Tip 1: Don’t line up on the Starboard Tack Layline too early
Hitting the layline early means you will probably end up overstanding and the bigger the fleet the more damage you will do to your position.
In many fleets it’s possible to make the mark if you tack on to port just underneath the boats that are overstanding – but if you are going to do it make sure you are outside the three boat length circle and if you need to luff to shoot the mark, be careful not to go beyond head to wind.
This tactic generally doesn’t work on the first beat in a big fleet as the fleet is still relatively bunched up, although, if you can pull it off you can gain a large number of places. This is where planning and keeping your eye out of the boat and up the course is really important.
As a word of caution, watch out for any gamblers piling into the mark on port and be prepared to sail around the resulting carnage.
Tip 2: Pick the Correct Gate
When you bear away at the windward mark you should have already worked out whether the left or right side of the course is favoured.
In a big fleet, picking the right leeward mark will be essential, where possible pick the mark that is closer or is on the side that you believe will be favoured on the next upwind leg.
If you don’t have a plan you could end up pinned on the wrong side of the course at the same time losing places to dozens of boats.
When approaching the mark keep your head out of the boat and work out where the boats in your vicinity will be at the mark, be prepared to consider the other mark if you end up having to deal with a sudden wall of boats.
Tip 3: Continually evaluate weight distribution
Correct Fore and Aft trim is critical to boat speed and especially on light air days where dragging the transom or the large flat sections aft can create severe drag which will slow you down.
Weight distribution athwartships should not be ignored either be mindful of the lines of the boat and work out the perfect angle of heel to get the best maintainable speed.
Just because you sail on a heavy boat, don’t ignore weight distribution. Roll tacking a 12 or 15-metre boat will be a guarantee that you will be fast out of tacks at the same time while maintaining the highest possible boat speed.
Tip 4: Acceleration from Gear Changes
Avoid getting caught in another competitor’s wind shadow or getting buried in disturbed air, especially after a poor start.
To get out of either of these situations sheeting in and attempting to point high is always counterproductive, even in a lightweight boat.
You need to ease sheets and bear away until you’ve gained some boat speed to get clear or found clean air.
Tip 5: Practice finding your boat’s high and low upwind modes
Being able to maintain VMG while pointing higher than usual – or lower than usual – gives tactical control over other boats around you and helps to keep clean air.
Don’t be tempted in a race situation to overdo it, any more than 3-5 degrees in each direction will put you on the conveyor belt towards the back of the fleet.