Starting Maneuvers


I just posted this under the general FS Ownership forum, then I saw the Racing posts.

This is our first year in a Scot. When you are in the starting sequence and approaching the starting line too early what are the favored methods for killing speed and re accelerating?

Would appreciate any discussion.
Pat Maguire
Black Magic, Shrewsbury

P. Maguire

You holler to the boat windward to you to give room and force him to OCS and hope that the RC doesn't notice that you are already over the starting line, too. [:D]

Sticking close to the starting line is a though one, especially at big events. I even see good sailors having a hard time to do so and it seems everybody has their own strategy of getting a good start.

I suck quite a bit, so I'm already happy if I'm within two boats length of the start at the signal. Being right on the starting line you will experience every little rule of the book being used by your fellow sailors. So a) know your rules, b) be able to oblige by the rules, and c) be able to call your right to the other boats. The rest is practice and experience.

I usually time how long it takes for me to sail along the starting line in both directions before the starting sequence. So I have an idea of how early I should be at the starting line. Others take compass readings of the wind and the windward mark to determine the favored end of the starting line and use that somehow.

I tried out a variety of approaches. Sometimes an approach worked excellent due to pure luck and the next time I got burned quite badly. The port approach that I did a couple of times is a good example of this. First time I found a nice gap and was right there on the line as the starting signal went off. I had a great start. Next race I was doing an 720 before I even crossed the starting line because I messed the port approach up so badly.

I think there isn't one true and good way to start. The starting line of every race will be different. The skill is to read all the variables and determine what is the best plan for you in the given situation. And of course to have to be able to adjust your plans during the start as needed.

Oh, another tip. If you want to be in the starting line photo you need to be hugging the starting line at all time. Of course the boats that you force to OCS might block you in the photo so now you have another dilemma. [;)]

Claus FS5074 Ames, IA

I suspect that you are really looking for some suggestions at the start. My recommendation is to PRACTICE on your own with no other boats nearby. Make up an imaginary starting line and sail by yourself away from and toward the line. Time your own start with your own stopwatch.Practice sailing with the sails luffing and still keeping the boat under control. Also practice with the sails properly sheeted in.

As far as slowing down this is a key boat handling skill that comes into play mostly at the start and not very often on any other part of the course.

One method to slow down is to leave the jib sheeted as normal and ease the main rather far out. The jib will backwind the main. Or you can ease both sheets, however that requires coordination with the crew. You should go and spend a few hours practicing all this by yourself at your imaginary starting line.
You will also see skippers wiggling the rudder hard in order to slow down.That does slow the boat, but it is a remedy that does not really keep the boat under good control.
Most skippers will try to leave a "hole" to leward that is their safety escape in case they are early by a few seconds.
As far as getting going again, you need to start sheeting in before the gun by about 5 to 10 seconds and do not sheet the main all the way in until there is speed on the boat.
Prior to the sart I generally do not use any windward sheeting of the jib. This lets the boat accelerate faster and makes the boat more ready for an unexpected maneuver. One less thing to worry about.

One thing that makes a perfect start difficult to achieve is the variability of the wind. You need to be setting up for the start with about 2 minutes to go.
Assume that you are at the middle of the line with about 2 min to the start. Sail on port tack broad reach till you pass the committe boat at say 1.5 min to the start. Assume that you keep sailing and will loose 15 seconds on the turn. That leaves 75 seconds for your round trip back to the race committe boat if you want to start at the RC boat. You will need to initiate the turn around back toward the RC in somewhat less time than 1/2 of the remaining 75 seconds because the sail back is going to be slower due to the other boats in the vicinity and taking your air. Initiate the turn with 60 seconds left. Complete with 45 seconds left. At this point if there were no other boats nearby you would need 30 seconds to sail back to the start.
This leaves a 15 second margin for either sailing slower due to interference from other boats or for an allowance for a wind decrease. If the wind fresshens during your final approach then you will end up with a mid line start.

If you want a mid line or pin end start then adjust the technique.
Never stray too far from the starting line. On light air days I have seen people who were too far away to sail in for a decent start. On heavy air days you may not hear the start signal and another boat's sail may prevent you from seeing the signal.

Most importantly, practice sailing the boat with the sails luffing, going slowly, and stil under control.

Go win a few starts. FS 3512

Thank you Gabor that is what I was looking for. Interesting. On the J 24 we would luff the Jib on a bigger boat I have seen the skippier just go head to wind but niether seemed optimum on the FS.

I do need practice as I am more experienced as crew than driver. I had not thought of releasing and trimming main but that makes sense on the FS as that sail really drives the boat and I have noticed nice acceleration. It is a great boat.

I am going to print your post and go and practice



P. Maguire

I'm an experienced sailor, novice racer, and newer FS owner. Will compete in my forth FS race this weekend and am thinking about starting strategies. 
I've digested Dave Perry's _Winning in One Designs_ and Cort/Stearn's _Getting Started in Sailboat Racing_.  A bit challenging still for me is gauging boat acceleration at the start. I've tried port and starboard tack starts (pin and committee end), but always aiming to time the approach so that I'm at speed through the whole maneuver. Of course, the timing is tough. 
Cort/Stearn name the "dingy start" as the approach where one claims a position on the line 45 seconds or so before the start, with sails luffing, and then accelerate but warn this works best with a boat that accelerates quickly (not a keelboat etc.)  
I've seen Sunfish and Lasers doing this.  Is it an appropriate option for the FS?  

the Scot accelerates more like a school bus.  It's best to get the bus rolling early, but not too early, and look for a hole about 1/3 from the end you think is favored.  I find that momentum is key, so the dinghy start, luffing on the line, allows boats to creep up on you, who have momentum, and you end up second row.
Also, think about where you want to be, two minutes after a start.  If the right looks good, keep your options open to get there.
5 seconds late, and moving full speed is often better than right on time, stopped on the line, especially if it gets you to the side you think you want.

Thanks Phil, that's helpful! And memorably put...

Practice in a varitiey of winds with decelleration and accelleration techniques, get out to the starting line early and make multiple runs at the line using all the techniques suggested. Depending on favored end and wind oscilations will determine the least risky manuvers and best approach to the line. First row anywhere on a fairly even line is better than buried and no lanes to escape disutrbed wind. Too much vang will not allow the boat to slow down.