Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dead Squirrel

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about starting tactics. In a comment on that post Litoralis suggested that I try "squirrel starts". He talked about a fellow college sailor who "would line up at the starboard end of the line just downwind and outside the committee boat about one minute before the start. As the boats on the line started to accelerate for the start an opening would typically open up just to leeward of the committee boat. The key would be to time the approach so as to reach the line at full speed right where the hole had appeared."

So while Litoralis was sitting by his fireside, I tried some squirrel starts in the Laser frostbite racing on Sunday.

Wow. What a great technique. It works perfectly except when ...

1. The tide is running towards the right end of the start line and creating a pack of boats jammed up against the committee boat.

2. The starboard end of the line is significantly favored and all the best sailors in the fleet are trying for that perfect start right next to the committee boat.

3. The pin end of the line is significantly favored so most of the fleet is down near the pin and are already several boatlengths ahead of anyone starting at the boat end.

4. Your approach to that perfect hole by the boat is too far below the layline so you end up luffing too much and can't get in the hole.

5. Your approach to the hole is too high so someone else screaming, "No barging!!!" luffs you the wrong side of the committee boat.

6. Some idiot who forgot that the "round the ends" rule was in effect tries to duck back across the line on port tack a few boatlengths away from the committee boat with the result that, even though you do get a perfect squirrel start, a few seconds after the start the three boats to leeward of you go head to wind or even try to tack to avoid the aforementioned idiot and meanwhile some slower hopeful squirrel is now on your windward quarter so you can't tack so you end up going head to wind too and watching the rest of the fleet sail off into the sunset.

7. You get a perfect squirrel start but the RC signals a general recall.

8. There's a boat sitting right next to the committee boat but you do get a perfect start in the hole to leeward of him but he crosses the line early and doesn't sheet in very fast either so you make contact and although he's OCS and has fouled you and has to go back and restart and do turns he has still managed to screw up your start.

9. The top three sailors in the fleet all decide to try for a squirrel start too and are all to leeward of you and shouting, "Go up. Go up." And you end up head to wind staring at the transom of the committee boat as they all accelerate and start the race in your hole.

10. You're lined up for a perfect squirrel start just waiting for that gap to appear and just as it starts to open some former Olympic campaigner who was to windward of you somehow accelerates through a gap between you and the transom of the committee boat that you are sure was no more than 6 inches wide and blasts away to start the race in your hole.

Yeah Litoralis. Apart from those ten situations it worked perfectly every time. Meaning that for me on Sunday it worked perfectly once.

And if I hadn't got into that incident at the windward mark I might have won the race. But that's another story for another day ...


Litoralis said...

Apart from those ten situations it worked perfectly every time. Meaning that for me on Sunday it worked perfectly once.

That's why they call it a squirrel start...it only works once in a while. The rest of the time you have to be aware of what's going on around you and be ready to bail out and find a new hole further down the line.

EVK4 said...

squirrel starts are pants

Carol Anne said...

Tillerman, you have me in tears, you're so hilarious. I think I've seen variations of just about all of those situations ... well, except for the one involving tides.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I played a #6 on Sunday! Is there a support group or something? LOL

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