Friday, February 09, 2007

Beware the Port Tack Layline

Tillerman's Tacticat Tip #4 is Beware the Port Tack Layline.

Here's the scenario. Before the start in Tacticat it looks like the wind is stronger on the left side of the course. You read Tillerman's Tacticat Tip #2 Watch the Wind and so you decide to start near the pin end of the line. You get a good start but boats to the left and right of you get slightly better ones. As you head out to the left side of the course you never extend far enough ahead of the boats to windward of you to be able to tack and cross them safely.

Now you're starting to approach the port tack layline and still you can't tack. Maybe you start sending messages to that boat on your hip...


"Tack now!!!!"

Eventually he gets the message. He and the six boats to windward of him flop over on to port, but by now you are on the layline, or perhaps even above it. Worse, it turns out that there was some decent pressure on the right too and some of the boats that went right are going to cross you. There are already fifteen boats lined up on the starboard tack layline and you can't see any gaps in the line.

Now you're approaching the mark.
You can't tack inside the starboard tackers; they are too close to the mark. What are you going to do? Bear off and duck a dozen or more boats? Sheet out and wait? There are boats ahead of you on starboard. There are boats to leeward of you. There's nowhere to go. You're screwed.

So how do you deal with this situation and get around the mark cleanly and still be up with the leaders? Beats me. Basically you can't get there from here. I guess you should have anticipated the problem earlier and maybe slowed down earlier so you could tack on to port, duck some transoms and get into the starboard tack parade before all the gaps filled up.

If it makes you feel any better this happens to top sailors too. Check out this Monday Morning Tactician tale from Andrew thought he had an opportunity to round the mark with the leaders but ran into extra complications caused when another port tacker stole a late inside overlap.

Diagram stolen shamelessly from


Ant said...

How often have I done this in real world and Tacticat....(in between it crashing on my PC, my problem not Tacticats!)

It is an age old problem, things going well, you daren't tack cus you think you'll loose out (breeze or shift) and then you end up out on the left, lonely, cold and scared... you tack over onto port as if seeking the warmth of the starboard tack crowd on the other layline and you go for the Port-Hug (I think I'll patent that!)but the Starboard tackers just don't love you enough as you think and they send you on a merry dance (360 or 720) just like a women!

Avoid the hugs, stay warm and then open yourself up to be the hugger (tack onto Starboard)...(not sure this analogy is working?

Tillerman said...

Love it. Thanks Ant. As always, you find a way to express things more vividly than I ever can.

Carol Anne said...

Wow. You're really getting me interested in trying Tacticat. Problem is, with all the money I'm spending on real boats, I don't have any to pay for a high-speed Internet connection, so all I have at home is dial-up, and interactive games are forbidden at work.

So the only time I get a good connection is when I'm on the road ... and this weekend, I'm buried under a pile of stuff to study.

Anonymous said...

I don´t think Tacticat needs a Highspeed connection, but don´t ask me, I´m no expert. Just tryin´ to convince you, it´s addictive :D

Anonymous said...

It's not really that big of a problem. I've never encountered a straight conga line with no room for a duck within 2-4 boats.

However, my tacks always do need work, especially when I'm switching fleets. I sometimes can't guage how close I can tack onto starboard at the top mark and end up screwing myself.

Anonymous said...

All this tacticat talk....I might have to throw down as soon as I get a chance. Watch out.

Anonymous said...

I recently went to a racing seminar hosted by a very famous local sailor (and a former olympian to boot). The issue of the port tack layline came up, and the gist of this guy's advice was not to fear it. In his experience, he figured that 80% of the time a port tacker charging towards the windward mark would have no trouble finding space to get through and round, either because the starboard tackers will all have been gassing each other and going slow, or because a lot of them will have overstood (for fear of being leebowed). That made a lot of sense. But here's the interesting part: This guy also said that you shouldn't be too concerned if you squeeze in there and hit the windward mark as you tack over (or be afraid to do the same). While the other boats will thoughtfully point out that you need to spin, it's possible that you'll have gained on a lot of the boats that you shoved yourself in ahead of when rounding the weather mark.

After the seminar, I mentioned this bit of advice to a very experienced skipper because I thought it was a pretty neat idea, and this skipper went nuts and couldn't believe the suggestion was made. He told me to check the Rules, and there it was in Rule 31.2: "...if a boat has gained a significant advantage in the race or series by touching the mark her penalty shall be to retire."

In my (albeit limited) experience, I've seen this contact happen, but I don't ever recall anyone protesting and getting the port tacker tossed. I guess it's a combo of no one really checking to see if the PT gained on a lot of boats by butting in, and no one being too familiar with the end of rule 31.2.

The skipper who pointed out the erroneous advice has sat in a lot of protest committees where he's seen the pros try to use their standing to bully the committee into seeing things their way, and sometimes, because of their reputations, it works. The seminar also made me realise that in some cases, the pros genuinely just don't know that what they are doing is in violation of the Rules. Either way, it's a lesson that you shouldn't necessarily let yourself be intimidated by the top of the fleet, and if you think they did something wrong, call them on it.

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