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How to not come last

First thing is don't be put off - get out there and do some races. The more you do, the more chances of not coming last!

Our more experienced racers have a duty (and are committed) to support and encourage others. That does not mean you can ignore the basic rules and plead ignorance. However, if you are slightly in the wrong they will help you and put you right!

The Basics:

To win a race / beat a competitor, you need to sail faster than everyone else (them) and then sail the shortest distance round the course - the person who sails fastest and the shortest distance will win.

The first mark will normally be laid directly to windward of the start line, meaning your first leg is into the wind (Beating)

  • Get a good start. So many people lose a minute or so by being too far back from the line. Here is a good tactic to start
    • It is safest to start at the right-hand end of the line on a starboard tack (wind coming over the starboard side of the boat). Starboard boats have right of way in many (but not all) situations - read the Basic Rules of the Road section for more details
    • You will probably be behind the best starters and in the turbulent airs off the back of their sails - this is not a great place to be - so as soon as you are past the Transit buoy (each end of the line) then tack away onto port. DO NOT follow all the other boats in their dirty wind - you will just sail slowly.
    • When you get to clear air, the lay line, or close to the bank (your decision), then tack back onto Starboard Tack and sail back towards the mark. You may have to do this "Zig-Zag" manoeuvre several times - this is know as "Beating to wind"
  • When you get round an upwind mark onto a run or reach, let off your outhaul and lift your centre board partially
  • When you go round a downwind mark of the course and onto the beating upwind leg of the course, think and prepare well in advance. You need a list of things to do and sort
    • put your centre board down
    • pull your outhaul back on
    • oh, and don't go round the mark too fast, especially in heavy wind - aim for a smooth gentle rounding

Sailing Faster

  • Fiddling with sails. Generally don't worry too much. But if you have the time to think about this two things
    • Outhaul off/loose on reach/run; Outhaul on hard for a beat
    • Learn to adjust your kicker. If you pull it on it tightens the back edge of the sail. Too loose and the wind spills out, too tight and it is hooked back on itself and stalling. The idea in setting the kicker is so that the back edge of the sail is roughly parallel with your boom. Have a play with the kicker and see what happens.
  • Keep the boat flat. The good sailors will be keeping their boat flat on a beat.
    • It's better to loosen the main a bit and keep flat and feel you have some speed than to sail heeled over. This is where the downhaul/Cunningham comes in to play on a beat. If you are struggling to keep the boat flat on the beat, then pull that down as hard as possible to depower the main.

Sailing Shorter

  • Spot the wind shifts. This is getting a bit advanced. But as you get better you will notice the wind changing direction on a beat.
    • If you find after 15-20 seconds the wind shift is making you sail away from the mark you are heading for too much, put a tack in.
  • Lay Lines - this is the line between where you are and the next mark. Understanding lay lines and getting them right are key to sailing the shortest distance
    • Upwind you can't sail directly into the wind, but you can sail at an angle of 45o off the wind. This means that if you are sat on the windward side of the boat, then you will directly make the mark (on the next tack) if the mark is behind your back (i.e. perpendicular to the centre line of the boat). Tack before this and you'll have to tack again to make the mark. Tack after this point and you'll sail further than you have to increasing the distance you have to sail round the course.
    • Off the wind - The shortest distance between two objects is a straight line so spot the next mark (as you approach the current mark) and once round the mark head directly to the next mark.

If in doubt - ASK

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