Friday, April 22, 2011

A Bold Tack on to Port

We racing sailors all know the scenario. We make an ugly start to the race and within seconds we are gasping for air as the boats around us leave us in their wake. I'm doing it in boat #77275 in the photo in yesterday's post. Once you slip back from the front row you just lose more and more ground on the other starboard tackers as you are slowed down by the dirty air from their sails.

Most of us know that the only solution is to make a bold tack on to port, duck a few transoms if we have to, and then to find a lane with clear air further to the right. But when to do it? That is the question. Do you tack as soon as you realize you are in trouble, or do you wait?

I am spectacularly bad at making this decision so I was excited to see that the May 2011 issue of Sailing World that magically appeared in my mailbox this week has addressed the issue. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sailing World.

Actually Sailing World has two articles on the topic from two experts, Ed Baird and Steve Hunt.

On page 62, Ed Baird says...

Rule No. 1 after a weak start is to get on the opposite tack... If you get on to port as soon as you can you'll find you stop losing to the fleet... Sometimes it seems that there's nowhere to go if you bail out. But... holes often open up after you've been on port for as little as a length or two... Don't give up if you're not first off the line. Make your exit choice immediately.

And on page 65, Steve Hunt says...

It's often best to be patient shortly after a bad start and wait for an open escape route. If you tack and have to sail deep ducking a lot of boats, it's hard to make up that distance.

(My emphasis in both quotes.)

Hmmm. I'm glad we cleared that up.

This post was sponsored by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Tachas Corajosos ao Porto. No port was drunk during the writing of this post.


Professor Calculus said...

The solution is simple using quantum mechanics, whereby a physical object, whether an electron or Laser, can not have its position and velocity defined simultaneously precisely but rather is the sum constituent of all possible states, including alternative positions.

Hence you should both tack and not tack and wait until the appropriate moment to collapse the wave function (such as on getting to the line first) confident of simultaneously winning the regatta gold and a Nobel prize!

Professor Radical said...

You should ignore the ill-informed comments of Professor Calculus whose wave state collapse theory no one of intellect takes seriously.

The solution however is simple if you take account of the fact that every decision splits the Universe into parallel multi-verses.

Hence you must find the multi-verse where your tack decision leads to a win and ensure you are in it.

Professor Calculus said...

Bah! Total humbug!

What can you expect from someone who cheats at Croquet!!

Professor Radical said...

Take that back! That's pure slander: I won by three hoops fair and square!

I'll report you to the Senate!

O Docker said...

I've always felt that the people we perceive as geniuses in their fields, whether it's sailing or mathematics or playing the cello, have a certain sixth sense about how to do things that they don't really understand themselves.

It's not like these people started out in midfleet and gradually worked their way up to brilliance through lots of hard work and reading magazine articles.

Most of them started out at the age of seven winning races or fellowships to Harvard or playing with the New York Philharmonic (although not all of those things all at once).

Then some badass magazine asks them to write an article about how they do whatever it is they're famous for and they make up a lot of nonsense and put that in the article, just so they don't have to admit that they don't have any idea what it is that makes them a genius.

I think all that the rest of us can do is find a good bottle of port and use that as consolation the next time we tack right on top of Mr. 53263 and end up looking like an idiot.

pfb360 said...

I read that same article in Sailing World and I must say, it makes a lot of sense, at least in theory.

In practice its a bit tougher when you see the whole fleet going one way and you know you're catching bad air but you still don't want to break away.

Hopefully I can use this to some advantage for these upcoming Wednesday night races...

Baydog said...

What's better with vintage Port, Stilton or Brie de Meaux?

Tillerman said...


Sam Chapin said...

Go with Baird. Get out as soon as you can. But you have to sail fast and do better tacks and better ducking starboard boats.

Post a Comment