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Competitive Sailing

Sailing Tactics To Be Better Than The Competition

 

Often too much significance is attributed to sailing tactics and tactics only become the most important factor if you are sailing at a very high level. 

For most of us, it’s better to invest in training time, concentrating on sailing technique and boat tuning. As a word of caution though, you can’t manage without tactics altogether.

I have jotted down below, a couple of rules, that if you follow, you’ll be better than 80% of the competition unless of course, you are sailing at World Cup level. 

  1. Read the Sailing Instructions – How often have you seen it that someone who doesn’t know the course, sails to the wrong mark, or doesn’t know what a penalty would be when a rule is infringed?
  2. Know the Rules – You don’t need to know the rules by heart but you should have an understanding of the main ones such as when boats meet. If fellow competitors know you aren’t sure of the rules they will  make the most of it, often screaming rules that don’t exist or have not been in effect for years.
  3. Get out to the course early – set your boat up for the conditions, get used to the wind and waves, observe whether tt is increasing or softening, are the shifts oscillating or persistent and what current is there across the course.
  4. Check the Start line – Look for line end bias and establish transits so you will be right on the line when the gun goes.
  5. Starting Strategy – Of course having your own starting strategy is best but if you are not yet confident, observe where the best sailors in your fleet are setting up and head in that direction but of course don’t start too close to them otherwise you may become their “marshmallow”.
  6. Start on the line in Clear Air – For a beginner, it is very difficult to calculate the distance to the line, that’s why you should orientate yourself with the boats immediately near you in the last minute before the start. Keep a constant lookout for boats coming in from above and below but above all try to have space to leeward so you can foot off to maintain clear air.
  7. Sail the long tack first – From your homework prior to the start you will have noticed whether the first mark is square to the start line. If not, where physically possible, sail the longer tack first, this means that you will have more options to play the shifts before arriving at the layline.
  8. Avoid arriving getting to the Layline until as late in the leg as possible – for the reasons mentioned above, once you are at the layline you have lost the ability to play any shifts. 
  9. Have a plan – From your time on the water prior to the start you will have established a plan for the race. While racing, have your head out of the boat watching your fleet and for changing conditions. Be prepared to change your plan should your observations tell you there is a permanent change occurring.

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How to Find, Manage and Keep a Race Crew

Having the right crew on your boat is as important as the sails and equipment and contributes completely to the fun you have both on the boat racing and afterwards off the boat socialising.

As a skipper and leader on your boat, an enormous amount of time should be spent putting your race crew together.

With the right mix of skills and personalities, you are guaranteed to not only race well but keep the team together because they have fun and look forward to the next race or event.

When there is conflict on the boat or lack of respect for each other you will find yourself continually replacing people who are not committed to the same goals and aspirations as yourself and your team.

Crews have family, work and social commitments so if they think that turning up is a chore they will soon find other places to be.

This means perhaps perpetuating the problem by your constant search for “arms and legs” to fill positions rather than finding the right person for the role and one that fits in with the rest of the team.

Things to pay particular attention to are things like the program for the season.

Start by looking at all the races and regattas you’re interested in sailing and then step back and think about what is realistic. It’s easy to get excited about all of the great sailing events of the season, it’s easy to over-commit.

Put yourself in your crew’s shoes and remember that even though they’re a lot of fun, races and regattas are also a lot of work. 

Schedule some practice sails, a crew get together which includes family and above all ask the team what they would like to do, you will find that if the crew have input into the program that their commitment will be far greater.

If you are managing a big crew, designate one of the other members to be the contact point and team communicator, this works really well in getting great feedback because often crewmembers are a bit timid in speaking directly with the “boss” about their concerns.

Post-race or regatta de-briefs are essential to get feedback from the team and allow for adjustments to the sailing positions, race strategies, the future program and for improving race results for the future.

The de-briefs need to be a little structured with someone responsible for jotting down some bullet points regarding the day’s event with a bit of time to get input from the team. Importantly the de-brief should not be too long, everyone these days have busy lives and there is always plenty to do.

At a regatta, the debrief can take the form of a crew dinner and by all means, include spouses so that they feel part of the group and have a real feeling of being part of the team.

With a club or single race event, a debrief on the boat before heading to the club or home enables you to sort out any issues on the boat from the day’s event, either crew wise or mechanical and gives you a chance to confirm the program going forward and who is available.

Above all, remember that sailing on your boat has to be fun for all participants, that is what keeps the team together and makes them keen to come back.

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