Simplify Your Tactics


Simplify your tactics – Every sailor has bad days and when debriefing after the days event many competitors realise that if they had not tried to be too fancy, the end result would have been better.


Keep Your Thinking Process Simple –

Sailing as a sport is complicated enough without concentrating on the wrong aspects of a race which in turn leads to missed opportunities.

The winners look at the same variables as you but simply sift through them better.

Some examples –

  1. You have sailed up a work, stayed in the pressure and tacked on every relevant shift. You extended your lead only to sail well past the layline and let those behind you tack inside and beat you to the rounding.

2. At a start your strategy is to go right but a boat on your hip is pinning you down. You          try to out speed them and continue left only to lose the fleet who have tacked off to the      right and have extended away. Trying to beat this one boat was not worth the fight.

3. You battled for the inside at the leeward mark, only to round with the jib half up and the      spinnaker half down. Wouldn’t it have been better to take the spinnaker down earlier          and give up a small amount of distance for an in control rounding?

Ask yourself Two things –

  1. Are you taking risks that aren’t necessary?
  2. Am I doing the right thing now?

Don’t let frustration or anxiety cause you to take risks that aren’t warranted. If the strategy is to go right, get there. If it was correct, it won’t matter that you ducked a couple of boats.


Focus On The Basics –

  • When practicing, work on your boatspeed and two boat training is one of the best ways to tune your boat. There is nothing worse than nailing the start and picking every shift only to be nowhere at the next mark.
  • You must have good, reliable equipment, know how to use it and have a smooth hull finish with the right crew weight for your chosen class.
  • Are your sails from the loft that is the most successful in your fleet?
  • Work out and record the best settings for light and heavy air, flat and bumpy water.

Be a student of the weather, watch the clouds during the race and be aware of tide changes and currents.

  • Get out on the course early to learn the range of the wind shifts and plan a strategy for the racing ahead.

You need a good reason to separate from the fleet –

There are correct reasons to tack away though. Can you make a gain or limit a loss or position yourself to minimise risk? Don’t let laziness or lack of confidence in your crew work keep you from tacking or gybing when the time is right.

The less confident you are the more you should be on the same tack as most of the boats around you. Only if you’re confident that the shift will go your way should you split more. That’s managing the risk.


A simple strategy rule –

Being on the closest tack to the mark doesn’t make it the correct tack all the time.  Many top sailors put a priority on staying away from the laylines until the end of the leg especially when the wind is fairly shifty.

A quick way to confirm this basic strategy is to look for the mark. If it’s within a few degrees of the bow, you have a strong reason to stay put.

If the mark’s over your shoulder, however, you have a strong reason to tack. Generally, the closer tack to the mark carries the smaller risk for failure.