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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win

TO WIN THE START, DON’T BE WHERE OTHERS ARE

Most racers believe that they must always start at the favoured end but the favoured end is the crowded end and the crowded end is where most of the bad starts happen.

Inshore races nearly always have oscillating winds shifting back and forth and if the starting line is set anywhere close to square to the mean wind direction then just about any point on the line can be a good place to start.

You don’t need to win the start in order to win a race and the goal of the start should be the ability to go straight to your preferred side of the course at full speed with the freedom to tack on the shifts.

A typical scenario is when the race committee sets a decent line about square to the first mark, one boat at the favoured end takes the start and every other boat crowded in that end has less than the perfect start.

Some start behind, some are forced over early, some are caught barging and circle out, some get back-winded and tack into the header, and worse some get fouled.

Meanwhile, it’s really easy to start down the line where the others are not and this might be good for the second or third-best start in the fleet still giving you plenty of options to sail your race not dictated to by the position of other boats. 

How to work out where the others will not be:

Look at their wind shots to determine where you think they will start and watch the traffic patterns during the starting sequence.

There might be many boats on the left half of the line at two minutes but if they are all tacking to port and heading right, the left might soon be clear.

If, on the other hand, you are on port at one minute and a large pack of boats are luffing on the lower third of the line, keep going on port until you get to the least dense area.

One of the reasons this works so well is that many skippers have the attitude that they have to win the start at all costs and they are convinced they can win the pin or win the boat. 

By getting a clean start, race after race you will always have options and be able to put your game plan into effect heading to the preferred side of the course and not being dictated to by other boats.

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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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