Some times I amaze myself with how much I have forgotten about sailing. If only I could remember now to do what I used to remember to do before I forgot to remember to do it... I would be amazing.
Tuesday night sailing a couple of weeks ago was a case in point.
There was a nice steady breeze out of the SW of around 10 knots when I launched around 5pm but it died away quickly to around 5 knots shortly after racing got under way. There were six of us. Mainly the usual suspects.
On these short course windward-leeward races in a comparatively steady breeze I have a very simple principle. I look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to lose distance on the opposition. Good sailors will say the opposite. They say that they look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to gain. But I know what I'm talking about here, people. If you saw how bad my tacks and gybes are you would agree with me.
So the game plan is very simple. Try and sail in clear air without putting in too many tacks on a short course.
My theory didn't work very well in the first few races. I was almost last in every race. I did find one strand of weed on my rudder after one race, so I rationalized that that explained everything. It wasn't me officer. It was the weed.
But then I got frustrated. How come almost everyone else was beating me to the windward mark in every race? What were they doing differently? Were they just applying my "minimize the tacks" theory, or did they have a different plan?
Then it dawned on me. The wind was actually a bit shifty. And these dudes were tacking on the headers. And I hadn't even been checking for shifts. Stupid boy!
How could I have forgotten to remember what I used to always remember? In all those early years of my sailing career on little lakes it was all about tacking on shifts. Just because the shifts typically aren't so big on a bay doesn't mean they don't matter.
So for the final two races I started concentrating on the shifts and tacking on headers and always sailing the lifted tack. I was second in both races, just behind our resident world masters champion.
Laser sailors, "Look for the shifts!"