Great starts or perfect beats are the stuff that dreams of made of. But when the occasional nightmare start or terrible mark rounding sabatoges your plans, there are ways to salvage a positive outcome. "Tactics" from our May 2011 issue.
Weather Mark: Gains or Losses?
There are other times on the course when you may want to be patient and wait for a better—more rewarding—opportunity. The windward mark, for instance, may be a time in the race where you just have to duck a few boats, overlay the mark, and round with your group. Here, the risk might be too great for trying another route (such as tacking thin on the layline and risking hitting the mark, a competitor, or not fetching it at all).
Many of the same scenarios play out at the weather mark as they do on the starting line. The fleet compresses, and everyone slows down as the boats line up on starboard tack. Unless you’re leading, there’s plenty of bad air, especially if you’re in the starboard-layline parade. Great gains can be made by approaching this group on port before it gets too crowded and then cautiously overlaying the mark so pinching or being blanketed doesn’t slow your final approach.
As with the ducking boats after the start, all the boats on port tack are crossing in a lift. Unlike the start, however, each boat you duck is an absolute place and distance lost, because the boats line up bow-to-stern, instead of perpendicular to the wind, as they are on the starting line. That makes the windward-mark rounding a situation in which you want to establish your position early, before the fleet gets too tightly packed. Setting up two to four lengths above the layline early can save you several boatlengths later, if the fleet gets really crowded and jammed up. It also sets you up for a clear-air exit from the mark.