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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How Can You Recover From A Disastrous Start?

Its important to remember that a bad start is not the end of your day, patience and keeping a cool head will generally save you from a total disaster.

If your start has gone wrong, don’t panic and look for a clean exit sooner rather than later.

Be patient though, a hasty change to your pre-determined plan without considering all options may actually place you in an even worse situation.

Two things that are critical to an effective recovery are that the helmsperson must continue to sail the boat as fast as possible all the while deciding where to get clean air.

Depending on your situation though, sheets should be trimmed for footing or pointing, you need to make decisions based on what you are seeing up the track.

If you find yourself in the second row, you need power because there is less wind and more chop. The backstay needs to be eased, Cunningham released and jib leads moved forward to give you a fuller, more powerful headsail.

The most common escape starts with gentle pinching in an attempt to get above the boats to leeward , to do this, move the traveller up and sheet a tick or two tighter than the conditions require.

This cannot be maintained for too long though and the desired result is an escape to clean air with the goal being to find a lane which you can live in for at least two minutes.

If you need to tack for clearer air, make sure there is no one that will tack on your wind, watching the boats around you for crew movement that may indicate a change in their direction which will affect you.

Once you have a clear lane and are now going in the planned direction, look at the fleet to see if that plan is falling in to place and if not be prepared to alter the plan to suit.

If you have a bad start near the weather end it is easy to tack away to clear and then tack back again as soon as there is a lane if you are looking to go left.

A poor start in the middle of the line in more difficilt to extricate yourself from and generally occurs when you are late due to line sag or when a port tack boat tacks under you and establishes a lee bow.

Generally it is a mistake to foot off below the boat on your lee bow but conversely do not tack too early because you will then have to dip the boat to weather who then has a chance to tack on your air.

If you have to bail out at the leeward end there are few options as clearing out to the right is rarely an option as you will have the bulk of the fleet on starboard tack to deal with.

If you are at the pin end and your plan was to head left, crack off a little to get speed and get to clear air as soon as possible.

Cracking off for clear air, generally only works if there are a small number of boats below you otherwise it will take an eternity to reach clear air if in fact you ever do.

If you are forced to bail out, be patient and wait for the proper clear lane to get right, all the time keeping the boat moving fast.

Once on Port tack, you can look for another lane to tack back to the left.

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By Brett Bowden

Brett Bowden is an author, entrepreneur, business broker, and yachtsman. Brett is a competitive yachtsman and has competed in many races and championships around the world and still owns several boats.
Brett Bowden is the author of “Sailing To Win” and lives in Victoria, Australia.

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