Strategy is the big picture game plan that you work out before the race starts and tactics are the decisions you make to execute the strategy.
Without boatspeed your chances of success are limited and this is something that you must have worked on during training and practice and prior to starting in a race.
Considering all three elements in the heat of a race can be overwhelming, but simplifying the decision-making process helps us focus on what matters most in the moment.
To have any hope of winning we must make unemotional, repeatable, high-percentage decisions that, coupled with solid boatspeed, will get us consistent results.
When working out your pre-race strategy, ther are four basic considerations. The big-picture weather forecast, current, geographic effects and the wind in which you will be sailing.
Track the wind patterns before the start, work out how big the shifts are, how long they last and what happens when there are changes in wind strength.
If the wind is oscillating, the favored end of the starting line becomes more important. Start in clear air near the favoured end, but the priority is to set up for a quick tack to the right.
As an example, we want to go right after the start and have set up at the windward part of the line. Due to circumstances beyond our control it is no longer possible to be there, what we must now do, is work out where we can start in clear air but still have the ability to get to the right.
If the wind is steady and there’s no reason to sail to one side of the course, then line bias becomes the most important factor. If you don’t anticipate any major shifts, think of the favoured end as a head start.
Sailing in bad air toward the mark is often better than sailing in a clear lane in the wrong direction so constantly be reassessing where you are in relation to all the boats that you are competing against.
If there aren’t likely to be major wind changes, limiting your tacks and sailing in clear lanes becomes a more important strategy.
Just say your strategy is wrong, and this happens a reasonable amount of the time even to the best strategists. Don’t get emotional, quickly think about why it was wrong and update your strategy.
If your strategy isn’t working, there’s nothing wrong with observing what the good teams in your fleet are doing and letting them help you figure it out.
If your strategy has proven to be flawed re-connect with the pack and look for trends in their decision-making.
Watch and learn from those who have consistent success.
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