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Staying Out of Trouble

This one’s a classic: If you’re the outside boat of a group approaching the leeward mark and blindly carry on with pace, you’ll sail extra distance in bad air, carry wide around the mark, and then exit in a terrible lane.

This is one of the rare times when it pays to slow down and let other boats move ahead.

To kill speed, take your ­spinnaker down early and steer a little extra distance. If you’re slightly advanced on the group and they barely have room, you can slow down a lot by steering hard, swerving back and forth, and swinging wide to slow your boat and kill time.

Once you’ve slowed, let the pinwheel unfold, and watch as the boats swinging around the outside become pinned and stuck in bad air. These boats had room on you, but because they are now pinned wide from the mark, they can no longer make a tight ­rounding and close you out.

When you can round the mark tightly without fouling those boats (because you don’t have room), sail toward the mark, ideally reaching a little bit before rounding so you have speed.

You will now be on the inside track going upwind, no doubt passing a boat or two. More importantly, you’re setting yourself up on the inside track for a nice beat.

One cautionary note: When slowing down and waiting for your opportunity to round inside, there might be boats coming up from behind with no room who want to speed into the gap you’re ­shooting for.

 

They might not slow down and wait their turn, so be sure to communicate to them that they have no rights, thus saving yourself the drama of an ugly foul and big pileup.

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