To Lose A Sailboat Race
by Earl Schnur, USWA Representative
to the WIC
(ed. note: What
you should only do if you want to lose the race is shown in italics.
The winner’s approach is shown in regular ‘print’.)
1. Do not find which end
is favoured. Give the other boats a two or three boat length lead at the
To find the favoured end, sail on a reach
to the pin end of the line and head straight to windward outside the pin.
While sitting head to wind, sight across the pin toward the committee boat.
If the boat is forward of abeam, the boat end is favored.
2. Do not hoist the spinnaker
before the start to make sure it is rigged properly. You were embarrassed
to beat everyone to the first mark anyway and you want them to drive over
you on the first reach so that you can try to play catch up.
Run the spi up and down at least once before
the start. Then store it on the port side so that you can fly it on the
first reach of a buoys to port course with no twisted lines, missing pole,
3. Do not time the line.
You may be forced onto the line early and
have to reach down the line. If you do not have enough space to reach down
the line, you will have to jibe around and go off on port below the whole
fleet. Instant last! Sail from the committee boat to the pin, noting the
time required. This will usually not change during the starting sequence.
4. Wander away from the line
in light air. It may take you two or three minutes to get back to the line
if there is no breeze. By now the rest of the boats are gone.
In light weather, never be more than 50
feet or so from the line, preferably close to the favoured end. Be luffing
in the right area with about one minute to go. No one can move you if you
are not moving very fast and on starboard tack near head to wind.
5. Do not know how long it
takes to get from where you are to the line. Guarantee that you will be
early or late.
Get a feel for how fast your boat accelerates
from a luffing condition and know how long it will take to get to the line
from where you are luffing. You can practice this at the committee boat
early in the pre-start manoeuvres. Many good sailors hold such a position
and accelerate to the line with just 5 seconds left.
6. Start at the port end
of the line on starboard tack. If the fleet is headed after the start,
you are ahead but sailing in the wrong direction and will get to tack last.
If the fleet is lifted, the rest of the fleet is ahead of you.
Find a way to start somewhere in the right-hand
25% of the fleet. This will allow you some freedom to move up the centre
of the course.
7. Be going slowly as you cross
the line. Give everyone else a nice feeling while they grind over you as
they cross the line. Instant second row start. Eat bad air for half the
Make sure your boat is moving at or near
top speed as you come across the line. Luff up before the start to get
some room below you so that you can reach off a bit to get some speed up.
Go for speed over pointing at the start. Once it is safe to do so, you
can shift into pointing mode.
1. Stay on starboard and go left.
Guarantee that every boat you meet after you tack back will have the right
of way. Three or four ducked transoms and you are now three of four boat
lengths behind the leaders.
Tack to port when the wind is right and
the opportunity presents itself. If everything else is equal, favour the
right side of the course. When you meet boats as you come back into the
middle, you can force them left or tack on top of them. Either way, the
odds are in your favour.
2. Take the short tack first and
get onto the layline really early. That way, any lift will have you reaching
and going faster than the rest of the fleet. Of course, they will have
much less distance to sail, but so what?
Take the long tack first (the tack that
is at significantly less than 45º to the mark). This guarantees you
a benefit from any shift over the boats already on the lay line.
3. Sail right to the lay line.
Make sure that any boat not yet at the layline gets the advantage from
any windshift. If you are on the lay line early, a lift has you reaching
for the mark and you will be sailing a longer distance that the rest of
the boats. A header allows the inside boats to tack and still sail a shorter
course than you.
Stay near the rhumb line and do not go out
to the lay line until late in the beat. This gives you freedom to play
the shifts and sail the shortest course.
4. Underlay the windward mark on
your final approach to it. Be forced to take one more tack onto port with
a host of starboard boats coming up. Get a chance to lose four or five
boats because of greed.
Give yourself some leeway at the mark. Hitting
the mark is a fine way to spoil your day.
1. Do not look around. Just set
the spinnaker immediately. Let the rest of the boats go up to windward
and blanket you. While they roar off toward the jibe mark, you lose some
more because now it turns out the reach was too tight for a spinnaker.
Reach up to windward a bit and get a fix
on the next mark. Allow no one to go by to windward of you. Set the spinnaker
in slow motion so that it actually happens fast. Go down with the puffs
to stay in them longer, and up in the light spots to reach the next puff
2. Make sure you are the
outside boat going around the jibe mark. That way you can watch all the
inside boats jibe before you. Note how well they make their boats go in
clear air while your telltales revolve like beanie spinners in their wind
Get inside as you near the jibe mark, even
if you have to slow down. This way you will start the second reach with
clear air that will keep you in the race and in control of your strategy.
3. Make sure you mess up
the spinnaker jibe. The trailing boats will appreciate the boat lengths
this costs you.
Work hard at perfecting your spinnaker jibes.
At the very least, make sure the spi ends up on the new leeward side of
the boat after the jibe and get the main and jib drawing immediately after
the jibe. As at the start of reach #1, do not let them pass you to windward.
If necessary let the spinnaker hang to leeward with the guy pre-cleated
while you and your crew fight off those who would steal your wind. Once
this is settled, get the pole on and spinnaker away!
1. Do not clear the halyard
or take the spinnaker down a bit early. A little excitement with a fouled
spinnaker at the mark is just what you need to make the pizza taste better
on the way home!
Clear the halyard and get the spinnaker
into the boat a bit early so that you can concentrate on tactics at the
2. Make sure you round wide
so that the hot shot following you has room to round up inside you and
sail a little higher and a little faster. You'll enjoy lying awake for
a few hours with a knot in your stomach, wondering why you did not think
ahead a bit.
Avoid tacking for a while after rounding
the mark even if you have to eat some bad air. Wait until you get up to
speed and until your tack will put you into clean air.
1. Forget about the rest
of the fleet. You know where the wind will be. And you do not like to mix
it up anyway. It is always fun to watch the boats that were behind you
ride up a lift on the other side of the course while you hobby horse in
the power boat swells.
Keep a loose cover on your competition.
A win by four seconds counts just as much as one by four minutes. They
cannot pass you if you stay between them and the windward mark - unless
they are better sailors in which case they will pass you anyway!
1. Break out a can of soda, sit
on the transom and enjoy life. No race is ever won on a run anyway. Watch
the sharp boats ride down the streaks and pass you on both sides!
Pay attention to the wind streaks on the
water. You will go much faster if you can find and stay in one. If it lightens
up, look for another streak and reach over to it. Then run down with it.
Sail smart on the runs and soon everyone will be telling you how fast your
boat is down wind.
1. Do not cover anyone since
you are way ahead. You have the race won since no one has been able to
match your upwind speed all day. Think a lot about that fact as they are
handing out the hardware to the two boats that caught you because you did
It is even more important to cover on the
last beat because you can make the following boats do desperate things
since there is no tomorrow.
2. Do not figure out which end
of the finish line is favoured. Who cares? As you zip along the finish
line on starboard, you make three port tackers bear off to go behind you.
Compared to a thrill such as that, what does it matter that they all finished
before you did because you were sailing along the line while they crossed
Decide which end of the line is favoured
early enough to go there by the shortest possible route. Nothing else matters
(as long as you do not foul anyone in the process).
Earl Schnur USWA Chief Measurer and WIC
March 1995 Whiffle & UKWA News #77/Spring