The best opportunity to pass a competitor is when you can capitalize on their mistake. So when the opportunity to force a foe into making one presents itself, take it. After all, that is the name of the game, right? In this month’s sequence, we see how one team coughs up its controlling position, puts themselves in a hole, and allows two others to reap the rewards.
In PHOTO 1, two starboard-tack boats are approaching a port tacker, which appears to be making gains as it approaches the finish line from the right-hand side of the course (looking downwind). As the three converge, the leading leeward boat (red and white spinnaker) is about to get rolled by the boat with the blue spinnaker, so they need to decide quickly which jibe is better. If port is the long jibe, or the run is even, they should be jibing immediately to keep their air clear. If starboard is the long jibe, they’ll definitely get rolled, so they’d best slide to leeward to get clear air behind, and hope they can get the boat going again.
In PHOTO 2, we see they take option No. 2. They get rolled, but maintain starboard and leeward advantages. Another benefit of this tactic is pushing the windward boat (blue spinnaker) into the wind shadow of the approaching port tacker. Take any opportunities you get to push your competition into slow moving traffic. Without question, two boats sailing defensively against each other go slower than one sailing alone.
In PHOTOS 3 and 4, the leeward boat makes a colossal error of jibing in dirty air and sloppy conditions, forcing a heinous maneuver onto the crew. All the smart sailing up to this point has now gone to waste. The tactic of holding required they stay in the starboard lane for another minute or two to buy time to jibe in front of the port tacker, forcing the windward boat (blue spinnaker) beyond the line of both boats. If you give up distance to maintain control, stick with the plan.
Things get worse for our friends with the red and white spinnaker in PHOTO 5. Perhaps the afterguard overindulged in the tent the night before and thought it was a good idea to go from a reasonably controlling position to putting themselves between two boats. By jibing, they’ve put themselves in a position where the grey spinnaker can blanket their air, and the blue boat has the leeward advantage, preventing them from sailing lower to escape the grey spinnaker’s wind shadow. They’re meat in the sandwich-not a very happy place.
If you go for a plan, don’t compromise it! Clean air rules.