Most sailors think hard about the start, and consider upwind speed and playing windshifts, but often the process of rounding the windward mark and transitioning onto the downwind leg gets lost in the shuffle. In sailboat racing, every tiny bit counts, and having a clean and successful windward mark rounding can gain you valuable boatlengths. The keys to rounding the windward mark is to make sure that you get there without sailing extra distance or fouling someone, and ensuring that you’re prepared for the next leg.
Speed is very important on the first beat because your competitors are all so close together. By going fast, you can get your nose in front of the boats around you, and this will give you clear air plus a chance to play the shifts.
A good start in dinghy sailing can be crucial to a good result and whilst races are not won on the startline, they can certainly be lost. During the first 30 seconds of the first beat every meter translates to more positions gained or lost than at any other time during the race!
Great starts are the stuff that dreams are made of. But when the occasional nightmare start sabatoges your plans, there are ways to salvage a positive outcome. One of the most predictable trouble areas for most sailors is the start. It’s easy to get clogged up, risk a foul, or just get rolled off the starting line. And worse, any mistake there gets accentuated because the fleet is so compressed.
Smooth tacks and error free gybes are critical if you are to win the race. It is imperative that you practice your tacks and gybes at every opportunity in all wind strengths, I suggest that you put aside an hour per on-the-water training day to complete 50 tacks and 50 gybes, tacking or gybing every 30 seconds.