Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mike and Charlie

Charlie Champion has checked the weather forecast with four different sources on the Internet. He has been down to the local fishing dock and picked the brains of the fishermen about tides and currents and weather and winds. He has been out on the course with a training partner (and maybe a coach in a Mommy Boat) for the last three days. He has spotted when and where the wind shifts and has exhaustively tested both sides of the beat.

Mike Midfleet went out for a blast round the bay in his Laser on the two days before the regatta. He had some fun in the waves. He had a three hour alcoholic lunch on a cool restaurant in the marina one day and went for a romantic stroll on the beach with his wife the other day.

Charlie Champion is confident in his boat handling and boat speed. He knows he can hold his place on the start line with the best in the world. He knows
he can get his bow out in front and can accelerate off the start line faster than any of the competition. He knows he can hold his lane and sail in clear air up the beat. He knows that his superior boat speed will give him the freedom to tack when he reaches the first shift.

Based on the practice race, Mike Midfleet thinks he may be faster than about the half the boats in the fleet. He is not confident in his abilities to mix it up with the best in the world on the start line.

Charlie Champion knows the left side of the course is favored. He sets up for the start close to the pin end of the line. He has a good transit of the mast of the pin boat against a house on the shoreline. He knows exactly where the start line is and that he can hit the line with speed when the gun goes. He protects a hole to leeward by bearing off, pushing his boom out, and glaring fiercely at anyone who seems likely to enter his hole. He sheets in and accelerates a few seconds before the gun. He knows he will be in the first five at the windward mark.

Mike Midfleet has no idea which side of the course is favored but he does notice that most of the fleet heads left in every beat. He has no idea where the start line is; there are so many boats at the pin end that he can't see the pin boat and its flag. Mike allows other boats to come into leeward of him and steal his gap. When the gun goes he is gasping for air.

I think you can guess whether I was more like Mike or Charlie at the Masters Worlds. My strategy, to the extent that I had one at all, was to find a place on the start line that wasn't too crowded, preferably near the right end of the line so that if I did get a bad start at least I could tack out to clear air on the right without taking too many transoms.

It didn't work out too badly. One way or another I usually managed to find a good lane with clear air not too long after the start and arrive at the first mark in the top half of the fleet.

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