I and most sailors continue to struggle with how to choose the best side of the course.
Fortunately, it is not Voodoo and an article I located written by hugely accomplished yachtsman, Gary Jobson from Annapolis in the USA goes a long way to demystify this essential planning aspect of any race.
I have copied Gary’s advice below.
- Sailors tend to stay in a group when they are winning. If you see a majority of the fleet heading in one direction, it’s an indication that they are sailing to the favoured side of the course.
- Study the water carefully for more wind, look for dark patches on the water. Study one section of the horizon at a time. Stand up so you have a greater height of eye. Use polarised sunglasses because they help contrast the colour of the water better. Let your eyes blink naturally.
- Watch and observe how the wind affects other boats, even if they are not on your course.
- Look for current shears in tidal areas. Once you pass a shear in the water, immediately analyse whether you are gaining or losing on the boats that have not yet passed the shear.
- Remember, taking a flyer rarely pays off. If you are behind, go for the smaller gain. If you go for the big gain, you risk losing a lot of distance.
- Remember which side of the course was favoured on the first windward leg and then play that side again, both upwind and downwind.
- Keep a note of what happened during the day, patterns often repeat themselves.