Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Some times I amaze myself with how much I have forgotten about sailing. If only I could remember now to do what I used to remember to do before I forgot to remember to do it... I would be amazing.

Tuesday night sailing a couple of weeks ago was a case in point.

There was a nice steady breeze out of the SW of around 10 knots when I launched around 5pm but it died away quickly to around 5 knots shortly after racing got under way. There were six of us. Mainly the usual suspects.

On these short course windward-leeward races in a comparatively steady breeze I have a very simple principle. I look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to lose distance on the opposition. Good sailors will say the opposite. They say that they look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to gain. But I know what I'm talking about here, people. If you saw how bad my tacks and gybes are you would agree with me.

So the game plan is very simple. Try and sail in clear air without putting in too many tacks on a short course.

My theory didn't work very well in the first few races. I was almost last in every race. I did find one strand of weed on my rudder after one race, so I rationalized that that explained everything. It wasn't me officer. It was the weed.

But then I got frustrated. How come almost everyone else was beating me to the windward mark in every race? What were they doing differently? Were they just applying my "minimize the tacks" theory, or did they have a different plan?

Then it dawned on me. The wind was actually a bit shifty. And these dudes were tacking on the headers. And I hadn't even been checking for shifts. Stupid boy!

How could I have forgotten to remember what I used to always remember? In all those early years of my sailing career on little lakes it was all about tacking on shifts. Just because the shifts typically aren't so big on a bay doesn't mean they don't matter.

So for the final two races I started concentrating on the shifts and tacking on headers and always sailing the lifted tack. I was second in both races, just behind our resident world masters champion.


Laser sailors, "Look for the shifts!"


Antolin said...

I the recent article in Sailing World said....sail in clean air, sail to the mark...arrrghh so simple yet...that jade knob eludes me still...

SoxSail said...

I would love to see video of these tacks that lose you distance in light breeze.

I generally have issues deciding whether to play shifts or sail for the puffs. On the sail-for-the-breeze days, I tend to get caught in the middle and watch both sides sail around me. Brutal!

Tillerman said...

I was only joking about the tacks SoxSail. I can make my boat go faster with illegal roll tacks as well as the next old geezer.

I don't usually have a problem knowing whether to go for the shifts or the pressure. More often than not I can't see either the shifts or the pressure so it's a moot point. On the rare days when I can see one or the other I just go for it.

O Docker said...

I was going to comment that I, too, forget to remember things a lot more than I used to.

And then the verification word was mismally which I remembered was part of a sailing song I'd forgotten from my youth. If I remember correctly, the full title is Good Golly, Mismally.

The heroine of the song is obviously a sailor because she is famous for her rocking and rolling and she apparently also likes to play ball, although I forget what that has to do with sailing.

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