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Tips to help you go faster and get better results

Performance is earned through practice and study

Racing can be a hugely rewarding way to spend a few hours. As in any sport learning the techniques and the steps required to win need practice. If you've found yourself on this page then you've started to change your results already. 

Yes, it’s inevitable that there will often be people on the course who may have that little bit more experience, may know the rules better and have a serious game face. After all only one boat can win each race. 

 

Thankfully, at MSC everyone’s been through where you are and generally most racers will be more than happy to give advice. Whether the advice is consistent or appropriate isn’t always clear.

The below sections will start to give you a feeling to how you can improve your results by working on some of the insights below and getting out on the water to practice.

At most clubs there are generally 5 levels of racer, from those who are consistently top of their class or club events through to those who are at the beginning of their journey. 

 

Top Racers

Good Racers 

Regular Racers

Novices

Beginners 

The higher the sailors performance levels the more they will work on elements that give small percentage gains. But the majority of our club members would see their results improve if they spent time working on their skills. 

The 5 levels of Club Racer

Work out where you stand

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Here are 5 elements that will make the most difference to your results. 

1. STARTING ON TIME

2. THE FIRST AND EVERY BEAT

3. EFFECTIVE MARK ROUNDING

4. FINDING CLEAR BREEZE

5. PLANNING YOUR NEXT MOVE

Aimed at beginners through regular racers here are 5 elements that will make the most difference to your results. 

5 key areas to work on

1. Starting on time
YOUR OBJECTIVE

To start racing within 30 seconds of your start.

Step 1 - Do a little research…

You-tube is a great provider here. We're all pretty busy these days but a bit of online research can be super effective!

Step 2 – carry something with a countdown timer

Race watches aren’t cheap but are a serious piece of kit for any budding racer. Knowing how long you have before your start is crucial. Products like the Optimum watch are generally worn at the club. These count down from 5 mins or 3 mins and will bleep at you when you are close to starting. Other watches are available but these are popular. They allow you to sync down to the next minute if you miss the horn/hooter.

Step 3 – Aim to sail over the line within 30 seconds of the gun

It’s amazing to see but if you can start anywhere near the leading boats it will have a massive impact on your results. You’ll be closer to other boats and the closer you are the better chances you have to overtake before the windward mark.

Step 4 - Watch what the other boats do

In your first few races get yourself on the water so you can see what others are doing. By watching others you’ll get an idea of what to do.

Step 1 -  Don’t get trapped

Sailing away from the line if you are not first then you’ll likely be a bit trapped. As the beat continues boats will separate, if you need to tack away from other boats.

 

Step 2 – Look ahead

Work out where you think you can slot in around the other boats. Getting out of phase with others can be a big win.

 

Step 3 – Look further ahead

The leaders won’t go the wrong way… they are leading as they’ve found the quickest way from the Start to the first mark. If they have sailed to the left, stay left, if they’ve gone right, stay right. Learning where they sail will give you the best pointers to where to go.

 

Step 4 – Flat boat is a fast boat (outside drifting conditions)

In most boats you need to keep the boat upright upwind. Even if this means easing the sails. Get the boat flat and you’ll sail 5-10 degrees higher than most sailors as the foils will work with you rather than against you.

 

The stronger the breeze the more kicker, outhaul and Cunningham you can use to depower the boat. If your boat is heeling too much put more on…

Check out the useful video across the page for useful medium wind sail controls

2. EACH BEAT
YOUR OBJECTIVE

The goal for the first beat is to climb the leader board as high as possible. You can do this by sailing smart. Many sailors at the club end up sailing in bad breeze (dirty wind created from boats ahead) this means you sail low and slow. Breaking out of these can make a huge difference. Clear breeze and a clear channel to sail in is fastest.

3. MARK ROUNDING
YOUR OBJECTIVE

The goal here is to position yourself in the best position to go quickly around the mark to find the best breeze. Learn and research the 3 boat length rule and the imaginary circle around the marks. This will lead to who gets priority and who has to keep clear.

Step 1 -  Plan ahead

Upwind - most first mark roundings are to port (meaning starboard tack is preferred), so don’t get caught left of the mark as you approach unless you know you can make it around without interfering with others.

Reaching – most of the time reaching marks will favour the inside boat if they have an overlap. If no overlap it’s a wide in, smooth rounding and fast out approach. No handbrake turns as this kills speed.

Downwind – assuming there are overlaps the inside boat will likely have priority. However, the key objective is to come in wide and out tight to the breeze. If you drop lower than the mark this is time wasted to recover this distance and likely positions lost.

So work out where you are in relation to the marks

Step 2 – Prepare to be smooth

Windward Mark – Ease the kicker at 3 boat lengths, if you can ease the outhaul and release the Cunningham all the better. This will allow the sail to help you turn.

Reaching mark – make sure you have kicker on and dagger board down.

Leeward mark – make sure everything is back on before you turn up into the mark.

Step 3 – Look behind to make sure you know where you are relative to other boats

Particularly at the leeward mark (bottom mark) If there are lot of boats right behind you don’t panic, sail your course, the other boats have to avoid you as they are overtaking boat. They will know you may not be as skilled and will not try and mess up your race as you’ll mess up theirs if they take that course.

Step 1 -  Get out of everyone’s shadow early

Upwind – during the first beat you can easily be sailing underneath or near someone else. The wind shadow cast by most boats is bigger than people think. So if you find yourself under someone the find a way to tack free. Most sailors don’t want to tack all the time and are happy to sit in a channel and stay there.

 

Reaching – tougher to get out of someone shadow at MSC reaching, so you need to setup ready to sit above other boats. This might mean sailing a little further but you are looking to overtake. If the reach is not long then set into a position to get an inside overlap underneath the boat in front. This will give you the primary position at the mark where you, in most cases, have the priority.

Downwind – this can be where the boat is at its slowest, it is taking wind against the sail to push it along, whereas it acts as a foil upwind and reaching. So ensuring you don’t have someone parked right behind you or even 20m behind you is vital. Break this wind shadow and you’ll race along.

 

Step 2 – Prepare to take a hit for a long term gain

Sometimes finding your clear breeze can mean choosing to sail under someone until they tack. This can be very beneficial especially if you can see the leaders have gone the way you are heading. Especially after the first lap when most of the positions are already pretty sorted. Each lap that goes by will give you input as to where and how to gain more clear breeze. Once the fleet has spread out the amount of clear breeze just increases. Thus making it tougher to find more speed than the boats in front.

Step 3 – Keep looking ahead

Keep eyes and ears open to what’s going on in your class and other classes. If the wind changes then you have a chance to outsmart your competitors.

4. FINDING CLEAR BREEZE
YOUR OBJECTIVE

To find a path to the next mark where the breeze is undisturbed by other boats. Clear, clean breeze is pure, it ensures that you are getting the best from the wind. It will allow you to point high and give you the best start of success.

5. PLANNING YOUR NEXT MOVE / TACTICS
YOUR OBJECTIVE

Think about the next leg and how you will tackle it. It sounds easy but in the heat of racing we often get so engrossed in how this leg is going we fail to prepare to tackle the next leg.

Step 1 -  Start thinking about the next leg when you are ½ way through the current leg

Going Upwind – Start to think about if the next leg is a run or reach. Work out which way others have gone and whether this makes sense.

 

Reaching leg – Is the next leg a gybe or an ease into a run. Prepare the boat ahead of time. Particularly in heavier breezes where you will fast run out of time. Work out if there is a smart way to play the next leg and whether you want to be on the inside or the outside.

 

Downwind – Nearly always the downwind leg will result in this being the most leeward mark and a beat is next. From everything being loose you need everything back in and on. Mentally prepare the path you might take up the beat and see where others are going. IF there is a train of people ahead of you heading into the mark 75% will stay on the ‘harden up beat’ and only a few will tack off. These folks are tacking off to find clear breeze. Do you want clear breeze or to fight for height. Often an easy answer!

Step 2 – Check for weed before the next mark

Weed is a constant pain at MSC we suffer all year from either dying weed or rampant weed. Although we supress the growth it’s impossible to always sail in weed free water. Keep your foils under the water clear. This will mean lifting both the dagger board or pushing the centreboard up into its casing to clear this. Then make sure that the rudder hasn’t taken all of the weed you’ve just released.

Step 3 – Keep looking ahead

Keep eyes and ears open to what’s going on in your class and other classes. If the wind changes then you have a chance to outsmart your competitors.