Practice Wednesday 9-11-2019

Practice Objectives: The Art of the Start (and some team racing maybe)

Like a leeward gate rounding, good, consistent starting can ultimately be seen as a means-to-an-end, and successful execution of your plan. The end is to be going fast in a clear lane on the lifted or correct tack. Pretty simple, but easier said than done. Things happen. Mike Tyson (heavyweight boxer) once wisely said that “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.”

Of course, going fast in a clear lane on the lifted or correct tack is easier said than done, and this is a high-stakes time of the race. There’s a lot on the line (no pun intended. Well, actually it was intended) at the start, and your pre-start “plan” likely didn’t include a terrible start, or being over early. Point is, starts are one of the hyper-critical times in a sailboat race when you have to both have a plan and also be ruthlessly, quickly willing to execute a different (often escape) plan, to find clear air/open lane. A bad thing to do is stick to a losing plan, or worse, let a bad start ruin you mentally. Too many times in practice I see boats wallowing in bad air, unwilling to work hard to get free; or boats match-racing each other, effectively forgetting about the race course and the fact that is is NOT a match race. After a bad start, take your lumps, re-calibrate, and keep sailing aggressive and smart.

Many years ago our A-division skipper went out to the first race of the MASSA District fleet race championship, well prepared, focused. This person was/is very skilled, talented, and smart. Race 1A…. here we go.
Oops, bad start. That’s ok…. we have 2 days of racing ahead of us, and 17 more races to go. Problem is, this sailor tried to take back his bad start mistake entirely on the first beat, as he let the frustration, anger and pressure of the moment cloud the path, and made poor decisions afterward. He then hit the right corner immediately. Breeze went left. Then hit left corner. Breeze died on the left. Finished race 1A in 18th. Last place in race 1a, and I had never seen him close to last before. A poor start defeated this person for that entire race, and made the rest of the event far more of an uphill battle than it needed to be.

Don’t let poor starts in your head..they happen to everyone. Let it go. Be active, engaged, aggressive in your decision-making, but remember the game is still the same. Very often, and far too many times, I hear teams say “I’m (or we’re) bad at starting.” Most likely you say that because a poor start led to a poor race. If you say this, I will I disagree; I will say you are bad at finishing.
The race isn’t over at the start. Make your start a process and a means to an end, re-calibrate, and keep working. Make up boats when they make mistakes and you do not. Take your 10th, or 8th, and move on.
Then, keep working on perfecting your boat-handling, your timing/distance calculating, and your boat control so that you get better starts more often. That is the goal of today.

At our starting practice, work on:

  • discuss and/or consciously make your pre-start plan, and then activate new plan after start if necessary
  • acceleration from stop
  • know when to pull the plug on a loser (earlier rather than later)
  • maximum boat control at low speed
  • favored end vs. best place to start gauging. There is an angular favored end, which often changes during the 3-minute sequence, and for you there is a best place to start. Know the difference if one exists.
  • timing/distance prediction, communication (with crew) and improvement
  • avoid rules situations… winning a protest while losing 8 boats is an absolute Pyrrhic victory


  • Lots of practice starts, once in awhile I will let it go to the weather mark/offset.
  • I will move line a bit, length and favored end.
  • Maybe a few team races with the FJ’s… (we’ll see)
7 Jack O’Donnell Benjamin Saunders
8 Lilly Baker Anna Howell
9 Ella May Corckran Alex Brenia
10 Nick Garcia Chris Sixbey
1 Mariner Fagan Ryan Wahba
2 Kyle Reinecke Chase O’Malley
3 Jordan Bruce Rees Tindall
4 Sam Bruce Cole Petrinko
5 Zander King Chase W Hilliard
6 Teddy Cromwell Charlie Granitto
Laser Owen Hennessey
Laser Patrick Dolan
Laser Robby Meek
Laser Thomas Sitzmann Coach Boat
Addi Harris
Hayden Lamb
Beckman Coach Boat
Raam Fox
Brooke Arnold
Andrea Riefkohl
Maddie Hawkins


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.