Starting Strategy

 

I have copied below, excerpts from an interview with Mike Holt, multiple 505 world champion who is renowned for getting awesome starts and having an uncanny knack of digging himself out if things go wrong during or just after a start.

  1. Describe your overall start strategy

For me, whether it is a line or gate start I am focused on ensuring having a runway to leeward and being at full speed when I start. I then want to be able to climb when I can and foot when I need to. Getting to the next shift in good shape and aiming to control my destiny.

  1. Tell me about your favourite tactical moves you use in the start sequence.

Generally, I will look to impose myself on the boat to windward, I will look for a boat that is a weaker link and use them as a buffer. Basically, invade their personal space.

  1. What are the most common ways competitors get into trouble on the start line?

By being bullied by another boat and ending up without any leeward space. And or being caught too close to the wind with no steerage.

  1. What is the crew’s role in the start sequence?

Feed information and make sure the boat can still move. Talk about time, where there are gaps, who may invade your space and attempting to work out time on distance to the start.

  1. How do you hold your lane off the start line?

The key to this is in making sure you can get to full speed at or before the start. Once racing in a crowded area you have to keep moving between height and speed, too much of one over the other will get you in trouble. Height, height, speed. Repeat until the space around you is acceptable to sail your own race.

  1. If you get baulked or get a far from satisfactory start, what do you do to recover.

It’s important to recognize this quickly and then stop the bleeding. Tack, take sterns and look at your options. Unless you are utterly convinced that left is the way to go, in that case, suck it up and sail fast, Better to go slow the right way than fast the wrong way.

  1. Talk about risk-taking in a start, e.g balance that with the favoured end, clear air, favoured side of the course.

I don’t like taking any risks.

  1. In general and not necessarily related to the start, what’s the single most important thing that a sailor looking to improve should concentrate on?

This is boat dependant and also individually related. For me and sailing performance boats, fitness and the ability to operate the boat at 100% for the entire race.

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