After a couple of tips on starting, Dave Dellenbaugh's talk on Top Ten Tactical Tips moved on to the beat. He kicked off the discussion on his fourth tip by asking his audience a question. If you are a port tack boat on a beat about to meet a starboard tack in the same race, and you have the opportunity to duck him or tack and lee-bow him, which one would you do?
He asked for a show of hands from his audience for each option and enticed a few to vote for each alternative, but most of us sat on his hands. Because, of course, the correct answer is "it all depends".
This clue was that this tip is entitled "Plan Ahead". In other words, have a plan as to whether you want to sail the left or the right side of the beat. (More on how to do this in the next couple of tips.) Then if you want to go right, you should duck the starboard tacker; if you want to go left then lee-bow the starboard boat and he will be forced to tack. Either way, you will be going to what you perceive to be the favored side and your opponent will be going the other way.
Similar options apply if you are a starboard tack boat meeting a port tacker who is slightly ahead of you in the race. If you want to go right, make the port boat tack and then tack away. If you want to go left then encourage the port boat to cross you. (I talked about the right and wrong way to do that in No Go.)
So why is it important to plan ahead?
Firstly and most obviously -- so you will be choosing the fastest route to the windward mark.
Secondly, to slow down your mental processes. You don't want to be making a snap decision when you are a couple of seconds away from colliding with that boat on the opposite tack. So you think ahead, if that boat tacks and we are then on opposite tacks and a collision course, what will we do? Even more important, of course, in a boat with a large crew than for a single-hander.
Thirdly you need a plan so you can stay in control of tactics. If you don't have a plan, how are you going to work out how to out-think the other boats in boat-to-boat tactics?
Sounds like good advice and definitely an area in which I need to improve.
And here is the next tip in the series.