Sailing Instructions Checklist

 

There are a number of things that you should check in the sailing instructions even if you don’t get time to thoroughly read them which of course I thoroughly recommend if you want to prepare properly for a race or regatta.

  • The first is determining what penalty system is being used be it one or two turns, yellow flag or retire.
  • Next is the individual recall system, will there be a “hail” of sail numbers or bow numbers if provided, will there be one sound signal for each boat over or one sound signal no matter how many boats are over.
  • In the case of a General Recall, will it be a rolling start and you restart on the next 5-minute signal or will your class go to the end of the class start sequences?
  • Are there any special provisions for the I flag, Z flag or black flag penalties? For example, after a general recall is the one-minute rule automatically in effect, or will the RC fly flag I in accordance with rule 30.1?
  • Has the race committee made any changes or additions to the protest procedure found in rule 61? For example, are you required to notify the RC of your intent to protest when you cross the finish line? Is the filing time limit different than that stated in rule 61.3? 
  • At what time is your warning gun? 
  • What colour shape or flag will be displayed before and at your start?
  • What are the possible courses and how will each of them be signalled? 
  • On which side do you leave the marks? 
  • Will the RC boat signal the compass heading and/or distance to the first mark?
  • Is the committee allowed to shorten the course? (They are unless the SIs say they aren’t.)
  • What is the time limit for each race?
  • If the RC moves a mark, what procedure will they follow, and what will the new mark look like?
  • What constitutes the starting and finishing lines?
  • Are there any other rules you must be sure to follow? For example: Do you have to check in at the RC boat before the start? 

There is no substitute for reading the sailing instructions thoroughly and in fact you should read them a number iof times so that they are indelibly etched in your memory.

In a multi-crewed boat, one crew member should be tasked with reading the sailing instructions and understanding and remembering them.

On the way out to the course the crew member who is responsible for reading the SI’s should pass on the most important parts of the document to the team.

Your Head Must Be Out Of The Boat

Ben Lamb

 

You have to train yourself to use your eyes, and this takes practice – Buddy Melges.

“Get your head out of the boat” is pretty much a universal catch cry of just about any coach who is tasked with helping you to improve your racing results.

This is a skill that must be practised but if you look around the best one design crews, there will always be a crewman whose express job is to continually watch their competitors for strategic positioning, locate marks, look for pressure and watch around the course for shifts.

Once the skill is honed, winning sailors can sail fast whilst looking around. A sailor who is constantly at the front of the fleet will be able to remember tactical and strategic details about a race and will be able to recount them during discussion post-race, things like who was leading at different times, major shifts in both direction and pressure and will be able to relate that to a particular leg of the course.

The main reason they are able to do that is that they had their eyes out of the boat, constantly evaluating where their competitors were, where the next shift was coming from, the location of the next mark and changes in pressure.

A lesser sailor would be constantly watching telltales, adjusting trim, eyes glued to the compass or concentrating on steering thus missing many opportunities that are presented out on the course.

What should you be looking for:

  • Waves, both direction and size.
  • Wind on the water to anticipate shifts and pressure changes.
  • Watch other boats for changes in wind direction and pressure
  • Watch the position of other boats to plan strategy especially when about to cross or approaching marks.
  • Other indicators such as smoke, flags, current at fixed objects or cloud movements:

smoke-picture

Ways to develop your senses so you can keep your head out of the boat:

  • Verbalise the feedback that you are getting from the feel of the tiller
  • Note the sound of the boat as it moves through the water
  • Verbalise the angle of heel e.g. flat, too heeled plus the fore and aft trim.
  • Predict the next wind shift, verbally calling – puff, header, lift or lull.
  • Verbalise whether you are underpowered or overpowered. 

When out training, make small changes whilst looking out of the boat and try to feel the effect, all the time trying to feel when the boat is in the groove. Another good way to develop this feel is to sail with your eyes closed,

Once you are able to sail fast without constantly looking in the boat, at the compass and up at the sails constantly stressing that something is not set perfectly and are able to continuously look around the course you will find your results will continue to improve.

 

Why Sailing the Long Tack First is a Winning Move

The long tack is the one that points your bow closest to the mark and is the one you spend the longest time on when heading upwind to the weather mark.

The long tack takes you towards the centre of the course and the centre of the course is directly downwind of the mark. 

When sailing the long tack first, you still need to be mindful of what the wind is doing but if you are not sure of what the wind will do next it is a rule of thumb that you must use.

The reason it works is that staying centred gives you more options when the wind shifts in either direction.

If you are certain about what will happen with the next shift or puff you can disregard sailing the long tack first. 

The benefits of sailing the long tack first are greatest when:

  • You are uncertain about what the wind will do
  • The longer tack is much longer than the short tack
  • You are either in the early to mid part of the beat. Getting close to lay lines too soon really limits your options but remember as you get close to the mark, tactics and position become more important than the long tack.

How to use this rule of thumb in the context of various conditions:

  • Oscillating Breeze – In a truly oscillating breeze, with regular shifts around an average direction,  sail the shortest distance by sailing the lifted tack as much as possible. 
  • Random Shifts – When you can’t find a pattern to the shifts, sailing the long tack might become your primary strategy. Tack on the large headers, but don’t be a slave to your compass. if you’re not pointed at the mark, think about tacking.
  • One side is advantaged – if due to more wind or a persistent shift, you may end up sailing the short tack first to get to that side. However, once you reach that advantage, continuing further on the short tack becomes much riskier.
  • Light or variable pressure – either connecting the puffs or sailing to the side where there is more wind means that we should ignore the long tack strategy.

When sailing off the wind, the same principle applies, sail the long gybe first but be mindful of the exceptions above as they still apply even though you are travelling downwind.

Reaching Trim and Strategy

In these days of windward leeward courses reaching legs provide a bit of variety but how you sail them is no less important and plenty of gains can be made remembering that many competitors treat these legs as a procession and perhaps relax a bit.

As you bear away around the mark be mindful of what is going on ahead and around you, be careful not to get tangled up with other boats especially those that will try to cart you off the course. The best strategy is simply to ‘push’ the boats ahead of you fast down the reach by following behind them and not threatening their breeze.

The goal is to get both of you farther ahead of the pack behind then worry about passing them later in the race.

If a slow boat is holding you back, try to pass several boat lengths to windward of them, by the time they realize you are about to pass them it is usually difficult or impossible for them to head up. If possible, go for the pass in a puff and if you can get planing first it will be difficult for them to head up and defend.

On a typical reach the leading boats extend because the bulk of the following boats sail an arc which takes them above the rhumb line, they not only sail more distance but then having to sail low which is slower leaving them with not many options in the last part of the leg.

Wherever possible sail as close to the rhumb line as possible bearing off in the puffs and heating up in the lulls.

REACHING SETUP

Ease the jib and for best performance move the lead outboard and forward, keep the halyard firm to hold the draft forward and prevent the back of the sail from becoming too round.

If the lead is not moved as the sheet is eased, then the top of the sail will twist open, spilling power, and the bottom of the sail will hook in toward the boat, creating excess drag.

With the jib trimmed outboard, ease the main, keep the vang tight, and ease the mainsheet or lower the traveller. As the main goes out, heeling forces decrease, and the boat accelerates. As the boom goes out, the vang is critical to control twist.

When overpowered on a reach, easing the vang will spill power, reduce heel, and balance the helm. Use the telltales to fine tune trim, the leech telltales should be flowing. If the sail luffs, then trim in.