crew rotations, so they must understand all characteristics of the boat.

It is important that the tactician has spent time steering the boat so that when a manouvre is called, they understand how long it will take, how the crew will perform and how the boat will react.

Different phases of the race require different duties and responsibilities so it is worth breaking the race down into segments. 

In the prestart, study the wind conditions and select the favoured side of the course working with the trimmers to select the right sails for the expected wind range.

In the start sequence watch other boats and how they may affect you as the start time approaches, keep the helmperson and crew appraised of what is happening and alert them to what you expect as each situation develops.

Once on the course after the start, keep the team appraised of what you are thinking so that their minds are completely engaged in the race and they are prepared as each tactical manouvre is called.

Another important job for the tactician once racing, is keeping the helmsperson focused by not letting idle chatter on the boat distract them from the job of steering.

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The Importance Of Being Consistent

Being consistent is especially important in big fleets where a small mistake can lose you plenty of places. With a large number of fast boats in an international championship, the chances of getting those places back is highly unlikely.

Great boat handling is particularly relevant and practice is an easy way to ensure that small but significant snafus don’t occur. Practice boatspeed and manouvres to ensure that in the heat of competition a weakness in either of these areas of sailing will not affect your end results.

Check your boat after every sail to look for items of gear that are wearing or need maintenance, having a gear failure can slow you down or finish your day altogether.

In many events the boat that wins the regatta sailed consistently and finished in every race and although they did not shoot the lights out, the aggregate of their score was enough to win.

For every venue that you sail at, be consistent with your preparation such as reading the weather forecasts, tidal observations, boat preparation and getting out on the water a good amount of time prior to the start.

Taking risks is rarely a great regatta winning strategy and keeping with the fleet is generally the right tactic. Make sure that you keep out of trouble as well.

Regattas are won by continually sailing fast and heading in the right direction and you don’t have to beat every boat that you come accross on the course.

Getting into a protestable situation is not smart, even if you think you are right, sometimes it makes sense to bail out if you get into a duel with a gnarly competitor and boat damage can ruin your race.

A disqualification will not only ruin your consistensy but it can effect your mindset negatively for future races.

Above all have a plan plus a back up should circumstances dictate the original was no longer relevant due to changing conditions or getting caught on the wrong side of the course. 

Staying calm when a plan goes pear shaped means that you are able to make a rational change to plan B and maintain consistent results rather than going off on a flier which more than often only compounds the disaster.

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A Checklist For Successful Trimming

Trimming sails is a challenging crew position which requires knowledge and experience but the trimmer also needs the ability to work with the rest of the crew.

The goal of the trimmer is to get the boat to perform at peak efficiency and to use that speed to out sail the competition. A good trimmer must recognise changing conditions and react accordingly taking weather, sea state and tactical position on the race course into account.

The best teams set themselves up for success long before leaving the beach or dock and the trimmer is an integral part of that team.

As a trimmer, when you leave the dock, have a good understanding of what the forecasted weather is likely to be and update this information when out on the course.

Once at the boat, look around your area, make sure everything is in its place and sails are packed and stowed where they are readily accessible. It is very important that all unnecessary gear is removed to ensure that the boat is as light as possible.

Inspect the sheets, blocks, winches, handles, cleats and jammers for any issues. Carry a grab bag with duct or electrical tape, lube, markers, sail repair tape and tools plus energy bars and drinks (include spares where appropriate).

Spray all moving shackles and clips to ensure that they will not seize at a crucial moment replacing any that are worn or bent. Make sure there are knots in the end of halyards, that all telltales on sails are intact and the right sails are in the right bags.

As a trimmer you can be a valuable backup to the tactician so read and memorise the sailing instructions. Carry a rule book and notice of race in a waterproof folder for reference where necessary.

Keep target boat speeds and note down what  sails are required depending on wind strengths and sea state. Have this information written on a card plus have it prominently displayed on the boat as a reference for your teammates.

This is particularly important so that everyone can understand what sail should be set and when meaning each crew member will be prepared as conditions change.

Trimming sails on a dinghy or being part of the crew on a Maxi is equally rewarding. Define the mission, set parameters, prepare your trimming area, stay focused and constantly reviewing your fastest trim will make sure you are successful.

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Useful Tips For Racing Sailors

 

Boat Preparation – To win you must be the best prepared, and a lack of attention in this area can mean gear or boat breakages and to be able to win you must be able to finish.

Beyond that, you must have competitive equipment, efficient systems and excellent hull finish. Carry spares for things that can be repaired on the course along with tools that are needed to effect those repairs.

Financing an Event – Look at your season and pick out the events that you would like to do. Work out whether you can attend each one and compete at the top level required with the finances you have available.

If you find that you are having to make the money stretch by scrimping on accomodation, food and equipment options, consider doing fewer events but dedicating more resources to those events.

You will find your stress levels will be reduced and the fun levels and your event success will greatly increase.

Mental Stamina –  Are you able to keep going when things get really tough or do you let frustration get the better of you? Sleep and diet are not only important for your physical well being but they are important for your mental state as well.

When you train, work as hard as you would if you were racing and eat and hydrate the same way as well. Many of us practice specific things but don’t push ourselves as hard as we would if we were racing.

If your class does 3 x 45 minutes races each day, some of your training sessions should be for the same amount of time, that way you build the necessary mental stamina to carry forward to race day.

Concentration – In sailing, because there are so many variables, you are not able to concentrate on every variable all the time.

The best sailors pick the variables that need the most attention given the current course and conditions and disregard the ones that won’t make much difference.

There are always plenty of distractions at your club, a regatta or around the boat park, try to concentrate on the days racing by thinking about the weather, the course and what you need to do to succeed.

Many top sailors I have spoken to use headphones prior to heading out on the water and play music suitable for the day to set the mood and block out unwanted distractions.

Keep a sailing Log – All of us have plenty going on outside sailing so trying to remember settings that worked in particular conditions. This becomes especially tricky when you may not encounter those exact conditions again for many weeks or even months.

The act of writing things down helps your memory. Keeping a sailing diary enables you to refer to it to when you encounter the same conditions again. 

Body Weight – Many boats and classes we sail have an upper crew weight limit or ideal weight for best performance and many competitors get involved in yo-yo dieting to meet those weight requirements.

Changes in weight need to be gradual and balanced otherwise it can affect your ability to perform at your peak.

An ideal situation in a class that has a particular weight range to be competitive is to be somewhere in the middle but of course this is dictated to a large extent by our physical size.

When choosing a class of boat to sail, it makes sense for sailors to select a boat matched to their natural size.

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