Waste Time Like a Pro
Waste Time Like a Pro
Use these tips from North U's Bill Gladstone to hit the line right on time, with speed.
Once you're late approaching the start, there's no way to recover. Even if you approach with perfect timing, you're still in danger of being late if anything slows you down. Therefore, your best option is to approach the line early and kill time accordingly.
While most of us are highly skilled at wasting time ashore, many racers could use a little help wasting time around the starting line. Here are a few ways to control your speed and time your approach so you hit the line on time at full speed.
Set up a Runway
In an ideal world, we'd accelerate to the line on a reach then blast off on a closehauled course with room to leeward. In the real world, we rarely have room for a full speed run, so the challenge becomes securing a space in the front row without getting too close to the line.
You need to set yourself up with a runway leading towards the place you want to start. The length of runway you need varies with boat type and wind speed and also depends on your initial speed. If you're stopped, you'll need a longer runway than if you are already moving at half speed.
As you taxi towards your runway on your final approach to the line, you want to be a little early and then kill some time, keeping far enough from the line so as to allow yourself enough room and time to accelerate to full speed by the time the gun goes off.
Kill a Little Time
One obvious way to slow the boat is to luff the sails. Don't turn the bow into the wind; just dump your sheets for a full luff or ease partway for a partial luff. Luffing can be an effective way to kill a little time, but the difficulty is in retrimming. If you call for trim at the instant you want speed, you're already too late. Call for trim early in order to allow both the crew and the boat time to respond. On boats with large, overlapping genoas or big mains, retrimming the sails after luffing can take a particularly long time. Another problem with luffing is that it tends to drag the boat to leeward, giving away space we'd rather preserve for acceleration. Luffing the jib and overtrimming the main is one way to squeeze up, slow down, and build space to leeward. A better option may be forereaching (see below).
One alternative to luffing is overtrimming. When reaching, trimming the sails to closehauled will slow the boat. As opposed to luffing then retrimming, it's much quicker to overtrim then ease (or head up).
A variation on overtrimming is forereaching. From a closehauled course, overtrim and head up above closehauled by about 15 degrees. This will slow the boat and also create a space to leeward for accleration. To accelerate, hike hard, bear off, and ease just past closehauled trim. Easing the main first will allow the jib to help pull the bow down.
Oversteering is another effective way to kill time. Big sweeping turns increase your sailing distance and slow the boat, while sharp turns can slow the boat dramatically. To accelerate from oversteering, ease the sails from closehauled trim (much as you would when coming out of a tack).