Race Checklist- Strategy and Tactics

Vancouver Sailing Club

Something important we will learn on the race course on our way up to the winners circle ..... no-ego sailing!

Don’t take unnecessary chances! If we want to finish consistently near the top of the fleet, we must follow a conservative game plan. A smart Crew will minimize risk, or exposure to unknowns, by sticking to tactics and strategies that have a high probability of success.
Of course, there are situations when it’s all right to take a chance (Are you feeling lucky PUNK?), but our general approach should be to avoid risky decisions, manuevers, tactics and strategies. By mastering and practicing the following tips our finish position will be consistently be near the top of the fleet.
1. Learn the racing rules (RRS). Knowing the rules is the best way to avoid breaking any rule. So spend some time looking at the rulebook on a regular basis. Besides reducing our risk, it will put us in a much stronger position tactically and help us stay in control of our race. If we are sailing in a One Design fleet (examples are: Beneteau First 36.7, Farr30, !D35, J24, J35, J105. J120) don’t forget our class rules.
2. Study the notice of race (NOR) and sailing instructions (SI). If we really want to minimize risk-taking, don’t ever sail a race without reading all the regatta rules first. This is an easy, foolproof way to avoid the kind of embarassing mistakes that can cost us a race, the day and the regatta.
3. Work hard on boatspeed. Improving our boatspeed may be hard work, but it will give us a huge return with no risk at all. In addition, good boatspeed will help us recover from mistakes. It lets us take slightly bigger risks (in search of slightly bigger rewards) while reducing our downside. 
4. Practice and master boat-handling maneuvers, especially in heavy and light airs. There is always at least a small risk whenever we perform a maneuver (e.g. heavy-air jibes, light air tacks). To minimize this risk we practice as much as possible, especially in stronger winds, and try to avoid high-risk maneuvers while racing.
Vancouver Sailing Club
5. Check over our boat and gear. Another easy way to lose a race or regatta is by having something break. Therefore, if we want to reduce our risk, be sure to check our boat carefully before every race. Pay special attention to areas of high wear like the boom vang, steering mechanism, halyards, sails and so on. Part of the Crew culture aboard the best boats is checking each others rigging before and after each maneuver. A sail tie or sheet with the wrong knot can easily result in adding minutes to our FINISH time.
6. Aim to finish in the top three or five, not first. This may hurt our egos but if we try to win every race, we will probably take too many risks in order to beat all the other boats. A better idea is to aim for the top 3 or so instead. Just as we don’t always need the best START to win a race, we don’t need first places to win a series. 
7. Make a general strategic plan before the regatta and a detailed race strategy before each START and follow it to each FINISH. Much risk-taking results from decisions that are made on the spur of the moment. To avoid this, we get out to the course area early, develop a race strategy based on where the wind and currents are and are likely to be during the duration of the race and use this as our guide for decisions during the race. Of course, we should modify this during the race as conditions change.
8. Avoid close encounters with other boatsFouling another boat is a TIME VAMPIRE as it can be very costly, especially if it’s early in a race.
9. Be willing to take a penalty. No one likes to admit they broke a rule or do circles in the middle of a race, especially when they’re not sure they were actually wrong. However, when we go to a protest hearing we typically have a 50% chance of losing. So, if we really want to minimize risk, our best move is to take a penalty (720° or yellow flag) at the time of the incident.
Vancouver Sailing Club
10. Cover the boats in our fleet, don’t take fliers. The greater our separation from other boats, the more we are at risk. Therefore, we stay away from the corners and laylines of the course, and avoid sailing off by ourselves. When we want to stay ahead of the boats behind us,  we cover them by positioning our boat between them and the next mark. This will minimize our risk of losing them.
11. Keep our heads out of the boat. Keep our eyes on where we are going. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. Keep the big picture firmly in our minds so we don’t sail into a position where we are left with only high-risk options.
12. Sail the longer tack first. In other words, stay on the tack where our bow is pointed closer to the next mark. This gives us the best chance of success because it will keep us closer to the middle of the course in a position where we can best play the windshifts and handle other boats.
It's easy, eh. . . . . right?
The VSC504 program gets us on the "right tack" and the more we practice the faster we race !

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