Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Words of Sailboat Racing Advice - Learning Experiences

A few days ago I challenged readers to give me their best racing advice in six words.

There have been dozens of wise - and flippant - responses and they are still coming in.

But I wondered, what have I learned from my own racing experiences recently? How could I sum up those learnings in six words?

Racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a counter-intuitive way to sail the first beat of a race in a highly competitive fleet and arrive at the windward mark up with the leaders. See Hubcap Diamond Star Halo 56th Sail.


In one race I started at the "wrong" end of the line, I sailed the "wrong" side of the course, and I banged the corner.

But that meant I sailed the whole race in clear air and did the minimal number of tacks. In that race that strategy worked better (for me) than fighting for position on the crowded end of the line, fighting for a clear lane against all the top sailors in the fleet, and being bounced around doing multiple tacks in traffic on the busy side of the course.

Clean start and clear air wins.

Last month I sailed my RS Aero in a local fun pursuit race against an assorted menagerie of craft, the Archipelago Rally.  I came 2nd in the 43 boat fleet. See How I (Almost) Won the 2015 Archipelago Rally.

Some other sailors (behind me)

But I was very lucky. The tide situation favored the faster boats, but even more importantly the leading boats made not one, but two navigation errors! On a course that only had three rounding marks! And I happened to be placed to take advantage of their mistakes. It helps to be lucky but the real moral is...

Know the course. Write it down.

In July I sailed in the RS Aero North Americans in the Columbia River Gorge. I had a blast but on the first day of racing I capsized in three of the four races. I was pretty slow at capsize recoveries and my results were mediocre. See RS Aero Capsizes - Mission Accomplished and RS Aero North Americans.

Some other sailors (way in front of me)

In retrospect it was apparent that I had not practiced enough in the kind of conditions I should have expected in the Gorge - strong winds and short waves. Almost all of my RS Aero sailing in the summer had been done on a lake, on flat water, and usually in quite light winds. There are places in Rhode Island where I could have found conditions more similar to the Gorge and I should have done some RS Aero training there before going to the NAs. (I should have practiced capsize recoveries more too.)

Train for the conditions you expect.

Next year it will be different.

How about you?

Do you have any "learning experiences" from races or regattas that you can sum up in 6 words of advice?

1 comment:

Keep Reaching said...

I have learned more times than I like to admit that if I dont pay sufficient heed to the tide, I am in for trouble. so:
Tide, then wind, then everything else.

Post a Comment