We racing sailors all know the scenario. We make an ugly start to the race and within seconds we are gasping for air as the boats around us leave us in their wake. I'm doing it in boat #77275 in the photo in yesterday's post. Once you slip back from the front row you just lose more and more ground on the other starboard tackers as you are slowed down by the dirty air from their sails.
Most of us know that the only solution is to make a bold tack on to port, duck a few transoms if we have to, and then to find a lane with clear air further to the right. But when to do it? That is the question. Do you tack as soon as you realize you are in trouble, or do you wait?
I am spectacularly bad at making this decision so I was excited to see that the May 2011 issue of Sailing World that magically appeared in my mailbox this week has addressed the issue. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sailing World.
Actually Sailing World has two articles on the topic from two experts, Ed Baird and Steve Hunt.
On page 62, Ed Baird says...
Rule No. 1 after a weak start is to get on the opposite tack... If you get on to port as soon as you can you'll find you stop losing to the fleet... Sometimes it seems that there's nowhere to go if you bail out. But... holes often open up after you've been on port for as little as a length or two... Don't give up if you're not first off the line. Make your exit choice immediately.
And on page 65, Steve Hunt says...
It's often best to be patient shortly after a bad start and wait for an open escape route. If you tack and have to sail deep ducking a lot of boats, it's hard to make up that distance.
(My emphasis in both quotes.)
Hmmm. I'm glad we cleared that up.
This post was sponsored by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Tachas Corajosos ao Porto. No port was drunk during the writing of this post.