Racing: Controversial Opinions

“He had bought a large map representing the sea,
   Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
   A map they could all understand.”

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

  • Sail in the ‘NOW’, not the “i planned”, the “it was” or the “it will be”.
  • Sail your own boat, not theirs
  • Get your head OUT OF THE BOAT


Until one has taken people out on a boat command doesn’t really occur to us. The first time I took other people out on my boat something changed. I was now responsible for their safety. I needed to act a bit differently – clearly communicating my intentions for tacks and gybes, Telling them to keep their heads down on maneuvers, giving a safety lecture (put the air mask on yourself before you help others) and other assorted elements i didn’t need to do when sailing alone.

But even when sailing/racing alone you are responsible for your own life. It is essential to take command, no one else on your boat is going to do that. It is necessary.

Racing brings up a special instances where people commanding other boats impact your decisions and you theirs. The need to communicate intentions clearly, early and unequivocally is essential. Take command of your boat, do NOT follow commands from other boats, communicate clearly. Stand up for yourself and state your intentions early, clearly and often – get acknowledgement. Settle differences through protests later.

  • Safety First
  • Command your own boat, unequivocally
  • Communicate clearly and early with other boats through language and steering.
  • Get Acknowledgement
  • Settle differences later – in the protest room if necessary

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
   That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
   And that was to tingle his bell.

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

Starting Strategies.

I haven’t worn a watch to a racing start since 1986. In the Melges nationals i took all the electronics and put them down below, where they couldn’t foul a line or fall off the boat – it’s an unnecessary distraction. When the sponsor noticed there were no instruments on my boat, he got another set and handed them to me. i just went below and handed him the set i wasn’t going to use saying “i don’t need these.” We didn’t put everyone on the rail, sailed one person short and none of us had ever sailed a Melges 24 before. All traditionally losing strategies. Just 2 catamaran racers to helm and 2 crew.

Rather than trying to hit the favored end of the line at speed the instant the gun goes off – the traditional “favored end” strategy that everyone talks about, vie to aim your start in clear air and if possible in a position to control as much of the fleet as possible. You can do that so long as you don’t distract yourself with the wind, the decisions of the race committee or what time it is. Remember you need to beat the OTHER boats in the race, not hit the line on time or where you planned to hit it. “winning the start” is a mythical participation trophy. Only one boat in the fleet can get to that mythical favored position, and chances are that boat will get snarked while doing so. When racing you want to win the finish.

“But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
   And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
   That the ship would not travel due West!”
The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

“It’s ok to change your strategy and change what you do, and change what you always have done, to make time for new things. ‘We’ve always done it this way’ is not a good excuse for changing what makes you happy. Do something different. Every Day. ” Dan Scolnick.

There is a huge and overwhelming consensus when starting that one must be in the best position of the favored end of the starting line on starboard tack. Like pole position in an auto or horse race, it may give an advantage, at times, but it is not necessary to win. I will tell you that the favored end of the starting line, more often than not, has NOTHING to do with how the marks are set or which way the wind is blowing or what time it is. Bet you never heard that before.

Anytime you have several boat vying for the same physical space and time, at the start or a rounding, one could hardly consider that the “favored” position. There is no such thing as a steady wind, in direction, velocity or from one side of a race course to the other. Race committees sometimes get obsessive about setting a “perfect” start line and course and waste incredible amounts of time seeking and setting “A perfect course”, but once the race starts, things shift around and what the entire fleet THOUGHT was the favored end, may well turn out not to be. Of course if no one starts at the unfavored end on port tack, no one would ever know.

I believe the favored end of the course is where the other boats are not. then we can consider what advantages you can derive from where you do actually start.

I would rather be late to the start and be able to control the fleet than have the perfectly timed start at the perfect position and be pinned down from a windward boat aft, who was late to the start and shot the line. Late barging starts are an effective way to get clear air and pin down the entire fleet. Isn’t that what you want at the start?

Most competitors vie for the “favored” end of the starting line. wouldn’t you rather have a favored position at the finish?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
   A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
   When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

In order to pull off a late barging start, first we have to discuss ‘shooting a mark’.

Shooting a mark

Room at the mark

This is a perfect example where to start the negotiation early. you clearly state your intention and call to the boat “you owe me room at the mark. i will take what i need and you will give it to me”. under the new rules if you are not clear astern, you are owed room at the mark. it’s best to bump (gently) the other boat first than to bump the mark. that bump makes the case that you were not clear astern and entitled to room at the mark. the boat not yielding was owes you a 720. if you hit the mark first (and not the other boat) you owe him a 360. So sail your boat, make your intentions clear early (and often).

Port Starbord

Windward / Leeward

there is a standard belief that one boat can not pass another boat to leeward. This is not true.

Beverly HIlls Yacht Club Racing Guide

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