Control the Cross
Control the Cross
Whether you’re on port or starboard tack, the desired outcome of any crossing situation is the same: emerge in control of your destiny. "Tactics" from our April 2012 issue.
The starboard-tack perspective
Strategy A: Starboard wants the left side of the racecourse
The starboard tacker must make his intentions known early and clearly. Allow a port-tacker to cross, and they almost always will. Ask a crewmember to step to leeward and wave them across. Make sure both boats are aware of the plan. This is the ideal scenario for a starboard tacker that wants the left. Simply make a small duck, and sail off according to plan.
Strategy B: Starboard wants to continue left, and keep control of the port-tack boat
There’s a risk in forcing port to tack: a windward boat will always struggle to hold its lane against a leeward boat positioned bow-even or bow-ahead. This choice requires careful analysis of exactly how far starboard needs to continue after the port-tack boat tacks on his leebow. This strategy is best suited when close to the port-tack layline. However, the shorter the distance to the layline, the greater the chance that port will execute a late duck and lock starboard’s course under Rule 16.2.
The key is to make the call early. By bearing away slightly when six boatlengths away, starboard increases the closing speed, which forces the port boat to reassess its time-and-distance calculation and can fluster them into a bad tack. As soon the port boat begins its tack clear to leeward of starboard’s temporarily lower course, starboard should return to its closehauled course and create a lane of clear air in which to continue.
Strategy C: Starboard is looking for an opportunity to tack
The best option for a starboard-tack boat here is to force the port-tack boat to tack and then tack into the lane it once occupied. Hailing “Starboard” is standard practice. Pointing at the port-tacker and then in the direction you want them to sail is generally effective. But refrain from saying “No!” or “Yo!” or “Hey Joe!” as they can be easily misheard as “Go!”
Because starboard’s intention is to tack as soon as port keeps clear, it’s important to discuss the plan with the team before port gets too close. Then, as soon as it’s clear that port is tacking to leeward, the tack can start. Don’t show that you’re going to tack too soon, otherwise port may adjust its strategy.
It’s important to note that while starboard has the advantage and port must keep clear, port can freeze starboard once she starts to duck. Rule 16.2 restricts starboard from changing course while port is on a course to pass astern (ducking) if it means port has to immediately change course to keep clear.
All of these strategies and execution plans seem easy enough when broken down into individual discussion points. The challenge is that all the contingencies are possible every time two boats meet on opposite tacks. If you assess each situation individually, keep in mind your long-term goal for the leg, discuss the other boat’s options, and then make your plan based on each of those contingencies, you can control your own destiny.