Match Racing Moves For Fleet Racers
Match Racing Moves For Fleet Racers
When it comes down to a one-on-one situation, the competitor with the most match-racing savvy will likely come out ahead. "Tactics" from our March 2011 issue.
Tack and Pin (aka “The Soft Slam Dunk”)
The Move You (S) are in front of your opponent (P) and you want to protect the right for a short period of time. In this example, you’re on starboard tack and a few boatlengths off the starboard layline as you cross ahead of P, on port tack. Count to two afer P’s bow passes your stern, then tack. Your goal is to be far enough to windward of P that if P luffs head to wind, she cannot touch your boat. Tacking sooner is called a Slam Dunk, and is very risky for the tacking boat. The Tack and Pin is a less risky option.
When P sees S tack, its goal should be to tack before its bow becomes locked to leeward of S. By waiting until S is close-hauled on port before tacking, P is rewarded with clear air on starboard tack. S, on the other hand, will need to quickly build speed and tack back to avoid overstanding the mark, and retains the Starboard Card for the next crossing situation. Note, if P begins its turn before S is past head to wind, S can pull a Reverse Tack (see above) to stay in phase. If P remains on port tack, its faster speed—S will be slower coming out of the tack—will quickly put P into a position where it cannot tack, and S should be able to hold P on port for as long as needed.
Covering your opponent downwind
On downwind legs, the trailing boat has the advantage. A trailing boat that is within two lengths of an opponent should be able to make the pass. The key is to establish a position that blocks the lead boat’s wind. To determine if you’re on your opponent’s wind, look at its wind indicators (masthead wind indicator, shroud telltales, etc.). Typically, you can only blanket the other boat on one tack. If your opponent’s wind is more than a length ahead of you, don’t chase it. Instead, set up to blanket its wind after the jibe. The best position for this maneuver is a half to a full boatlength to leeward of your opponent’s centerline.
Pass on the left
When you blanket your opponent, you will close the distance, and as you do so, you will need to make a big decision: do you try to pass to its right or to its left (looking downwind)? Passing to its left will give you the Starboard Card. In addition, if the mark to which you are racing is to be left to port, you will gain the powerful inside position.
You are trailing your opponent on a run. You’re both on port tack and you know that at some point the boat ahead will jibe. You must continually assess whether you are in a good position to blanket it, if you jibe simultaneously (called a “Simo Jibe”). If you are on, or to windward of, your opponent’s centerline, you probably won’t be in a position to take its wind afer a Simo Jibe. In that case, when your opponent jibes, cross over and jibe to its left. If you are two to three lengths behind, and to leeward of your opponent’s centerline, you should be able to Simo Jibe and hit its wind, or be close enough to its wind that it will head up in an effort to keep its wind clear; either way you will gain.
Let’s assume you Simo Jibe onto starboard, hit your opponent’s wind, and reduce its lead. Just before you get locked to windward, you need to make your move to get to the left. You have two options, and which one you choose will depend on the wind speed and your distance to windward. You can sail deep (“soak”) and end up to leeward of your opponent, or jibe, sail across its stern for one to two lengths, and then jibe back to its left. Once you are to the left of him or her, with both of you on starboard tack, you’re in control.
The boat ahead must do what it can to ensure that the trailing boat, if it makes a pass, does so to its right. The exception is in a situation where the trailing boat could then sail over the leading boat and make it to the zone of a left-hand leeward mark (port rounding) clear ahead or to the zone of a right-hand leeward mark (starboard rounding) overlapped on the inside. A leading boat on starboard tack must defend its left side. Therefore, whether the trailing boat soaks or jibes, the leading boat needs to match the move instantly to preserve its left-hand position.
You now know enough to be dangerous. If you want to become more proficient in these moves, and learn plenty more, give match racing a try. Most sailors who have tried match racing say it instantly made them more successful fleet racers by sharpening their awareness of boat-on-boat tactics and the rules, their boat handling under pressure, and their critical time and distance calculations in the pre-start and around the course. Plus it’s a lot of fun for the entire crew.