George Cousins is a freelance sailing/race coach and a Sailing Chandlery sponsored sailor. In this series of articles he is covering his Sailing Rules of Thumb walking us through the race course and what you should be trying to do.
In the final article of the series we will discuss how to consolidate your position and ways to self coach.
In the later stages of a race if you are in a good position then consolidate your standing by staying between the fleet and the windward mark. This allows you to work the percentages and it makes it very hard for boats behind to overtake you. In shifty conditions stay between the laylines to capitalise on shifts.
Apply what you have observed from the previous laps of the race. Did the leaders get to the front because of boat speed or was it their strategy on the course.
If the wind is shifting progressively one way, or there is a big disparity in tide across the course then it is likely that the side which paid in the previous races and laps will continue to pay. However be aware that the tide can change mid race! Accordingly have a good sailing watch which allows you to tell the time. Prior to launching make a mental note of what time the tide will turn or bring out laminated tidal atlas extracts if the venue is complicated. Spring tides turn quicker than neaps generally speaking meaning less slack water.
If you are near the back of the fleet then you can afford to take bigger risks compared to the leaders. Remember even if you are at the back to never give up. Keep plugging away and allow those in front to make mistakes. Continue to use your digital sailing compass because tracking the shifts will help in subsequent races.
Self Coaching: After each race do a quick analysis. Did the leaders win because they were faster in terms of boat speed, or was it their tactics and strategy? Which side was favoured up the first and second beats and the downwind? Were there any clues in terms of cloud patterns or local topography which suggested the wind would shift in a particular way. Could your start have been better? Were you aggressive enough on the line and did you get transits and measure line bias which was outlines in the first two articles of this series?
Once these questions have been answered it can inform how you approach races in the future and can act as good motivation for your training by giving you specific things to work on. For example; if your boat speed is good but you are missing shifts then practice sailing with your head out of the boat and invest in a compass. Conversely if you are tracking shifts well but boat speed is poor, then spend some time tuning up prior to races.
Read the previous article in the series - Sailing Rules of Thumb: Rule #5 The Run
Read the other articles in the series, Sailing Rules of Thumb.
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