Regatta Basics
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Regatta Sailing Basics


Since the first publishing of the Dummy series and the lessons learned during the first year of large fleet racing in 2000, much water has passed under the bow and much more has been learned. During that series it was stated that there were no qualifications for writing the missives. Now, after six wins and twenty trophies, illumination begins to come from the 39 two-day national events over the last four years. The series had a glimpse at the properties of fleet racing that now have become proven in time to be that of sailing fast. This article is a presentation of those properties that can be used as a goal orientated program, a checklist of process or a segmented improvement program. The article is written with the beginning sailor in mind and those new to the class. Hopefully, this will also benefit those that would like to move up in the scoring at large events.



1.     Physiological

2.     Sailing Fast

3.     Preparation

4.     Planning

5.     Setup

6.     The Regatta, FYI

a.      Matrix

b.     Promotion Relegation

7.     The Start

8.     The First Leg

9.     The First Mark

10. The Rules

11. Your Projected Finishing Position

12. Dragging on the Final Leg

13. The Drive Home




We are not of a sandlot football group. Most are beyond 50 and many are well into retirement. There are certain things and times that will not be good for you at a specific venue, sailing conditions, lighting and distances to marks and lanes of sailing. You can chalk up much of this with getting the body moving in the morning. You may not be able to walk as fast or as far to keep up with the boat in a 12-knot breeze like at Charleston.


Whatever mobility and vision you may have will not be as good as the younger people. They will always have the acuity and reflexes that you once had. Adjust and deal with it and above all, have a good attitude. 

Basics: Operate within yourself. Be conservative where you can be vulnerable. Adjust the spacing between boats on long legs far from the shore, rounding marks and in overlaps.

Sailing Fast

The term is not to make your boat faster. It is your ability to take the boat through the course faster than others. The greater part of this ability is mental, management and putting your boat in a place where it can perform.


It has been demonstrated many times that one individual can take almost any boat and place well. If you are in B fleet, you have a chance to see some of the reasons. Pick one of the general leaders and watch their every move from start to finish; when they tack; how they position for a mark; when do they go on the offensive and when do they defend. Watch over and over and think about it.


There is no real reason, with all the information that is available, that one should have a boat that is not able to perform. How many times have you seen or have had some one suggest, tuning or equipment placement that make a boat go, that did not by the owner. Because we are a sharing group in this class; have tons of construction and tuning photos, articles and club training, that the playing field is pretty level now days. 

Basics: The properties are below, as experience is broad and laced with discipline.


If you are the kind of guy whose planning for a drive from San Francisco to Charleston is putting some stuff and maps in the car the night before and striking out whenever you get up, then maybe rather than sailing in a regatta Saturday morning you should sail with buddies during cocktail hour. Seriously. It would be considered that most in the EC12 class did not wing it through life and responsibility, then why on Saturday morning? In the manner in which you have done things, it is just another day.


Preparation is the involvement of details in the operation of your boat and the rig set-up you intend to use at a regatta. There are often better ways to build a mousetrap but escaping the simplicity of those most common is hardly deniable. Simplicity and reliability are often designed and built in concert. In the EC12 the best general use of a sheeting system is the Ozmun powered swing arm. However, the most popular system is the drum winch with a turning block in the bow. Whatever you have built and installed, it needs to be accessible to repair and inspection and the latter done often. Your sheeting system needs to be simple and with few moving parts.


The most common failures at a regatta are related to batteries. If you have experienced more than one of these in one year, you clearly need to make a change. Wiring of the gear needs to be as simple as you are capable. If you have designed a power and distribution system that is to do all things at once; charge, turn on and off, run all weekend, etc., you are heading for a fall. If you are using NiCD batteries and are not disciplined in their maintenance and charging process, you are headed for a fall. If you have not used a DVM to check your batteries immediately after charge, several hours later and before you put in the boat, you are headed for a fall. You have no idea the state of your batteries. The most common statement on the grassy knoll is. “Well, I charged it last night.”


Lines can break from the shock of a wild gybe but rarely with the use of good Dacron, Spectra or Spiderwire. It is the fraying from continued use or knots that have not been locked with a dab of CA glue. Check all of them, even the halyards, downhauls and all adjusters. If you are using a tension line to hold the bow turning block forward, bring the block aft into the cockpit and check it. It only takes five minutes and if you see any fraying it can be changed in fifteen. Like Wilfred Bremley (sp) says in the TV commercial regarding diabetic maintenance, “Check your blood sugar, and check it often.” A failure of the tension line is the end of the regatta for you. If you do not have an emergency threading line installed, the failure is catastrophic.


Basics: Spend one hour inspecting your boat before Friday night. Freshen your batteries and set out all your support gear. Make repairs and replacements several days ahead of departure so you can think about it.



Traveling 300 miles or more for a social gathering is fine. Those are great at our two-day events. But if you are into improving your regatta score, some thought is needed to where you are going to improve; hence a plan. Therefore, a goal is established in what you would like to achieve and a plan is developed to obtain it. There is no need to get complicated here.


You know from past experience where some of the problems have been that have lead to scoring that you are not happy with. Most cannot correct this at one regatta. While you are stuck in traffic, think about it and take a few notes. Pick one or two of the points to be your focus at the next regatta. A day before the event review in detail what you will do to improve those items and then review again. Do this to reinforce the resolve and that it is foremost in your mind. This process will help you stay focused when the heat is up in the mist of racing.


Follow the plan from the very first time on the water. Do not worry about a lot of other things. It is not a time within this process to pressure yourself for a good start or, “I have to do well in this seeding race.” I can assure you that if you follow a plan, stay focused and relax your scoring will improve. If you track this you will see that it is true. It may not be dramatic but the ride home will be more uplifting than remembrance of horrible incidents in the last two heats that took you from 8th to 14th.


Basics: Do not show up Saturday morning wondering what you are going to do today. Have a plan to improve one thing at every regatta. Think about it and review it often in the days ahead. You are not Superman and Kryptonite is not in a pillbox under your pliers and screwdrivers.



Eat something before you leave for the lake! Give your body a reason to be alive and your brain functioning. It is healthy, makes sense and it gives you a sense of well being. A fast food gut bomb is not the answer. The insulin fall around 1030 will have you wondering if you know how to sail.


Arrive early Saturday morning so you will not be rushed in setting up the boat and visit with others as well. Get all the stuff out and into your camp and methodically go through your routine of set up and tuning. There should be no surprises here if you are prepared. With the exception of one person, I have never seen a late arrival that is rushed and last to meet the call, do well in the first or second heat.


If you do not have a routine to process the boat for racing, you might find re-reading several pages here on the site about this process. On the Electronic Checklist page is a link to The Rig and within  links to Pre-Tuning and On The Water. Much of this has to do with the initial set up for proper alignments and settings leading to a sea trial. If you have not been there before, here is the link to Pre-Tuning. From all this information you can condense it down to a mental checklist process of setting up the boat and checking all the settings that you expect to need for the conditions at the lake. Remember, that the air is light in the morning and generally has increased by ten so, your settings at 0830 need to be a bit conservative for the first heat. Then it is tweaking.


If you have a routine and settings that do not change from one sailing to another, there is no need to go into water before the first heat. Whatever changes are needed from the initial set will be mainly due to changes in wind pressure.


Check all the functions of the radio gear. Did you test your battery with a DVM? Good. Turn it all off and go visit, go to the Skippers Meeting, then to the bathroom and you are ready to roll.


Basics: Eat, arrive early, follow a practiced routine, evaluate the conditions, test your settings and visit.


The Regatta, FYI

The EC12 class has a publicized national schedule posted on the class website. Within that posting are the current results and those of the last two years and email contacts or websites of the regatta hosts. There are around 22 such events, mainly along the eastern seaboard from Stowe, Vermont to Palm Beach Gardens just north of Miami. These are two-day events and one will be the national championship for fleet and match racing over three days.


Why two day events? The largest concentration of active EC12’s are in the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida. At the present time Graham, North Carolina, (outside Burlington) is the center of the EC12 world. From there it is 840 miles to Stowe, 680 miles to Newport, RI, and 740 miles to Palm Beach Gardens. Except for a national there has been no two-day events west of the Alleghenies within 800 miles. A hard days driving can reach these places. Hence, it was found that competitors would make long drives to compete in well organized large fleet events of 20 boats are more. And two-day events made sense for the effort and interest.


With the exception of Charleston, most venues cannot handle more than 12 to 14 boats on the water at one time. Therefore, two racing systems are used to divide the fleet when in excess of these numbers, Promotion Relegation (PR) and the Matrix. It is important to understand these systems as part of your planning and strategies.

Promotion Relegation: This is the most widely used system to create two fleets except on a few occasions where the entries are divided into three fleets. Some call the system Equal Opportunity Racing System (EORS). I will use two fleets here (A and B) as the example.


The Race Committee will divide the fleet in two based on perceived sailing abilities of the entries for seeding heats. Each entry will sail at least twice and the scores are tallied. Lets say there were 24 entries and from this the 10 best low scores will be placed in A fleet. The 14 remaining will be in B fleet. You will be scored for the regatta only by the best finish of your seeding heats.


The reason for the imbalance is the PR system. When B fleet sails a heat the top 4 finishers will be promoted to A fleet. When A fleet sails the bottom 4 finishers will be relegated to B fleet. In this manner you earn what you get and there will be 14 on the water as each fleet sails a heat.


All scoring is completed when the race is complete. The sailing of B fleet and A fleet completes a race. B fleet has the lowest seeds but is given equal opportunity to win a race by sailing first. To have that opportunity you will need to be in the top four finishers to be promoted into the A fleet heat. You get another chance. There are now 14 boats ready for an A fleet heat. When this heat is complete the scores are set for the race, first through 14. Those that were left in B fleet are scored 15 through 24. However, because A fleet is comprised of only 10 boats, positions 11 through 14 are now relegated to B fleet and will sail in the next heat called. Sorry, it is kinda like the carrot and the stick.


A day of racing and the end of the regatta ends with the final sailing of A fleet. As the scores are posted throughout the regatta a competitor can see his position in scoring relative to the fleets. Generally, there is one throw out race for each 8 sailed; however, these considerations are stated in the Sailing Instructions.


What is not liked by some of this system is the emotional highs and lows when promoted or relegated. Additionally, the less experienced captains may never sail against the better captains and learn from the experience. 

Basics of PR: Remember you are scored with the best finish from your seeding heats. If you have a 1 and a 12, ending up in B fleet, you will have a 1 posted for your score. If you are in A fleet you need to have 4 boats behind you at all times so that you will not be relegated to B fleet and have to sail your way to the top again. If you are in B fleet and one of the top 4 boats sailing, do not get into any battles with them. A 1 or a 4 means nothing in the scoring as all of you will be promoted. The mantra is “Cooperate and Graduate.” Try to get a good start and stay there.

The Matrix: This system is more popular in Florida and some parts of Dixie. I have only seen this done with two fleets although a three fleet Matrix could be worked out. Subsequent to the deadline for entries the Race Committee will seed all the entries according to their knowledge of the captain’s skill. They will then assign each captain to a heat through a rotational program that should allow each captain to sail against everyone that is entered at least one. They then will make cards with your name assigned to identify the numbered heats that you will sail in. A flip chart will be attached to a post near the start line to identify the heat that is to be called. When yours are up, you are expected to be in the water ready to race. You may sail every other race or several at a time. Generally, a Matrix is not constructed with more than three heats consecutively.


The Matrix is the rotational assignment and the fairness of all racing against all. Because this is the goal, the Matrix is noted by stopping places for the whole regatta to accomplish this. Every attempt is to be made to make this happen through a range of conditions that could prevent it, like rain or very high winds when sailing is not recommended or safe.


Each heat that you sail is a heat in itself with only the pressures of sailing well. However, you will not know whom the other sailors are till on the water for the start. Each heat will have one or more of the captains that are seeded high and some of the less experience sailors. So, in essence, each heat is a mini-race.


The Matrix allows full racing from the beginning of the regatta to the last heat. It provides a full mix of experience and allow all to sail against some of the better captains, which is not generally the case in the PR system. Sailing is often more relaxed, as the fleet is spread out and traffic less congested. It is a much easier system for the Race Committee to administer and with the use of card all entries know when they are to race.


The system makes it difficult to determine who is really in the lead as considered leaders are mixed through the races and at different times. One of the unfortunate aspects of the Matrix is that placing one or more captains in with easier sailors can rig assignment to races on the cards. Likewise, benevolent Race Directors can, and have, set up the cards toward the end to increase the possibility for one to win a race that usually does not. Moreover, the Race committee needs to have a good knowledge of the captains and hence, biased to the placement. Further, through no fault of the RC, a captain or two can be scheduled by accident favoring one. 

Basics to the Matrix: It is hard to monitor positioning. You should attempt, as a plan to start well but clean and stay out of trouble. Record you scores on the card given you and run an average in your head. Then later in the day check the scoreboard for positions close to you that have sailed the same number of times you have. Your strategy then will be to plan a means to beat those captains when they show up in your numbered heat. The fleet will be spread out and you should find air that is clear. Do not get into battles for one point that may cause you to have three more.

The Start

There is a rule regarding port and starboard crossings. If you are on port during the start dance after the one minute call, you are going to be dead meat, probably last across and with a penalty to boot. Don’t do it unless you are hidden!! There is a rule (about hunting, RRS 16.2) that says that a starboard boat is not allowed to change course to cause a port tacking boat that is keeping clear to immediately change course to remain clear. Okay? Well, during the start, this rule does not apply!!! If you are anywhere near a starboard boat, you can bet your Bippy she will come after you. So, don’t be there!! There is a rule that if both of you are on the same tack (like starboard running for the line) overlapped and you are windward, you will keep clear regardless of the mark, the line or another boat windward of you. You are in a sandwich and expect to get luffed. You will need to do some fast-talking in order to get room to stay clear of the leeward boat. These are the three most violated rules during a start. I can assure if you port tack the fleet on a start (the simplest of all rules to follow) and you hit one or more boats, or cause other collisions than your own, your status in the peer group will suffer smartly not to mention instant verbal abuse. It-is-not-worth-it!!


So, where are you supposed to be? Unless you are Conan the Barbarian with 50 pounds of sword rules on your side, you do not want to be where someone else is, or wants to be, that has one of those swords. It actually is a lot of fun because it is likely to be the most intense part of the heat. It is a job that has to get done and safely executed and will help you to place well up in the fleet at the finish.


You have no doubt noted that most are orbiting outside the starboard mark during the pre-start dance. This is because the tack has rights over port and you are windward to the fleet. The latter here places you slightly ahead of anyone leeward to you but the big thing is that you will have better air. Additionally, a starboard tack windward will allow you to hold off the port tacking of those to your lee so that when you tack to port you will retain that good air. You will have maneuvering room after the starting mark. If you are to cross over the line early, you are near the mark for the re-start. In fact crossing the line early and at speed next to the mark will only delay you less than 10 seconds and with no foul. Never…Ever…Barge the line. It will bring the same abuse and foul like port tacking the fleet. That is why they are all out there at the start.


The drawback to being there at the start is that anyone leeward of you can luff you and slow you down or worse, force you across the line or into the mark. Hunting is allowed during the start and it can get brutal. So, while you are judging your time to the line it is major that you judge the boats around you and vulnerabilities presented to your position. It is better to slide behind an overlapped boat, crossing the line a bit later than having a foul requiring a turn after the start. Even if you choose to be last by the starboard mark, you will be in a better position windward in clear air than buried in the pack with dirty air and no maneuverability.


Do not be intimidated by the gaggle off the starboard mark. They do not want to get into a fuss with you. Get in there and maneuver around but stay clean. It takes practice and your vision will improve with each regatta. Likewise, you will begin to see that the start dance will become more intuitive and anticipated.


Basics: Start clean of fouls, on a starboard tack and windward, in that order. Get out there and practice…practice…practice.


The First Leg

The first thing you do when clear of the line and can see your boat is to breathe and settle down. There are two things to focus on; tacking boats ahead of you and look at the windward mark often. You want to make sure that everyone making that first tack to port sees you. You want to make sure that if you are windward to an overlapped boat that you stay clear and communicate that need to another boat that may be windward to you. The key is not to have a problem here before the fleet starts to spread out a bit.


If you do not have a shoreline to deal with start focusing on the windward mark and start locating what you think will be the initial point for a starboard lay line to the mark. Do this in glances while watching for traffic. Once you can see that point mentally, determine your course to it while keeping to windward of the fleet as much as possible. You want to have a picture of the future and how it will play out. It does not matter what your scoring position is to that mark, it is that you have a strategy to get there.


If you think there will be a group of boats arriving at the mark before you, over stand that lay line a bit so that you can arrive into the four-boat length circle at speed with power. This will give you the maneuvering room and helm to do a run around if they slow or get involved with each other.


Once you are on that lay line keep the boat moving and watch what is going on ahead and think about how it may affect your approach. Protect your rights and communicate that to others that could get involved.


Basics: Settle down, you are not going to win the heat on this leg. Focus toward a strategy to arrive on a starboard tack and with maneuvering room if you can.


Note: Race Committees that set a course for a starboard rounding of the windward mark are creating circumstance for confusion first and collisions second. This opposes a starboard lay line approach and makes all such boats entering the four-boat length circle vulnerable to being hit by port tacking boats or overrun by them when turning for the mark. The analogy is to change the rules at an auto traffic circle from right lane driving to the left lane. Think about it.


The First Mark

This will be the second most intensive event of the heat. How you do here will bear greatly on your position to finish well. It is not a time to make low percentage moves. It is a time to study, assess and act assuredly.


Know the rules here, yesterday. It is not a time to wonder what you can do.

1.  There is a pecking order created by the four-boat length circle. First come, first serve. That is, those that are clear ahead are not to be trifled with by those clear astern.

2.  The inside boat has room rights at the mark over a windward boat that is overlapped with it. If you are the windward boat, you will need to provide that room by moving to the right. If there are other boats to your right then communicate this action well in advance so that you will have room to do so. If this discipline and coordination is not displayed, there will be some nasty business and the captain that saw it coming will do a run around and leave you all behind.

3.  Regardless of whatever rights you may have thought you had upon entering the four-boat length circle are lost if you tack inside that circle but one, starboard. But starboard is all you get and if it is room you need, sorry.

4.  Do not ever dive inside from a position astern in an attempt to blitz past one or more boats. They will slam the door on you and your heat is over. Yes, I know, it has been done cleanly but only when all ahead do not have the helm to maneuver.


All of these contribute to the raft ups that we have seen many times. Start positioning yourself to a point where you have maneuvering room if you see this developing. It is better to arrive with speed and an escape route than it is to be stubborn about your rights. It is not the place to attack. The first mark rounding is a right to passage, get through it and then let the racing begin.


Basics: Enter the four-boat circle on starboard and with an escape route if you can. Communicate and be polite with a “Cooperate and Graduate” attitude. Stop racing.


The Rules

When you are staring at your boat with no vision to the fleet, the rules are not much use to you. To use the rules in your favor you need to follow a “see and be seen,” thought process. It takes some experience to have vision on the course in heavy traffic. It will come. It is also helpful if you have a feel for your boat and then trust that it is fine while you look away. You can learn this with glances and then thinking of what you saw as your eyes move back to your boat. Many will expect you to do the right things regarding the rules and do not want to feel they need to hail every boat nearby. Some will even yield to you when they had rights because it was strategically better to do so. These considerations begin with good vision. Vision and seeing are two different things.


I am going to use just three rules here. If you incorporate the understanding of these, and they are simple, into your vision, your fun and your score will improve.


Port/Starboard, Rule 10

Everyone knows that a port tacking boat is to keep clear of a starboard tacking boat. So, why do we continue to run into each other? Vision and path projection. It should be pounded into your skull every time you think of sailing, when you are not sailing, that you are heading for a confrontation when you are on a port tack in fleet racing. So, reinforce your thinking that you NEED to look around when doing so. Always know what tack you are on. Look at your boat and SAY IT.


Vision gives you the path projection and thusly, an anticipated crossing conflict. Here, there are two things that you should practice in your thoughts; what are you going to do and if you do, what will that effect have on the boat behind the one you are planning to miss? You see it is the second boat that is hit the most often. Trust me!


There is this tendency to point the bow up. The first thing that happens is the boat starts to slow down when you want to go fast. So, to go faster, you foot off a bit and sheet out a click. With this power you can duck the starboard boat with the thought that you have lost little here and run a good chance of beating him on your next starboard tack, as he comes across on port. Hmmm.


But what if you can’t duck because of the second boat or a fleet of them coming on starboard, then a thinking captain will tack away and pick a fight somewhere else. It is likely you saved yourself three or four points by being smart than blood lusting valor.


Windward/Leeward, Rule 11

There is nothing prettier in sailing than two or more boats on the same tack in an overlap with each other. Wow, this is racing! Well, if you are in this group it is not so much fun. It is one of the more disciplined times you will find regardless of your experience. And, if you are windward to one or more boats, you are likely to be attacked. You are in a world of hurt with little to do about it if you are in the middle.


There is an article somewhere on this site called “Fleet Racing the Fleet.” It is about the attitude one can have in these situations. There is a tendency to forget you are in a fleet race and start racing this one boat. If you are reading this to improve your mental state in fleet racing, think about this if you are windward:

You do not want to get into a fight with this boat. She has a sword and you have a stick. The leeward boat does not want you there. Period! She will not attack you if she is pointing higher than you. The gap between you will start to close and you will need to do something in a hurry, one thing, get out of there.If he attacks you, your boat speed will suffer as you come up to stay clear. If you allow her to get too close, your ability to maneuver will suffer because each time you try to turn away your stern will rush toward her. If the two of you touch, you will do the turns.


Do you get the point? The very second you see a windward overlap developing you must determine if you can point with the leeward boat. Be quick about it. If you can then you may be able to wear her down. She will loose speed in an attack while she is already not getting the best air. If you cannot point with her then tack and carry the fight to the next tack. If you cannot tack, because of traffic, ease the sails till astern and attack from there. This is one of those times that knowing your competitor is golden.

What is the moral to this: Better to loose one point than also to all those over your lee stern when you do the penalty turn.


Room at the Mark, Rule 18.2

Rule 18 is long and thought to be complicated. It is not. Let me tell you what is not a big secret: If you are not the inside boat within the four-boat length circle, go around whatever is in front of you. You will gain positions. It is that simple.


If you are the first boat of a group into the four-boat circle and are the inside boat, you are in Fat City. If you are one, or fifty boats windward, you have a problem. If you are in the middle of this windward group, you are in serious danger.


Where does this first occur? The windward mark after the start, baby. The results of that rounding will be in the records books at the end of the heat. Read the above section again. This is the world’s worst place to pick a fight.


Three rules made simple. You are port or starboard, windward or leeward, or inside or not. You know which ones have rights. You do not need to know all the finer details of any rule; these are the ones that will kill you while at the same time save you points at the end of the day.


Basics: Think with vision. Know when you do not have rights. Be decisive. If any of these are a problem, get out of the way.


Added note again for the Windward Mark and the Rules:

Most Race Directors set up a course for port roundings, NASCAR style. If a mark is to the starboard side of the course being sailed, there is a tendency that most will want to approach the mark on a port tack. If you are on a short starboard tack for the rounding, be extremely careful and look well ahead. Communicate your arrival but do not push the issue even though you have rights. You do not want to be dead right.


Occasionally, a windward mark will be set for a starboard rounding. It should not be except in unavoidable circumstances. These marks are most often better approached on a port tack. However, one must be aware and very careful for starboard tacking boats arriving for a rounding. The starboard boat still carries the rights and will be making the hardest turn through more degrees of turn. That will slow the boat over those close by and on port tacks. The port tacking boats must stay clear on the tack and especially not overrun the boat that is rounding. Marks set for this rounding are the most dangerous to navigate in any regatta.


Because we are all sailing buddies there is one more thing to guard against. There is nothing that will drive a captain up the wall more than getting run over from astern when he is rounding a mark. Besides vision, there are many things that can be done to avoid this indecency; much of which you do not want to do like turning inside the mark. If you are about to violate a buddy, suck it up and act. He will think the world of you.



Your Projected Finishing Position

There is a chance for relax when you are out into open water on the downwind leg. You have been through the fright of a start, dodged tacking boats to windward and survived the first rounding. If you were on the line at the start near the bell and broke away from the majority you will now be near the front of the fleet. You now have a chance to look around and assess your position. If you are not in a pack your finishing position can be estimated. This is not a goal but a determination. You have done well to get to the position and should not allow poor judgment to have anything less. You want to hold what you have and take that which is given.


This position is likely to have you in the best air since the start and better a chance to tactically move with your thoughts. This may allow you to move in on a boat ahead will pondering where you may be able to pass her. At the same time watch over your stern so you can counter the moves of any that start to close on you. You are likely to be in a good position relative to others and with more options available.


The first priority is to cover your six. Do not let a boat overtake you from astern because you did not maintain a tactical position over her. Counter any moves that you would see as threatening. If you can maintain a windward position on your opponent, meaning the separation between you, then tack when she tacks so that you can be in close contact along a line of the wind. This is called covering. You will hopefully be in clear air and your opponent will hopefully get disturbed air from you. The rule of thumb is that if you are windward and very near to the line of the wind that will pass near the other boat, you are ahead. And if you can continue that position on the leg you will round the mark sooner and set up the drama all over again. You are in control. If you separate from contact, moving to another side of the course, all sorts of things can happen, as the two of you are no longer in the same sailing environment. You have lost control.


If the boat astern closes on you despite your efforts then you are close to losing this fight. It is likely that the other boat can out point you or steer more smoothly. Now you will be in very close contact and windward. Did you read about that? Okay. Give up the position without making a confrontational mistake and incur a penalty.


Your second priority is to be lurking. Watch what goes on ahead on the course for opportunities to move up. If you are not under attack from astern, test the boat ahead to see if they will cover you. You may be able to reach the starboard lay line to the mark sooner and then interfere with the windward boat when they try to do the same. What you want to attempt is a tactical move that will put you in control for the mark. Then you can set up the drama above to your advantage.


Watch for confrontations ahead of you. While they are engaged you may be able to out maneuver them when there are not watching you or have slowed by their own efforts.


If you are close astern at the mark, and it is a standoff mark rounding, power up for the outer mark. If she tacks at the mark, bear away with full power. If she tacks to cover this move, tack immediately so that you can fill your sails on starboard and the position will have been won. If the opponent bears away, go with her and see if you can point so they cannot tack at will. That puts you in control so that you can tack on the offensive and your opponent will be on the defense. If this is the last windward beat to the finish you are likely to win the position at the line.


Remember this though; if you are in fifth, the captain in four is no dummy and these cutesy little tricks may not work. The third priority is not to make a dumb mistake and draw a penalty. You had fifth in the bag; you don’t want 7th or 8th.


Basics: Breathe, relax and be smart. You have survived the hardest part of the heat.


Dragging on the Final Leg

There are few times in racing that you can really enjoy the sailing of your boat. This is generally on the final leg. The traffic is light and only occasionally will you be contesting a position. Let the main out one more bump on the stick and open up the slot on the jib. Let her power up and run. Shorten up the lay lines to stay within the course, tack smoothly, ease up again to accelerate then let her run. This is fun.


Okay, where are the other guys? There are two or three tacks on the last leg. If you are powered up and there is one closing from astern don’t try to escape. Any defensive efforts will slow you down. Keep in a control position and drag the other boat around behind you, tacking where you want and when you want. It may appear that she is closing but she may also be slowing a bit to reach up the course and point. Time is on your side. Most boats passed on the last leg is because a mistake was made. The captain left what was tried and true, lost control and the other boat had position to head up at the finish to win the position. In short there was panic.


You can test the nerve of one ahead of you. Because most will cover you can drag them from behind. Take them to the edge and let them tack first and when you follow, foot off a bit to power up and run straight at her in an attempt to close astern and slightly windward for the final run to the line. From there you may be able to head up and nip the line first.


Whatever, you do on this last leg do not to make a penalty mistake. Do not get your blood up for a fight and loose the sensibilities that got you here. It is the reverse of panic but the results are often the same. A good contest on the final leg is enjoyable and remembered for the fun more than the finishing position. It is like a birdie on the last hole regardless of the score. 

Basics: Do what you have been doing best. Stay in control and out of mistakes. Enjoy the ride.

The Drive Home

Turning up Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” may wake you up. It is time to reflect and review the regatta and your performance. Now is the time while it is fresh. Don’t just concentrate on the mistakes but what you did well. What you did well was what you did not do in the mistakes. Pick something you would like to change and pound it in so you will not forget it. If there was a boat handling issue you felt weak about, like the tacking maneuver or playing with the jib trim, think about when you could go out alone and work on that. Repetitive actions alone become reflex.


If I was sitting in Carter’s solarium in Sun City sipping on a Mint Julep and saw McInerney across the lake sitting in a swing chair sailing his boat back and forth, I would not rush over to talk with him. There is a man working on something and he is not thinking of his golf swing. 

Basics: Learn and correct.

Sailing fast is knowing the game and yourself