Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Ask the Tillerman #1

In response to my request to Ask the Tillerman some questions, a reader named Was it Was asked, "Am I normal in enjoying a bad start because I get to overtake more boats, than have a good start and watch boats go past me?"

Ain't that life for the mid-fleet sailor?

Happens to me all the time.

I guess the truth is that the 15-20 guys at the front of the fleet really are faster than me. And then there are 5-10 guys at the back of the fleet who, incredible as it sounds, really are slower than me. So, contrary to popular wisdom, it really doesn't matter whether I get a good start or a bad start.

If I get a good start I might round the first windward mark in the top 10, but then the fast guys will pass me and I will end up somewhere around 20th. If I get a bad start I might round the first windward mark with the tail-enders but then, even in a short race, I will pass a few boats and end up around 20th.

OK. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, I might get an amazingly good start and luckily go the right side of the beat even though all the good guys favored the other side and then I might round the first mark up with the leaders and might even finish in the top 10. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.

So is it normal to enjoy a bad start, asks our friend.

Well, one way to look at it is if most of your starts are bad starts you had better enjoy those races else otherwise you would be miserable most of the time you are racing, and then you might do do something incredibly stupid and desperate like taking up golf... or even cruising.

And a start is just one moment in the race. Good or bad the moment is soon over. So why not enjoy spending the whole race passing the boats at the back of the fleet rather than suffer the frustrations of getting passed by all those really annoying fast sailors at the front of the fleet?

In fact, the more you think about, why even bother to try to get a good start?  Last time I did RC duty I noticed there was always a bunch of boats hanging out above the layline for the boat end of the start line not making any serious attempt to be on the line when the gun went off. They just waited until the rest of the fleet had started and then they rounded the committee boat and followed the fleet up the course. Were they deliberately getting bad starts in every race? And, more to the point, were they the smartest sailors there? Had they found the real secret of how to enjoy racing?

I have read advice somewhere, in one of those totally useless books which purport to teach you how to win races, that sometimes you should deliberately be OCS, and not go back to restart, so that you can get the experience of sailing in clear air and being able to decide your own strategy for the beat without getting bounced from tack to tack by all those annoyingly fast sailors at the front of the fleet. I think the point is to motivate you to try hard to win the starts so that you could sail like that in every race. Fat chance!

No. I think the opposite is the best advice.

The secret of happiness is to start last and spend the race overtaking other boats.

Which is a rather long way round of saying in answer to the original question.... YES.


Baydog said...

I guess the toilet paper question didn't pass muster.

Keep Reaching said...

You have answered the question affirmatively and you have also postulated that it is the life of the mid-fleet sailor. If I remember the rules of logic correctly, this proves QED that mid-fleet sailors are normal. I am greatly relieved.

Tillerman said...

And it's an indisputable fact the the mid-fleet sailors are more handsome than all the other sailors.

Post a Comment