The Windemon Project: Jibe-Setting in a Large Fleet

The first in a series of questions and responses between America's Cup vet Tony Rey and the SW's Coaching Contest winners Dave and Debbie Clasen.

Editor's note: Dave and Debbie Clasen and the crew of Windemon won the SW Coaching Contest in which they received two free days of coaching from Tony Rey. For more on the contest, see the Windemon article at right. Dave: As you know, we sail in a large fleet. As a result, weather mark roundings are frequently congested, and therefore jibe setting can put us right into the disturbed air of the starboard layline parade. We even experienced this situation last weekend during our second weather mark rounding. But, the wind had gone right, and we really wanted that side of the course. Any thoughts? Tony: The right time to jibe set is determined by how bad you think the disturbance will be on the top-right side of the course. If you are in the lead pack, then there will be more bad air to jibe through. You need a really good reason to sail back through that mess. If you are deep in the fleet, it will be relatively clean to jibe right away. However, the jibe set becomes more risky when the wind is light, because not only are you sailing through bad air, but also disturbed water (which can sometimes be worse). I generally stay away from jibe-sets unless I am laying the leeward mark with a quick jibe, and the initial pain of bad air and disturbed water is worth it. However, a really nice move to have ready is the 'quick jibe'. Often the decision of when to jibe can only be made in the moment (depending on exactly where the cleanest lane will be behind, and what the boat in front of you does), and you want to be ready to either hold on starboard, or jibe. The quick jibe is when the boat is setup for a standard bear away set, but the helm just turns the boat into a slow jibe, the kite is rotated around, and the pole is tripped away. Your trimmer and pit person need to be ready for this. At this point, the bow team is probably focused on getting the jib down, so it may be a while until you have a pole set on the new jibe. After the jibe, be sure someone is delegated as 'human pole' to hold the afterguy outboard at the shrouds, until the bow team catches up with the pole. On a larger boat, with a tactician who isn't busy holding rope, he can run forward and do this job. Now you are off on port jibe, headed the direction you want to go. This typically puts you 2-3 boatlengths further down the track than an immediate jibe set, which can often be enough to get you down into a cleaner lane. This is a powerful move worth practicing. Dave: What do you think about those layline angle stickers for the deck? I/we have never had an issue with calling laylines "by eye", but I notice that some good boats have the stickers. Do you feel that the stickers are helpful? Or, do you feel that a good tactician can do a better job of factoring in all the necessary inputs without using the stickers (or other marks on the deck)? Tony: Great question. Typically, people who race their boats a lot are comfortable using the trusty Eyeometer method that you use. I find that the tacking angle stickers can be helpful downwind, if you have a decent instrument system on board. Take your True Wind Angle, subtract it from 180, and double it for your jibing angle. For example, if you are sailing at around 145 TWA, then you are 35 degrees up from DDW, which would have you jibing through 70 degrees. On the downwind side of the layline stickers, find the 70 degree line, and it is pointed at your opposite jibe angle. Same technique for upwind, although this method obviously doesn't account for leeway, current, or windshifts. I think that a good tactician can combine the "input" from the layline sticker, with the experience of your Eyeometer. Also, you can very easily draw up your own tacking angles on the deck with a pencil or marker, a protractor, and a bit of string. In fact, it might be interesting to have a few tacking and jibing angles scribed on the deck, to compare to your standard method. Dave: What would you suggest in a situation where a port tacker crosses a starboard tacker, and the starboard tacker starts screaming and yells "PROTEST" when it is obvious that the port tack boat is cleanly crossing in light air with approximately one half boat lenght to spare? This recently happened to us (we were on port), and I chose to ignore "Ole Yeller". Note that Yeller proceeded to foul us about 30 seconds later! Tony: You didn't mention if Yeller went through with a protest. If he flies a protest flag, and you feel like maybe you fouled him, then do your 2 turn penalty without delay, and stay clear of Ole Yeller in the future. These things have a way of sorting themselves out over time, and I suspect Ole Yeller may not be given the benefit of the doubt down the road. However, if you don't believe that you fouled him, then you can take your chances in the protest room. If it gets to that point, I have one suggestion, and this applies to any Part 2 protest--sit down with your team and map out the timing of each moment of the altercation. You want to know exactly how many seconds, how many boatlengths, distance between the boats, all referenced with when you heard any hails (including the word "protest"), or if there was contact, how and when it occured. (remember that at 5 knots of boatspeed, you will travel around 8.5 feet per second. 6 knots is around 10 feet per second. This information can be particularly helpful with a protest involving a 2 length rule at a mark rounding). In the hearing, take your hat off, introduce yourself quickly to the jury members, and look them in the eye when you talk to them. When you present your side, stick to your timeline with confidence. The jury doesn't the hearing to last any longer than you do, and they will be looking for an easy and fair path to a decision. Your timeline will provide that path. Be truthful about the position of the boats, and be consistent each time you line them up. It is common that a jury will ask you a second or even a third time to position the boats on the table. They are looking for any inconsistency. Although Old Yeller was on starboard, your detailed, consistent testimony will be enough to convince the jury to disallow the protest.