Number 1 in Dave Dellenbaugh's Top Ten Tactical Tips: Fast = Smart.
So this is the #1 tip from the big shot America's Cup rock star? "Go fast"?
To any non-sailors reading, this advice this must seem even more like stating the obvious than it does to sailors. After all, in most racing sports -- running, horse racing, car racing, swimming -- the fastest competitor will win the race.
But sailors know better. A sailboat race is different from all those other races because all the sailors in the race don't sail the same course. Yes, we have to sail around the same buoys in the same order. But in between those fixed points of the course we can sail widely different routes and distances. Some will sail over near the shore to get out of an adverse current, some will go out to sea to find more wind, some will zig and zag on every little change in the wind direction. So in a sailing race it's a well known axiom that sailing fast will not win you the race if you make the wrong strategic choices and sail in the wrong direction.
Dellenbaugh's point, as I understood it, was that the converse is not true. Generally, you will not win the race by superior strategy and tactics if your boat is slow. As he put it, you will only be able to take advantage of that windshift on one side of the course if you recognize that it will be there and you sail fast and get to it before your competition.
And the practical advice that flows from that observation: your first priority if you have some time before the race is to tune up for boat speed not to split tacks with a buddy to check out the favored side of the course. Of course, if you have time it's good to be able to do both. But if time is limited, Dave advised sailing upwind side by side with another boat and checking out which settings of the sail controls are fastest.
But of course there are obvious exceptions. The wind speed was so variable on Sunday that if I had tuned up for boatspeed in 10 knots 5 minutes before the start my boat would have been set up all wrong for the 18 knot gust that hit us 15 seconds before the start.
However, I can see that tip #1 makes a lot of sense when the wind speed is relatively constant. Already I have learned something.
One down. Nine to go.