April 17, 2018 Practice Debrief

We had a great discussion on starting two weeks ago. We talked about pre-start routines, controlling your speed approaching the start, and about starting strategies and protecting your hole. We also looked at a little animation on rabbit starts. More detail on all of this below, as well as our plan for this week (tomorrow, Tuesday April 1, 2018).

Tomorrow we’ll once again be on the white-board and using the projector to break down some upwind maneuvers, some drills we’ll do on the water, and some downwind strategy and tactics. We’ll talk about roll tacks and roll gybes, steering with sails and weight, follow the leader, ultimate sailing, and sumo sailing, and about passing lanes and reaching vs. winging strategy downwind.

Two weeks ago, we talked a lot about starts. We talked about having a routine for between the dock and the race-course, and specifically for working right around the starting area. Run the line to get a sense of the time/distance/speed for the day. Find the laylines to the boat and pin in order to get oriented on the course. And figure out which end of the line is favored. This may be before or after you practice some tacks, gybes and other maneuvers with your crew to warm up.

We also discussed different starting strategies. One involved timing your way away from and then back to the line. Another suggested you come in from the port end and find a hole on the line to set up in. No matter what, we suggested that being able to control your speed was really important. This doesn’t always mean stopping, but might require you to sail slowly, or sail higher than normal. It might even mean aggressive use of the rudder to slow your boat and also to sail extra distance. In almost all cases, it meant luffing your jib to slow, and usually trimming your main to maintain height and steerage. This week we’ll talk a little about when you might trim your jib and luff your main during the sequence, as we get into steering with sails and weight.

Lastly, we discussed rabbit starts, which require many of the same maneuvers to control your speed, but ask for a different kind of geometrical judgement. In a rabbit start, a port boat rounds a leeward mark, and sails close-hauled. Other boats start by passing between the “rabbit” and the buoy by ducking the port boat. You can see an animation of one here. In addition to positioning ourselves to start correctly without barging, the rabbit start also asks us to guestimate where the rabbit will be headed as she leaves the leeward mark, and draw a reverse layline in our head. This is a useful skill for leeward mark roundings, for judging whether someone is ahead of you (ladder rungs), and for practicing ducking, in addition to helping us practice our starting slow//hold/accelerate maneuvers and strategies.