We will work today on STARTS
Winning the start is always a fun thing, but it’s never something you can count on. You must, however, to be a successful sailor, work extremely hard (prepare) before every single start and develop The Plan. Don’t ever use the same Plan simply because it worked last time. The Plan should never be to “win the start” that will never happen. You want each Plan, as best you can calculate, to give you a chance for success. The team who just won A-Division by over 10 points at the Women’s College sailing Nationals averaged a 5.25th place. What that says is conservative, consistent Plans (along with stellar boat handling, sail trim, and speed) win.
- Starts & Your Exit Strategy. A good starting plan can be, or should be, measured by two things:
- a) it’s statistical probability for success. How realistic is your plan?
- b) The Exit: where it leaves you after the start, not where you are at the start.
- What is Your Plan? I challenge all of you to make a plan for every start we do today and make it verbally known with your partner.
- Will change the length/angle of the line a bit, and use an ANCHORED coach boat for better start simulation. You want to work on creating an exit strategy and executing it….. each time. Don’t stop watching what the wind does, and what happens to the starting line.
Tip from Ken Legler on windshifts & the start
Windshifts and Pre-start Strategies. Playing shifts falls under strategy but involve tactics when other boats get in the way. Sometimes you know the odds of the big shift and you plan to race towards that shift right after the start. You might be thinking start right /go right which can work unless it is crowded. What about a start where the pin is favored and you want to go right. Start left/go right can work if you get away with tacking to port and crossing the starboard traffic. But unless you are really fast, this could lead to disaster. Then again, at least you had a plan.
To develop such a plan, skippers and crews will often hover above the starting line with two minutes to go and look for puffs. Problem with this info is that by the time the race starts, it’s obsolete. In an average wind of ten knots you really cannot see more than 30 seconds into the future at best. In very light wind with big holes, however, looking upwind can allow you to see holes and avoid them instead directing your strategy to where the first puff will be.
Playing Shifts Through the Sequence. Your eyes should be up the course sure, but you should look at the wind on the other boats and watch for their shifts. You can see them on their jibs. Here’s a tip on seeing the wind or how I learned this (happy story):
This worked perfectly to our advantage in a club Soling race in Boston Harbor. While sailing around pre-start we checked in at the RC boat and saw three boats go head-to-wind to check the favored end. All three bows pointed right. Now I knew their wind direction but also where they likely planned to start. We then sailed down toward the pin as two other boats checked wind. Their bows pointed left so….they will likely fight for the pin. Since I like to “start where the others are not” we set up for a mid-line start in minimal traffic. At about the gun, the wind shifted left. We were now second place behind the one boat that survived the pin start while the boats that started right were buried.
You need to be seeing the shifts before the starts and sailing through them. Otherwise you can get caught late by a surprise header just before the start or worse, a surprise lift takes you over early. Little tip here…a loose boom vang will reduce your chance of being over early in a lift as it is easier to slow the boat down with vang off.
Getting back to science let’s look at the ladder rung concept. On a square starting line, the bottom rung is parallel to the start. As the wind shifts, the entire set of ladder rungs pivot. Imagine a shift at 2 minutes to go, a 15 degree veer. A clean start at the right end is already a ladder hung ahead of those at the other end. That boats plays a couple small shifts while a boat starting down the line goes straight on starboard toward the upper left. If a big back of 30 degrees hits, the rungs pivot and the boat on the left becomes a couple ladder rungs ahead. Maybe she was lucky. Who got it right? The race committee for setting line and course square to the mean wind direction. Then again, maybe they were lucky too.