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km2x 08-17-2006 12:10 PM

Starting Help
We are racing in a small fleet of 6-7 boats with a wide starting line in which the boats are mostly causal fun racers.

The problem is that we have consisently had problems starting off the line with the fleet usually behind everyone at the start. Could anyone suggest some techniques that we could follow to get us off the line sooner.


mikehoyt 08-18-2006 09:05 AM

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.


Full Tilt 2

2ndimpression 08-24-2006 03:46 PM

We keep close to the line, if it looks like we are going to be early we start doing hard S turns which is pull the tiller hard and bring the boat down 30-40 degree's and then push back up hard moving the boat up 60-80 degree's and then finally pull back moving down again 30-40 degree's (provided you have room). This puts you back on course and kills alot of speed and with luffing your sails it might save you from a early start :)

nolatom 08-25-2006 01:56 PM

With only 7 boats and a wide line, sounds like the problem is just timing, not tactics. To keep it way simple, reach away from the actual line on port for not quite half the remaining time, allow 20 seconds (or whatever, depending on the boat and breeze) to tack, then reach back, luff at about 30 seconds left if you're early, keep on truckin' if you're on time, harden up to close hauled, and go for the gun. Boats that want the buoy/pin end, tack first; those wanting the committee boat end, tack later.

This is the old-fashioned Vanderbilt start. In small fleets, on a big line, it still works as well as it did 130 years ago. Sounds like you have enough room for all boats to be on the line, moving, on time, and in clear air, if they'll pay attention to the clock.

hellosailor 08-25-2006 03:06 PM

If timing and strategy were simple, everyone would win every start.<G> Actually sometimes you will see some marvelous (ahem) starts when five or six large boats all try to be in the exact same place at the exact same time. Marvelous if you're not paying the repair bills!<G>

You might try getting the book by Dave Perry on understanding the racing rules, he goes into far more than just what the rules are. And there's another classic that I can't remember the name of...a comb-bound book that is all about strategies and especially starts...someone Black or Blackstone? (Anyone else remember which one this is?) that's also been out and revised over the past 20 years or so.

There are many strategies, many options, that's why I'd say to get the books and read them in detail.

2ndimpression 08-27-2006 01:58 AM


Originally Posted by hellosailor
Actually sometimes you will see some marvelous (ahem) starts when five or six large boats all try to be in the exact same place at the exact same time. Marvelous if you're not paying the repair bills!<G>

That is a really good point, it also depends how your boat compares to the rest of the fleet. For our boat we are generally faster so if the start line is really cluttered at the favored end and there is not enough room we can duck behind some of the guys and power through their wind shadow on the leeward side. It will put us a little bit lower on the course than the rest but thats when you need to play the shifts and pick up on big lifts ;)

If there are 1 or 2 boats you can't outrun and you are forced to their leeward side get the hell outa there ASAP or your gona get demolished with bad air. Half your race is on that start line.

pbyrnes 10-10-2006 05:26 PM

Hellosailor was probably thinking of Bill Gladstone's North U books -- "Trim" and "Tactics". You can get them by calling your nearest North Sails loft or from most marine retailers on the net (,, westmarine, etc.). You shouldn't have any trouble finding them, but if you do or if you have further questions or want training info, you could call Francine at North Sails; her address is

Francine Wainer
Operations Manager
North U
29 High Field Lane
P.O. Box 1296
Madison, CT 06443
Fax: 203-245-0472
f r a n @ n o r t h u . n o r t h s a i l s . c o m
(take away the extra spaces; I put them in to combat any lurking spambots)

hellosailor 10-10-2006 05:35 PM

Bill Gladstone, YES. Although, his books predate North U, he had self-published a comb-bound book over an inch thick and worth every cent of it, going back 20 years now. I think it is still available, I've seen it advertised online.

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