Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Parable for Politicians

Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, 

Read this. Some of you already have learned these lessons the hard way. Perhaps this is what gave the Democrats an advantage in passing health care legislation; but then, they have an unfair advantage since they now seem to disproportionally represent those parts of the country that abut major bodies of water.

1) Clear Your airThis is most important when coming off the starting line when you need clear air to help boost you out from the pack and into a good position from which to play the windward leg. Off the starting line, for every 10 boats in clear air, there are another 15-20 in bad air. In large fleets, as few as three boat lengths can separate the top 20 boats, so even the loss of one boat length can be devastating. To recover from third row starts it’s helpful to be armed with a few basic tactics.

A) Anticipate any threats to your clear air. If, for example, you are slowly being squeezed from leeward and rolled over to windward (sandwich), start thinking of ways to “bail out”. You can either tack or reach off. Rarely does it pay to reach off unless you’re at the port end and only have to clear below a few boats. So much windward distance is lost without much increase in boat speed that tacking clear is the preferred move. Even if you cross behind many boats the bad air isn’t as damaging as you think. You get an apparent lift off of everyone’s transoms, and you avoid being pinned to the left side of the fleet.

B) Once you make the decision, take immediate action. There can be no delays at this crucial stage of the race. If you are tacking: take a quick look to windward. Make sure someone else isn’t tacking above you and will be on your air. If you are obstructed from tacking by other boats on your weather quarter, the best recourse is to bear off slightly, whip your boat through a tack and then duck transoms. Try not to take any more tacks until you are clear of the fleet and in good air.

2) Consolidate- 
If you are ahead and to leeward of the fleet and you get headed, tack and cross on top of the fleet (if possible). Otherwise you will not realize a gain on the boats near you. To be greedy here is a costly mistake as the wind gods are rarely cooperative in providing a bigger header (unless, of course, you know it is a persistent shift).

3) Head For The Mark- 
When in doubt about which tack to be on, or when sailing in extremely shift conditions, always assume the best tack is the one which will tack you closest and fastest to the mark

4) Avoid the Corners and Laylines- 
It is important to stay away from the ends of the course or put yourself into a position where you have eliminated your tactical/strategic alternatives. By putting yourself onto the layline early or by shooting into the corner of the course you will not be able to play windshifts. Furthermore, when on a layline early you will lose in both headers and lifts. Also other competitors might wish to come over and tack on your wind, pushing you farther back in the race. (my emphasis)

5) Play the Middle- 
Rule- If one side is favored, play the middle-to-favored side of the course but avoid the corner. To be sure, some boats will make out on “fliers” to the corners, but conservative, race-winning tactics are- play the favored side and slowly but surely whittle away at the lead of the boats out front.
(my emphasis)

6) Stay with the Leaders- 
If you notice a pack of boats slowly breaking away from the fleet and some them are good sailors, do not automatically assume you can separate from them completely and go for the “big Break”. The “Big Break” comes about as often as you are struck by lightening. Respect your competition. Only chase that magical puff if you are confident it will benefit you or you are very far behind.

7) Cross, Tack or Duck? 
In crossing situations ask yourself – Where do I want to go? Am I headed there? Some this written information might be considered by some as being basic. Yes, it is, but even as I type some of this material, I found it useful. Upwind sailing. If it were that easy then everyone would cross the finish line at the same time. But how often while racing, the fleet quickly breaks into groups by the first windward mark. The leaders tend to be the same boats most of the time. Just remember some basic no brainers and lets close the gap on the leaders.

  • Plan your upwind leg before the start
  • Which side of the course has more wind
  • Don’t shoot the corners
    Courtesy of J World Performance Sailing School – The Racing Handbook

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