Race Plan and Execution - Part II

Author: Tof Nicoll-Griffith. Reprinted from The Firezone summer '93

1st Upwind

If your start was successful, put the plan to work and also place your competition in places that will benefit you when the shift comes. If you had a bad start then you must try to recover as quickly as possible. It is easiest to make up boats when they are still near you. Don't forget your plan, it will still work if you can get yourself into position to take advantage of the things you think will happen. GET THAT FIRST SHIFT! You may not catch everyone but at least you haven't put yourself further behind. You still have 5 legs to continue making ground. It is not time to hit the corners yet!


Reach: Maintain clear air. If you can do it and go below the rhumb line, do it. If you are in a fight, go up if they take you. If only one boat is taking you up and the rest of the fleet is getting away while this is happening, curse the other driver and opt for holding the bulk of the fleet and let him go. The least painful way is to bear off sharply and he will roll you the quickest and let you get your air back sooner.


If alone you can steer a low course after gybing and continue below the rhumb line. If in a fight, get high fast and try to get a gap between you and the next boat behind. If you are behind and are prepared, you may catch the next boat off guard and roll them.

Leeward Mark

Get an inside overlap. If you can't, try and sail fast and outside so that you can break through to leeward and then foot out to clear your air and give yourself options. If you don't think you will break through then sail `wide and tight' allowing the lead boat to get around the mark and you will follow them right on their transom. This gives you a clear tack.

2nd Upwind

Has the wind changed? If yes, which way? If it is big and you don't think it is part of a big oscilation, sail towards the shift. From this point the information you got from the first beat may be useless and the plan is out the window (for now). If the wind didn't change then recall if your first beat was successful. A quick analysis of the the first time up the leg will tell you what changes if any should be put into the plan. Execute. If you are leading then it is time to start covering. If you are behind keep trying to position the boat ahead of you in places where they will lose if the shifts come. NO, it is not time for the corner yet!


A quick rule of thumb is to sail to the same side of the course you sailed upwind on (ONLY IF THE BEAT WAS GOOD). If the upwind tactic failed, go the other way. If sailing the middle was best upwind then the middle will be best downwind and you may need to do as many gybes as tacks you did to take advantage of all the shifts that come through. The run is an extremely tactical part of the race and should not be overlooked. Another important factor is wind pressure. Many boat lengths can be gained if you are in a breeze that the competition doesn't have. In many cases extra pressure is better than gybing on 3 good shifts and often they are easier to detect than shifts. Keep a good lookout for puffs on the water.

Final Upwind

Has the wind shifted again? Is it like the first beat, second beat, or is it all new? If it is like one of the first two then use it as your guide. If there has been no change throughout the race we would hope you are starting to figure it out. If you are still behind and have no idea about what is happening you can still try to pickup up one boat at a time or go for the big money. Hitting the corner holds the biggest risk but can pay off big and if you have nothing to lose as well.... Mind you, if it pays off you should be embarassed by your actions for taking the easy way out. If you are nearer to the front, then protect you position first while still trying to make more gains. Whether you put more emphasis on one or the other will affect your decisions, but don't be stupid. Protect what you have worked for. If you must beat someone who is in front then you've got no choice, but otherwise be reasonably content where you have found yourself. Trying to place the people ahead and behind in disadvantageous positions at the same time is tough. The best you can do is put the boats behind in a neutral position with the boats ahead in a disadvantageous one.


So much can be made in the last two minutes (and so much can be lost). You've worked this hard throughout the race, don't blow it. If you are ahead, cover to the end. Don't leave anything to chance. If you are behind then try to slip away from cover or wait for the leader to make an error allowing you to get to the better side of the other boat, BUT, DON'T FORGET THE GUY BEHIND YOU. As soon as you can determine the favoured end of the finish line, (I do this by looking at the line as if it were a starting line. The unfavoured end of the starting line will be the favoured end of the finish line) get there as quick as you can.


Did you reach your goals? Later, talk the race out with your competitors to find out whether their observations were the same as yours. Gaining confidence in your overall prestart plan will give you more faith to stick to it once the gun goes off.