Tips from the Experts – George Kenefick
Split Tacks (Before a race, always check which side of the course pays)
You need the help of one of your friends, who is roughly the same speed and weight as you are.
Go on a beat and cross tack with one boat dipping the other.
Stay on opposite tacks up the beat for three minutes (set watches).
Tack and see which boat is ahead when you cross.
This will usually indicate the best side of the beat.
The First Beat (Choose one side of the middle)
If you noticed that the boat that won the split tacks gained from the left side, then you should stay left of the middle of the fleet.
If you bang full left, you are taking a big gamble and have little chance to change your tactics if the wind swings.
At a minute to go you should be where you want to be on the line.
Find a gap and let nobody into it.
Don’t be afraid of the ‘good guys’ if they scream at you, just don’t let them in!
With 10 seconds to go, get your speed up and don’t let anyone sail over you.
If everybody goes early, you must go with them (keep the front row).
Clear Air (The most important thing after the start)
If you get a bad start, the most important thing for you to think about is getting clear air. If you have to tack, try not to dip other boats if possible, but you have to get clear air.
If you are not the best at starting, then start at the committee boat and tack off as soon as possible.
These are the pieces of wool or streamers near the luff of your sail. They will tell you a tale about how well you are sailing if you learn how to read them properly.
If you’re sitting on the starboard side of the boat going up the beat and the telltales start flapping on the other (leeward) side of the sail, it means you can point a bit higher until the telltales are flying in line with each other.
You must not spend your whole time watching the telltales because you caould miss something important around you, like a big gust!
A wind shift is when the wind changes direction slightly. They can be really small but you can tell a wind shift by your telltales.
If you are concentrating on your telltales and the near (windward) one starts flapping more than the leeward one, then if you didn’t point up, it was a small wind shift. You should tack when this happens so that you will be pointing higher on the other tack.
If the leeward telltale is the first to flap, stay on that tack and point up a bit.
If you’re not sure, look at what tack the good sailors are on!
Rounding the Marks
At the windward mark always try and come in on starboard.
If you are on port you may have to dip people until you find a gap.
At the leeward mark, try to get water on the inside of the mark.
If you have to give water to people, then slow down your boat, gybe early and try to sneak in right up to the mark.
Collisions and Protests
If you have a collision on a race course, do a quick 720 degree turn, race on and forget about it.
If you were in the right, just shout protest and sail on. Do not keep shouting at the sailor that was in the wrong because this will lose you more places instead of gaining them.
If they don’t do their 720 (and they beat you in the race) then you can protest them. You must tell the committee boat at the finish that you want to protest and give their boat number. You need to find a witness or two that saw the incident so that you can call them for the protest to say what they saw. As soon as you come in off the water get a protest form in the race office and fill it out.
Good luck with your sailing and have fun! – George Kenefick (3 Feb 2004)
p.s. Never give up!