January 23, 2012

Tips From The Top

Here's a quick tip you may not think of when preparing yourself, and your
crew, for getting better starts. It's very easy to practice and will help
improve your starts tremendously. 

Time vs. Distance

How many times have you ended up 15 seconds early, or 10 late, when
approaching your desired spot on the line? And this small amount of time can
spell the difference between a great start and the dreaded second or third

Did you tack too early, didn't accelerate fast enough, couldn't slow down,
etc... These are all very simple things to practice and you don't need a
second boat. Just your crew, a stopwatch, and a buoy or mooring.

1)      Find a "Mark". Locate a buoy or mooring with plenty of navigable
water around it so you can time approaches from all directions and angles. 

2)      Shorten the sequence time. This will enable you to get in more
practice "Starts". I suggest 2-3 minutes.

3)      Now once in sequence, guess your time to the "Mark" and go for it.
This will vary widely depending on distance, do you have to Tack, or Gybe,
etc... Make sure you call out this "guess" of time. Keeps you and the crew
honest. You can even make it a competition to liven things up a bit.

4)      Repeat this exercise with both Tacks and Gybes involved. See how
close you can get to the "guesstimated" time.

5)      Another good exercise for when you find yourself very early is
stopping and reaccelerating the boat. Get the crew to completely ease sheets
and/or hold the boom out, then trim back in and get her going back up to
full speed. Observe what did this do to your relative position to the
"Mark". This maneuver requires a lot of concentration and communication
between he helmsmen and trimmers, but when done efficiently can be a great

In just a short afternoon you'll be amazed how this simple exercise will
improve your starts. The start line is usually a crowded and intense place.
The last thing you need to worry about is if you're guessing your Time vs.
Distance calculation correctly. 

That's it. Good luck and sail fast!

By Scott Poe