So if all the boats in Tacticat are sailing at the same speed, why is that some of them seem to pull ahead in the race and others fall behind?
It's just like real estate. The answer is location, location, location. Or as Stuart Walker would say Positioning: The Logic if Sailboat Racing.
I already wrote a post about one way to go faster: find the stronger wind. Another vital key to boatspeed and racing success in Tacticat is to sail in clear air. Don't get caught in the wind shadow of another boat. Just like real sailboat racing again.
It's actually easier in Tacticat than it is in real life to know if you're in another boat's wind shadow. Hit the S key and you will see the shadows cast by every boat. And if you hit the E key you will see a text display of various aspects of boat performance. The percentage shown against the word "Free" will be 100% when you are sailing in clear air and less if you are in dirty air or a wind shadow.
So when should you check if you are in clear air? Basically any time you are near other boats. Upwind and downwind. When you tack or gybe. When boats tack or gybe on your wind. Working upwind you want a lane where you will have clear air. Downwind you don't want another boat on your wind. Immediately after the start you need clear air. After you have rounded a mark you want clear air. Think about it. Plan ahead. What will you do if that boat tacks on your wind? Where should you tack to approach the mark in clear air?
To me this is one of the most valuable teaching aspects of Tacticat. It is constantly letting you know how to position yourself with respect to other boats to keep your wind clear. After a while playing it you will absorb the lessons and positioning will become second nature. Do you have a lane which enables you to tack on every shift and still be in clear air? Should you tack before or after that boat near to you? It will all become natural the more you play.
And then it will become even more interesting because you will move on from playing a defensive game and start to become aggressive about using your wind shadow to slow down other boats.
Be mean. Be nasty. It's fun.
And just to reinforce my message that looking for clear air in the silly game of Tacticat will serve you well when you play the equally silly game of real life sailboat racing, here's an article from Sailing World about Top of the Beat Tactics.
Location, location, location. Be a "vulture".