Stay With the Wind You Have
Stay With the Wind You Have
There is little justification for strongly favoring one side in conditions other than those listed above. However, in light air one must have the courage to continue in one direction until an advantage is reached; even the wrong side is usually better than the middle. And in big fleets (except in oscillating winds) it rarely pays to tack up the middle; one should usually keep going in one direction until the wind shifts (a little, at least) your way (or two-thirds the way to the layline, if it doesn't).
In ranking these scenarios by certainty, I place the development of a new wind in sixth place, well astern of geographic-determined persistent shifts, marked variations in current velocity, and velocity veers. The former are made near certain by their existence before the race begins and can be relied upon to continue, and a velocity veer has both an associated increase in velocity and a specific time of day to facilitate its recognition. The timing and extent of an invading new wind and the ability of a pre-existing wind to persist near shore are far less exact.
Particularly inexact is the rate of progression of a new wind. Evidence of its imminence may be limited to the diminution-less near the windward shore, farther offshore-of the initial gradient wind. Or the new wind may appear but never invade the course or never reach the mark ahead. Or it may appear, invade the course (two winds simultaneously), and be present at the mark ahead, but not reach your position. Or it may appear, spread rapidly, and sweep the old wind completely away. It is very difficult to determine which scenario will actually transpire; even extensive local knowledge may be insufficient.
Thus, the best recommendation for management is as follows: When at around midday the gradient wind begins to die, sail so as to best utilize its last vestiges. Head for the side of the course that is nearer the shore and keep directly downwind of that shore-in the zone of thermal turbulence-until the new wind actually appears at the surface. When the new wind does appear, try to determine which of the two winds is present (or will be present when you arrive) at the next mark and then head so as to reach that wind as soon as possible.
My error in the management of the first race of the Spring Bowl was failing to stay in the vestiges of the old wind until the new wind had reached the next mark. Had I jibed to port as I began the run and headed left, I would not only have covered the boats astern, but, when the new wind reached the next mark and I was halfway down the leg, I would have been ideally positioned to jibe to starboard and head for it.
In sum, the appearance of a new wind may be a one-side-advantaged condition, but the side on which it appears may not be the advantaged one!
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