Spread the Work in the Pre-Start
Spread the Work in the Pre-Start
Another often overlooked assignment is calling out time to the starting line and time to the layline. The bowman can do this, but it's best to have someone further back in the boat helping during the early stages of the prestart. Knowing how long it's going to take to get to the boat or the pin end of the line is a huge help when converging with a group of boats on the opposite tack. If he knows the pack is early for the pin end, for example, the tactician or helmsman can let them sail past and tack on the weather side. This same person can also help with calling the laylines to the ends of the line. If you tack in front of a group of boats making a well timed approach to the pin, but then can't lay the mark, your start is doomed.
The three roles listed above are all related to the start at hand. But it's also important to have a set of eyes on the future-what will happen after the starting gun-to ensure you're on the right place on the line. Make sure your team has a plan as to where you would prefer to start. Even if you have minimal confidence in your plan, making the plan known to the entire team before the 5-minute gun will get everyone on the same page and working toward that goal. During the pre-start, someone on the boat must always be thinking about the big picture. A lot can change during a 5-minute pre-start. The helmsman and tactician might miss the clues because they're so focused on the start. So one set of eyes needs to be looking upwind to see if the game plan needs to the changed. If he or she notices a significant change-a windshift or a marked change in velocity, then the tactician must be informed. The tactician can then decide whether to change the plan. As a tactician, it's always frustrating to work so hard toward a killer start only to find that you're on the wrong side of a huge shift.
What I have described here are basic assignments that should be given out to the crew. The size of your boat will determine how many people there are to do these jobs. On a Laser, you're in charge of all of them, but on a bigger boat, there are enough jobs to keep most everyone busy during the pre-start, especially when you factor in the trimming and grinding that also have to happen at the same time. Make sure the roles on board are evenly spread and clearly defined so there are no questions as to who is doing what. One ancillary benefit of this system is that it keeps more of the crew actively involved in the performance of the boat, which makes the team perform better and the racing more fun for everyone.
Whether fleet racing or match racing (as at the 2009 Congressional Cup, above) it's important
to assign each crewmember a job for the pre-start. Here's how the assignments could be dolled out
for a six-person crew:
Helmsman: Watch bowman for call on whether bow is free to swing. Manage boatspeed with trimmers.
Tactician: Regularly check up the course. Decide whether to confirm or change starting-line position. Help with time to line and laylines.
Trimmers: Trim for maximum speed unless told otherwise.
Mast/pit: Call time to the start, tail jib for jib trimmer.
Bow: Indicate whether bow is free to swing, call distance to line.