Skandia Team GBR

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

High or Low or Don't Know

Ok, I'm gonna start with a rant and then go more positive...

Why the hell do we as sailors switch our brains off downwind...? Not all of us but far too many.. work hard up the beat then arses on the side and r-e-s-t....

NO! work harder, make places, close gaps, defend position if you don't then why bother with all that tacking on shifts and watching the burgee and keeping tell-tales streaming etc etc etc..

So.. onto the main point.. you know the reach (sails part the way out...board up..fastest leg of the course)? Well all that might be fun, but in most boats while it is a satisfying leg to sail, relatively speaking there are bugger all passing places and, well its a bit of a waste of time just doing the follow-the-leader type thing until we get round the leward mark and then switch on tactics brain and start trying to get up the fleet... my view is the reach, in a lot of circumstances has a great deal to offer in terms of tactics...if your brave enough..

Lets assume we're doing either an Olympic Triangle or soem other course where the leg before the beat is a reach..

Negative Scenario
Sorry just once more.. you get onto the reach, boats ahead, boats behind.. the boats infront go high.. you go high, the boats behind go high (because of you).. so you've defended your breeze and probably your position... you sail a lovely smooth huge long slow arc to the next mark and you probably loose no places... worst case is that the boat behind gets water (while your broad-reaching/running down to the mark after going so high) or some "jammy-git" goes low and cuts in-front of you at the mark... not too bad not lost much but probably not gained anything.. so you're not any closer to the fron, to being in the chocolates are you?

Positivr - Your at the back of the leading bunch of boats
This is a common scenario and it doesnt have to be the leading bunch, any bunch will work...
So you could go high with them.. staying with them not gaining much and as before you may snmeak water and get a place..
But.. consider this.. you go round the mark and fire off low.. the "pack" are focussed on keeping clear wind and breaking overlaps (going slow), you focus on working the boat (legally), playing the waves, steering an optimum course.. your focussed on the boat (fast).. as long as you go low enough, I think around 15-20 degress lower than the pack, a little low of the rhumb-line (straight line between the two marks your sailing between) and really work hard, and I mean really, keep the sail in the optimum position, use the gusts and what I think is most important use the waves (even if there small) to help push you to the mark...

So what happens then..

1. Well a number of things can happen (hence you need to be brave!)... you may loose out, lets face it this can happen, the pack may stay in breeze more than you and pull out, or the boats behind may catch up.. my experience says that this is very rare, maybe 20% of the time..

2. You loose nothing and gain nothing - BUT you sailed your own race, you can be mentally preparing for the next leg better (no boats in close proximity to disturb you) and will probably do a better mark rounding thean the pack in fron.. so thats not too bad.. this happens a fair percentage of the time, maybe 40% of the time..

3. The last and I guess obvious one is that you make gains, you surf the waves better, stay in clearer air, sail faster, react to gust and shifts better and do a better rounding.. you end up leapfrogging the bunch in fron of you... for you this is fantastic.. for the bunch, well each one of them is thinking oh well its only one boat place i've lost..that's why they keep doing it..they dont think "that could have been me!". Again this happens a fair percentage of the time, maybe 40% of the time..

So be strong, be brave go for it, sail fast and free, but importantly, don't do it blindly.. you'll find people in the flet who always go high or low.. thats not the right approach; this is my view as to when to reach for the sun or go free..

You're in a boat-on-boat scenario with a large gap infront and behind, the guy/gal behind goes high.... Go high, but stay maybe a boat length lower than the "chaser"... come the end you will have sailed less distance faster than them and will make some boat length gains...

You are in a good position, theres a nothing close infron but a big pack below; same as above initially start on the rhumb-line, if they go high then come high but not as much as them, protect but sail as "free and direct" as you can (dont keep looking back either -focus on where you are going)

Your at the back of a big pack with a decent gap behind (or only a couple of boats in striking distance of you) and need/want to make some gains.. go for it low, free, fast..

Your in the pack...oh well, follow-the-leader time... try to coax the pack of boats low, protect your wind and try to gain the overlap on the boat infront...

So to summarise, go low as much as you can... think about what you could loose if it goes wrong.. a few boats or a whole pack and think about the gains..one boat dont bother a whole pack then its worth it...

Remember SFLF - Sail Fast Low Free

I hope tsome of this makes sense and helps..if not then say... if it does then say..if you've got a comment or something to add then say.. participate...

6 comments:

Tim said...

You are right my friend and if I may add, it is even more effective if you are leebowing a current or tidal flow.

Another trick is to vary your course depending on the wind strength; head up in the lulls, bare off in the gusts; the idea is to try and keep the boat speed up as it helps create a faster apparent wind. It doesn't work so well if the wind is abaft of the beam, except in a strong breeze.

Tillerman said...

Good points Ant. The only thing I didn't understand was Tim's comment about leebowing a current. Perhpas you could explain that tip more fully in your blog Tim?

RisingSlowly said...

Just have a drink.
We all make it to port in tand the end.
and get rid of fucking word verification or i will never comment again

RisingSlowly said...

teeeeeeeeee heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Ant said...

OK word verification is off now..sorted

Fuff said...

I find that most concentrate too much on kite trimming downwind and forget about the main.

Oooerr, that sounds a bit serious. Of course this must all be done without spilling the gin and tonic.