THE SECRETS OF A GREAT SAILING START
In sailing, the start is the most critical part of the race. If you can start while sailing at full speed, the bow crossing the start line just as the gun fires, it can put you in great shape for the rest of the race. Let’s look at what it takes to make a good start and how we can make sure we continue to make good starts time after time.
WHY THE SAILING START MATTERS
In cycling, when someone gets in the lead it’s hard for them to break away from the pack because of wind resistance. If you can stay close to the back wheel of your competitor, they’re going to be making a nice hole in the wind as they do all the hard work for you sitting nicely in their slipstream.
In sailing, we don’t like holes in the wind. We like clean, undisturbed wind hitting our sails. Which is why it’s absolutely vital to claim a spot in the front row of a busy start line. If you can get your bow out just a few centimetres further ahead than your competitors, and continue to hold your lane in the first vital second and minutes out of the start line, those few centimetres can convert into hundreds of metres of advantage. The boats that never made it into the front row are already battling with wind that’s been chopped up by the leading bunch.
So, how do we make sure we’re in that front row and claiming the highest quality of wind for our sails?
SAILING START TACTICS
The first time we get on to a busy sailing start line, it can be pretty confusing and maybe even overwhelming. Build up your layers of knowledge gradually. Before you really bring sailing start tactics into play, master the basics. Start back from the line and let others take the best spots to begin with. Observe what’s going on around you and build your confidence to the point where you feel ready to battle for the front row of the grid!
Here are some vital ingredients that go into executing a good sailing start:
– Be as close to the line as possible
– Be sailing as fast as possible as the start gun fires
– Be as close to the favoured end of the line as possible
– Have good space either side of you, especially to leeward
– Make sure your start fits with your bigger course strategy
Let’s look at some ways of achieving those goals.
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FOR A BETTER SAILING START
BE AS CLOSE TO THE LINE AS POSSIBLE
How do we know how close we are to the line? After all, there’s no dotted red line in the water, to tell us if we’re behind or over the start line. One way is to take a ‘transit’. Sail along the extension of the start line and take a sight down the length of the line. When you’ve lined up the committee boat with the pin end buoy, what do you see on the land beyond? That’s your transit.
You can take transits from both ends of the line, provided there is some land to get a fix on. But what if there is no land, nothing to set a transit? This is much harder but persistent practice and experience will begin to give you a sixth sense for how close you are to the start line. Professional sailor Hannah Diamond goes into this in much greater depth in Sailmon’s webinar on Making a Perfect Start.
BE SAILING AS FAST AS POSSIBLE AS THE START GUN FIRES
Different boats take different amounts of time to accelerate from stopped to full speed. Practise your ‘trigger pulls’ multiple times. Time how many seconds it takes to get from a standing start to fully moving. Small dinghies like Optimists or Lasers will be at full speed in a few seconds. Large keelboats can take 20 seconds or more.
BE AS CLOSE TO THE FAVOURED END OF THE LINE AS POSSIBLE
Hannah Diamond talks about this on the webinar. Her favourite way to work out which end of the line is closer to the wind is simply to point her boat directly into the wind. Whichever end of the line the bow of the boat is angling towards is the favoured end.
HAVE GOOD SPACE EITHER SIDE OF YOU, ESPECIALLY TO LEEWARD
You need good space either side of you in the final 10 seconds before the start, particularly space to leeward so that you can bear the boat away on to a close reach, sheet in the sails and then steer up on to the wind as the start gun fires. Practise your slow-speed boat handling, learn how slowly you can hold the boat before the foils stall and lose grip in the water. When they do stall, practise ways of reattaching flow.
MAKE SURE YOUR START FITS WITH YOUR BIGGER COURSE STRATEGY
All very well making a great start as the gun fires, but is your start carrying you in the right direction for your overall race strategy? A big topic that we address in another blog post in the future.
Look out for a lot more ‘go faster’ content coming your way from Sailmon. We’re keen to share more content on various topics that all add up to helping you sail better. Follow us onFacebook,Instagram or subscribe to our newsletter. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on this valuable content! We’re here to make you even better than you are today!
Check out this webinar!
When the clock slowly runs down to zero and the last starting signal is near. You try to claim that ideal starting position in a race, but that doesn't always work out the way you planned. Sounds familiar? To avoid that situation in the future we invite the World Championship Medallist Hannah Diamond for our third webinar in the Sail Better series. Hannah will share all her knowledge on how to improve your start tactics in sailing races. Of course, she is once again joined by our hosts Kalle Coster and Andy Rice for an educational one-hour session.
Check out the preview below or subscribe here for the full recordings