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I just want to hug you
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This should be fun. The beautiful thing about sailboat racing is how multi-faceted a challenge it is. It tests the body as well as the mind, and in bringing everything together there's as much art as science, trying to combine proven things like polar diagrams with more tenuous elements like an instant personal local weather forecast and what that untested crew member is likely to do.

How do you win ? I'm going to stick my (wet) finger into the wind and start things off with this list, perhaps in order of importance:

Know weather - the sea breeze, wind around clouds, wind around land features (and on and on...) and the sea (tides & currents)
Know how to sail your boat fast on all points and in all wind strengths
Choose & train / nurture a good team. There'll always be turnover :)
Be skilled in fast running repairs
Organise the team
Keep the bottom polished
Sail on your local waters
Understand the RRS instinctively, and understand how the rules create tactics
Perform manoeuvres (gybes, tacks) efficiently

Small print: I'm nothing special - I guess I'm middle of the pack somewhere. You may not want to give away your secrets, but if you don't, I predict you'll be back in this thread after I start beating you on the course :p
 

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I just want to hug you
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Well, I was right about the fun :)

Here's something I learned on Flying fifteens back in the 80's.

I'd not sailed a spinnaker before - I was involved in flying one in a light-to-medium breeze once before that (using two poles simultaneously...) on a 37-footer, but the Fifteen was when I first got to grips with one. I've always had good concentration, and I'd good experience by then with trimming foresails that fly from a stay.

I got the hang of flying the spinnaker (as crew on that boat you handle both sheet and guy) using both the reaching hook and the stern block. I had a good grasp of trimming it to each puff, but I wasn't quite there yet. One day while we had it up, the skipper said to me, "you know, every time you let the top of the leading edge fold over, we lose a quarter of a length ? A bigger flap's half a length and when it collapses it's a length or more". I learned to watch it like a hawk, and not suppose even the smallest luff of the sail could be ignored.

I've since found that was very astute advice. If the spinnaker trimmer stand on the side deck but looks around at the upcoming mark and the competition while the sail suits itself - even if it's only folding in on itself for a few seconds at a time - other boats will sail past you. Agree ? Disagree ?
 

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Actually, you want a spinnaker curling almost constantly - an "Elvis curl." Otherwise it's strapped and not working as eficiently as possible. The trimmer should be in near constant motion - easing the sheet until the luff curls and trimming in just until it stops, being careful not to overtrim. That will keep the boat fast.
 

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All the tips above are good.

The minimal basics are:

Be on the line at the start, accelerating, and with no one to leeward who can dish dirty air up onto you, nor anyone to windward who can run over you. Keep your air clear for the first 3 minutes of any race, and you're going to have to have either dogs*&t boatspeed or clueless tactics, or a truly cruel unexpected windshift, to finish in the bottom half.

Don't shoot the corners early. When you get too far off the rhumb line, look for a slight header to help you "dig in" back towards the ever-narrowing cone that leads to the windward mark.

Keep your air clear (did I already say this?). Tack on headers, stay on lifts, and try to get a favorable shift for your last tack to the windward mark.

Downwind, do the opposite than upwind. Jibe on lifts, stay on headers.

Stay between a beaten boat and the mark, either upwind or downwind. Downwind is tougher, obviously.

And have good boatspeed. Copy the fast boats to see how.

And good luck. Racing's the best sailing school there is..
 

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Don't forget to hike to keep the boat properly trimmed. It helps win races. Usually, fore and aft trim should allow the knuckle to be in the water 50% of the time. Heel angle is somewhat a function of windspeed and can be found by trial and error or in the polar data if you have it.

Most crews are pretty casual about hiking. Hiking hard in a breeze requires a fairly high fitness level. Look at some of the photos of the better boats in the mags. Those guys do a superman or drooping hike for the full upwind leg. Their butt is not on the deck either. I think it takes about a million sit ups to get to that point.
 
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