One tip for beginners is stay close to the line before the start. If the wind goes light you don't get caught 5 minutes from the start. The downside is you are not always moving at speed when you cross but at least you are there at the start. One time we took a couple of practice runs at the line timing so that we would tack 90 secs before start and hit the line with speed. At about 90 secs to the start we tacked and the wind died. As a result we were very late crossing because we were not near the line when the race started.
Another suggestion that helps. Read the Rules! The two single most important are STbd/Port and Windward/Leeward. With an understanding of these basic rules you will be less afraid to be near the line with the other boats at the start and will be with the fleet at the start. Most boats I see that consistently trail at the start do so because they hang back to avoid the scrum prior to the start and are therefore late. Hanging back always makes you late.
The best skippers I know hit the line at speed heading in the right direction. Less experienced skippers are afraid to try this because they might be early with a spinnaker or pole set, etc... Intermediate skippers like to prowl up and down the line and then tack over at the gun. Running down the line on a stbd tack gives you some room for a timing error and then if preferred tack is port tack you can tack at the gun. Is less fast than hitting line at speed on preferred tack but gets you to the line on time. Inexperienced skippers just hang back and are late.
Race more and race often. Bring an experienced racer aboard once in a while and you will learn faster.
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