Monday, June 30, 2014

Risk vs Reward


I had a fun afternoon on Sunday, racing with the Massapoag YC Laser fleet in Sharon MA. The wind was blowing at over 10 knots from the S down the major axis of the lake. Except for the odd occasions when it was 1-2 knots, or from the E, or from the W. Hey, that's lake sailing. Deal with it.

I had a typically mediocre series of races but I did learn a few things about starts. Or maybe relearned them.

There was one race where the boat end of the start line was favored. Another boat and I set up high and a boat just to leeward of the committee boat luffed us up and closed the gap on us and stopped us from barging. Quite right too. I was able to tack and gybe around and start a little late. But the other attempting barger and the boat that luffed him ended up getting tangled up with each other and they both had terrible starts.

Lesson #1: Don't barge.

Lesson #2: Enforce your rights but don't be so aggressive in defending your position that you end up tangled with another boat and you both get bad starts.

Then there was another time when the pin was favored and I attempted a port tack start. When I had checked the wind about 90 seconds earlier it was impossible to lay the pin on starboard from the boat end of the line, so it should have worked. But the wind had shifted and I realized way too late that I would have to duck the first boat reaching down the line towards the pin. And then when I had ducked him I had to duck the next boat… and the next… and the next... Oops.

Lesson #3: Don't try to port tack the fleet unless you are absolutely sure you can pull it off.

Or perhaps it was really Lesson #4: Don't try to port tack the fleet unless you have nerves of steel so you won't chicken out when you can see the whites of the eyes of six starboard tackers reaching straight at you.

On the other hand in the races where I set up for nice safe conservative starts on starboard tack away from either end of the relatively short line, I got decent starts and respectable finishes.

Memo to self: You don't have to "win" the start. You just need to get a good start, near the favored end, with room to leeward, accelerating at the right time, on the line at the gun, and preferably bow out on the boats to windward and leeward.

Don't roll the dice.


6 comments:

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

'xactly. You are not looking for to be perfect, to 'win' the start. Perfection is the enemy of the good (fraught with traffic). You want perfection on the finish line. When you're starting, just be 'goodenuff' (better than most).

Tillerman said...

Wise words Doc.

Anonymous said...

Great adviceTillerman. It's also kind of fun (in a sadistic manner) to watch the contrairian fleet port tackers all try to hash it out after the tangles and collissions have occurred while you're shooting up the middle reaching for the windward mark in clear air. That happened a few times this Sunday at the Portland Me Nationals.

Tillerman said...

True Anonymous. In another race the only female sailor (a master too) did a great starboard tack start at a favored pin end with me just to windward of her. A junior sailor attempted to do a port tack start on us and couldn't. When we looked back he was still stuck at the pin - not sure why. I joshed my friend about being mean to the "kiddie" and she shouted, "Yeah. Watch out for the mean lady!"

Children can be so cruel at her age.

MYCSunfish Fleet said...

Ah, like most of us at MYC, you fell victim to the siren song of the Massapoag Port Tack Start. A little wind shift at about 1 minute makes it look like you can fetch the windward mark from the pin end on port tack while everyone else is headed to oblivion on Starboard. If the wind holds just for that extra minute or so, you'll get huge gains with the port tack start. But more often than not, the wind shifts back with about 5 seconds to go. Then you find that you've been lured to your death.

It's claimed all of us at one time or another.

Tillerman said...

Quite right MycSunfish Fleet. But it's fun to try risky starting options from time to time. If only to remind yourself why it's usually not worth it.

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