Sailboat Racing – Just the basics!

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Sailboat Racing – Just the basics!. Presented by John Alonso. Agenda . Keys to Racing Basic Sail Theory Sail Controls Basic Rules and Signals Starting Beating Upwind; passing, meeting Rounding Marks Reaching and Running Finishing Summary. Keys to Racing . Priorities:
Sailboat Racing – Just the basics!

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Sailboat racing just the basics l.jpgSlide 1

Sailboat Racing – Just the basics!

Presented by John Alonso

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  • Keys to Racing

  • Basic Sail Theory

  • Sail Controls

  • Basic Rules and Signals

  • Starting

  • Beating Upwind; passing, meeting

  • Rounding Marks

  • Reaching and Running

  • Finishing

  • Summary

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Keys to Racing

  • Priorities:

  • When beating-stay on the wind; Learn to "feel" the wind.

  • Smooth Transitions (tacking and jibing)

  • Sail Close to Other Boats; Without Getting Nervous

  • Get a good start; clear air and speed.

  • Good Mark Roundings; large gains and losses are made here.

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Basic Sail Theory

  • Sails, contrary to popular belief, are not merely "pushed" along by the wind.

  • The theory of sails; lift and flow

    • Lift is the force which makes the boat move

    • Flow of air over the sails generates that lift. It also generates drag, which slows the boat down.

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Basic Sail Theory

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Basic Sail Theory

  • The sail is the foil driving the boat. In order to maximize the speed of the boat in different conditions, you must change the depth of the foil.

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Basic Sail Theory

  • Proper trim and attack angle are key.

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Sail Controls

  • Wind Indicators

    • Windex

    • Telltales

      • Jib telltales are the most sensitive, accurate

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Sail Controls

  • Outhaul - controls the size of the draft in the bottom 40% of the mainsail.

  • Cunningham - controls the location of the draft. When the cunningham is pulled on, the draft in the sail moves forward. Sighting straight up above the boom, the top batten of the sail should be parallel with the boom.

  • Boom Vang - controls the shape of the mainsail leech. When the vang is pulled on, the leech gets tighter, and when released, the leech gets loose, and "twists" off to leeward. The top batten, as mentioned above, should be approximately parallel with the boom.

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Sail Controls

  • Jib Leads (“blocks” or “cars”) – control the "slot" between the jib and main. This slot should be kept fairly open. The two blocks for the sheets can often be moved forward and back.

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Sail Controls

  • Main Sheet and Jib Sheets - These controls, the most interactive, control the angle at which the wind hits the sail, with respect to the boom.

  • if the angle of attack is too large (the sail is pulled in too tight), the sail will "stall“. (Note: It will look the same, but it won't be working as it should) You can use the telltales on the sail to judge the flow

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Basic Rules and Signals

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Basic Rules and Signals

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Basic Rules and Signals

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Basic Rules and Signals

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Basic Rules and Signals

  • Tack (and windward/leeward) is defined by which side the boom is on





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Basic Rules and Signals

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Example of three starts; Racers, Cruisers, and Capri’s

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Starting –Triangle Course

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Starting –Windward-Leeward Course

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Starting –Olympic Course

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Starting –Random Leg Course

  • Used for distance races

    • Uses fixed marks / navigational aids

    • Courses described in Sailing Instructions

    • First leg will be to windward, typically

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  • Form a Plan and Execute it - Large gains and losses are made at the start. When your boat comes off the line, you want to be in clear air, have good speed, be on the preferred side of the line and course, and be on the right tack.

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  • An inside boat is not entitled to room at a start mark



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  • Watch the signal boat

  • Check your time

  • Gauge your speed

  • Pick a lane

  • Get Clear Air and Have Speed at the Start

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Beating Upwind

  • Keep the Boat Flat!

    • The most important rule for going upwind is to keep the boat as flat as possible.

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Beating Upwind

  • The main emphasis should be on speed.

  • In very light winds there is not enough energy to keep the sails open, so you must use heel the boat slightly to leeward to hold the sails open.

  • When a puff hits your boat you must ease the main sail. It is the crew's job is to keep the mainsail full. It is the skipper’s job to keep the boat flat

  • For the jib, the goal is to make the outside tale flow straight back and the inside tale "lift" occasionally

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Beating Upwind

  • Avoid blanketing and backwinding

    • 3 boat lengths is a good rule

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Beating Upwind

  • Avoid a potential blanketing and/or backwinding situation; use lee bow technique

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Beating Upwind

  • Lifts and Headers

    • Header –

      • a shift which forces you to bear off to keep the sails full. When this happens, you will not be heading as close to the windward mark.

      • If the header is severe enough, you should consider tacking, since those on the other tack are experiencing the same shift, but to them it's a lift.

    • Lift

      • A shift which allows your boat to head up toward the windward mark.

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Beating Upwind

  • Headers

  • Lifts

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Meeting Situations

  • A boat on starboard tack has right of way over a port tack boat


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Passing Situations

  • A boat passing to windward must keep clear of a leeward boat on the same tack. The leeward boat may luff to prevent the pass.

Head up!

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Passing Situations

  • A boat passing to leeward on the same tack must not sail above her proper course

Proper course!

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Rounding Marks

  • Windward Mark –

    • The goal for this rounding is to come into the mark with a full head of steam, and accelerate evenly as you bear off for the next leg.

    • plan to come in about 1/2 to 1 boat length above the layline, to be able to bear off as you approach. As you bear off for the next leg, begin to let the sails out evenly to keep the telltales flowing, but don't let them luff.

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Rounding Marks

  • At a windward mark, a boat on starboard tack has right of way over a port tack boat


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Rounding Marks

  • When rounding a windward mark, an inside boat on the same tack must be given room if overlapped within three boat lengths of the mark


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Rounding Marks

  • Reach Mark

    • The reach mark is also called the jibe mark

    • The objective is to jibe nicely and smoothly and set up for the leeward mark

    • Set your pole if you have one

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Reaching and Running

  • These legs are often the fastest legs because of the increased speed of the boat.

  • Clear air is important. If someone is driving over you on top of your wind, try your best to get away without making too much of a course change

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Rounding Marks

  • Leeward

    • If you have a pole up, plan ahead to take it down.

    • Plan to come in about 1/2 to 1 boat length above the layline, to be able to harden up as round

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Rounding Marks

  • When rounding a leeward mark, an inside boat (if overlapped within three boat lengths of the mark) must always be given room


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  • As you come around the leeward mark or otherwise approach the finish line look to see which side is closest to you.

  • If you're confident you have the speed, once you're about 1 boat length from the finish, “punch it up” or “shoot" the boat straight into the wind. This cuts down the distance you have to travel to finish. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T STALL!!

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  • Before the race

    • Get to boat early

    • Check: gear, clothing, food, water, sunscreen

    • Launch to arrive at the start line at least ½ hour before start

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  • Before the start

    • Find the weather mark

    • Sail up the first beat to determine the favored tack

    • Sail downwind to determine favored jibe

    • Find the line and the favored end

    • Know the course; check the board!

    • Get on the clock

    • Stay close to committee boat

    • Sync with prep flag

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  • Start

    • Get close to favored end but away from pack

    • Make room to maneuver

    • Give at least 30 secs to build speed

    • Adjust all controls for max. speed

    • Hit the line at full speed!

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  • 1st beat

    • Look up the course

    • Look for shifts

    • Look for pressure

    • Look at where fleet is going and try to get between fleet and advantaged side

    • Know where you are on the course and where the mark is

    • Tack on the headers

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  • Weather mark

    • Approach from middle; don’t get to layline too early

    • Big gains possible in last few shifts!

    • Look for holes in parade and/or boats overstood

    • Adjust for reach; cunningham off, vang off 50%, outhaul off 50%

    • Maintain speed in rounding; smooth round using sail and boat trim, minimum rudder

    • Head for clear air

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  • Reach

    • Maintain clear air (don’t let boats drive over!)

    • Ride the waves

    • Concentrate on boat speed

    • Set course and adjust with sail trim, minimum rudder

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  • Reach (jibe) mark

    • Maintain speed in rounding

    • Have pole prepared, if applicable

    • Jibe main

    • Get to course quickly

    • Set Pole

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  • Run

    • Stay on course; steer with sail trim, minimum rudder

    • Maintain clear air

    • Work to stay on the waves

    • Ride pressure down to mark

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  • Leeward mark

    • Avoid laylines until last minute

    • Determine favored tack for next beat

    • Take pole down if applicable

    • Adjust controls for beat

      • Outhaul in

      • Jib car adjustment

      • Cunningham down

      • Vang on

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  • Beat to Finish

    • Find a lane on favored tack

    • Tack on the headers

    • Sail to 1st layline (do not sail past!)

    • Determine favored end

    • Sail to favored end

    • Punch it up at the line

    • Listen for the horn and HAVE A BEER!

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