Sunday, April 09, 2006

Leeward Boat

The third tip from Dave Dellenbaugh's Top Ten Tactical Tips like the previous one is also about starting. Tip number 3 is that the boat immediately to leeward of you is the most important one in determining how good your start will be; if that leeward boat is too fast, too close or too far ahead of you then it will give you trouble.

The first piece of advice was that you should not line up at the start just to windward of one of the fleet's hotshots. He is likely to execute a better start than you, sail off the line higher or faster than you, or all of the above. In any case you will soon be eating his dirty air and going slow. A comment from the audience prompted repetition of that hoary old quip, "If you don't know who the marshmallow in the fleet is, it's probably you!"

marsh-mal-low n. A timid, cowardly, or ineffective person.

Ah, yes. The old marshmallow trick. When I first started Laser racing I was always so proud of myself when some hotshot lined up next to me (always to windward of course) on the start line. Wow - I must be in the right place on the line, I would be thinking. Until I realized that I was the marshmallow.

Then I started playing the game myself.
Find some unsuspecting new sailor, line up to windward of them and then blow over them at the start. Some of my best races in major championships have been when I found some poor innocent marshmallow and mercilessly exploited them to get a great start. Did I tell you about the day when I beat 100 boats in a race at a national masters championship? No? That's a story for another day.

Enough of my bragging, back to Dellenbaugh. He then launched into a discussion with his audience about how big a gap you need between yourself and the boat to leeward. It all depends on the class of boat, wind conditions and so on.

One observation on how big a gap you need that was new to me: it depends on whether the boat end or the pin end of the line is favored. If the pin end is favored the leeward boat will be further forward with respect to your boat than if the committee boat end is favored. So with pin end favored you need a bigger gap to leeward to avoid his dirty air.

Likewise if you expect a big lefty shift just after the start you will need a bigger gap. And if there are waves you need a bigger gap because you need room to put the bow down for speed through the waves.

Final piece of advice from Dave on this one: set up relatively close to the boat to leeward initially and then increase the gap just prior to the start. That way other boats won't be tempted to steal that juicy gap that has your name on it.

Talking of marshmallows ... why did the elephant step on the marshmallow?

Don't know? Give up? Click here for the answer.

Don't blame Dellenbaugh or me, blame that Adrienne kid. It could have been worse. I could have given you a link to this ancient and stale marshmallow joke.

The next tip is here.


Anonymous said...

Are there other tips following this one?

Tillerman said...

Yes Anonymous. I have added a link to the next tip at the bottom of this post so that if someone wants to read them sequentially they can. Now I'm going to see if I need to do that for any other posts in this series! Thanks!

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