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start line tactics


tonyquoll
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Hi,

Different races need different tactics. Am wondering about approaches to start lines.

For most club & regatta races, I'd sail the line in each direction, & determine which is favoured (closest to wind). I then time a square reach from the favoured end on port, for either 30 sec, 45 sec or 1 minute, then park. When corresponding time to start was up, then haul in & reach to the line. This should result in starting at the favoured end on starboard at full speed as the gun goes. Sweeeet.

In titles races, when there are 30 to 50 boats crowding the line, above approach doesn't work; there are too many boats blocking the reach, so speed is lost, and then boats to windward take the wind and leave me unable to tack into clear air or sail quickly.

It seems the start is won in this case by sitting stalled next to the start boat, and haul in as the gun goes. The dangers here seem to be being called "UP!" and then caught in irons, being forced over the line early, and being too slow off the mark.

Any suggestions on a good approach to big fleet starts?

Tony Hastings

Paper Tiger 2128 Pelikinetic

tonyquoll@yahoo.com

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- Learn how to park your boat. Sails eased so you are not pointing too high and can accelerate without having to pull away.

- Know how much space you will need to accelerate to the line.

- If you have enough room or there is a fair sag in the line, you could creep up slowly before accelerating.

- Guard you position. Keep a decent gap below you but get as close as you can to your windward boat. Best to keep about ½ a boat width between yourself and the boat below you so you shut the door on another boat slotting in and squeezing you too high. This is priority over keeping the boat above you close. By staying close to the boat above you, you reduce the ability of that boat to pull away and accelerate and rolling you on the start gun.

- Get to the line early and guard your spot.

- Surround yourself with less experienced starters. Don’t mix it with a rock star unless you want to learn a lesson (which can be good in a non critical race)

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I don't think the guy at the boat end who starts to accellerate at the gun has 'won' the start, probably neither have the rest of the block of boats in the same vicinity (and pity the poor buggers in the second and third row), they just can't get enough speed and clear air to 'win' regularly.

The percentages alway point to a little further down the line where there are fewer obstacles.

Also depends on wind speed, if it's light you can play games, like making sure the boat behind doesn't get a leeward overlap, you accelerate slightly, bear away then slow, he's then overtaking and has to keep clear (usually by going up) at which point you can call him up, then pull down to give yourself some space.

Whenever I've seen Darren Bundock start (in Mari's) he's been further down in clear air.

If you like the right then, provided the fleet is good and will clear the line quickly then start late, at full speed then tack away.

That's the view from a rearmarker anyway.

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Apologies for also posting this question to the Paper Tiger forum; have now learnt to press F5 to refresh my display & see that my posting did actually work.

Thanks for the replies! While teaking my centreboards, rudders & mast rake, I'll test high speed potential AND zero speed take offs.

Theoretically high speed boards require thinner, longer sections, while at low speed, wider, shorter blades work better.

The winning boats at the nationals had a lot of mast rake, which possibly provides vertical lift, reducing hull drag. This would also make it hard to take off from stopped, close hauled, without stalling the rudders & getting caught in irons.

Lots to think about, thanks again

Tony

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yes absolutely - you have to learn to stop and start, to do this is a cat rigged boat is hard, you need to be much further off the wind to do it properly. the long skinny boards will need more speed to be effective.

On Sailing Anarchy (.com) there have been discussions and there's a very good vid of some college sailers 'bump' starting their 420, basically stopped, then heel to leeward hard, let out the sails slightly then hike like bitches, boat goes from stop to full speed in about four feet.

Trick is to be able to do the same in a cat!

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Rolling a monohull creates waterflow over the centreboard & rudder, which combined with rudder angle gives forward propulsion.

This is the principle behind 'roll-tacks'. While the rules prohibit tacking to gain speed, in a drifter race on a monohull any excuse to tack is taken.

If we could somehow modify cats to tack this well, it would open up a whole new world of tactics and skill in cat racing.

Seems to me currently it's all about boat speed, keeping in clear air and minimising the number of tacks to get to windward.

The top ten boats are all minimum weight, stiff hulls, latest design masts & fittings, carbon fibre blades and sails less than a few seasons old. The next ten might have older sails and wooden boards, but otherwise similar top spec.

An old boat with old shape mast and decades old sail? Tail-ender.

"It's not the boat it's the skipper". This might be true in determining the winner between the top-ten boats, but clearly a slower old boat has no chance.

Contrasts with opening story above; sailing a borrowed club Laser, which was overweight, scratched to bits & had an old sail, managed to keep up with & beat top-spec Lasers by roll-tacking on every wind-shift and picking a course around the no-wind holes. Yay for one-design monohulls!

But then the wind came up, and the club Laser couldn't keep up. Going flat out on a broad reach in 20+ knots, seemed barely faster than the drifter race. Boring. Yay for fast cats!

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G'day Tony,

Love your enthusiasm and creative ideas!

Yes, top ten boats are usually minimum weight (or close to it) and usually stiff. However, to clarify, it is important to add that they are not necessarily new boats either. The results of the 2006 Internationals (sailed at Elwood in Victoria) are a good example:

- Mark Wiggins (Vic) won on a plywood boat that was over 20 years old.

- Bruce Rose (Tas) was second on a 12-year-old foam sandwich boat.

- Oliver McKeon (Vic) was third on a 20-year-old foam sandwich boat

- Greg Williams (NSW) was fourth on an 8-year-old plywood boat using old squared off HolmBros centreboards.

- Peter Robins (NZL) was fifth on a 30-year-old plywood boat.

All the top five used sails that were less than a year old, with the oldest sails in the top ten being two four-year-old sails.

When you say the "latest design masts", bear in mind that the USA section in use by most of them is the only one that has been available for many years, so it is natural that they would all be using them. And in regard to the latest design fittings, it is not that they are racing out and buying the latest gadgets all the time, but they do keep their systems functional and ensure they work when needed. If this means replacing something, they will do it. There's nothing like a dysfunctional fitting to lead to a disaster on the water!

Now, someone who turns up to a Laser Nationals or Worlds in a 20-year-old boat with an old sail is also going to struggle. Old, tired Paper Tigers with old sails can also have success at club racing level, just like an old, tired Laser.

I have found that PT sailors who want to improve can generally do so by trying to achieve the following, even if they have a very small budget. Doing this, they can expect to do well, even on an old boat with an old sail:

- Attend regattas to compete against other PTs as often as possible (a few times a year will make a difference).

- Ask questions of the top sailors (especially those who have been at the top level for many years) and really listen to their answers and try to follow their advice on rig settings, tactics, boat handling, etc.

- When experimenting, keep to the accepted practices initially, at least till you get into the "ballpark".

- Understand that even an old sail can usually do well in certain conditions, as long as it is set up correctly.

- Ensure the hulls and the foils have the best finish they can, given your time and budget.

- Make sure your fittings and systems work, even if they are old. You will find that many people have numerous spare fittings that they can give you (or sell cheaply) if you can't afford to lash out on new gear.

- If the advice from the legends is that your sail is beyond it, you can be sure someone will have a better (second-hand) one lying around in their shed unused. So ask around, you may be surprised what you can come up with.

I realise that you and others are trying most of these things and this is in no way intended to discourage you from continuing to experiment, we just need to be careful we don't portray an incorrect image that people need to spend lots of money to be successful in Paper Tigers.

Regards,

Dave.

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Cheers Dave

That's a great story about the older boats doing well. Sorry if I sounded down on PTs. The club Laser experience made me very glad to come home to my fast, exciting Tiger.

Relative to many other boats, getting a competitive Paper Tiger is cheap. My 2 PTs were $200 each. Upgrading one component at a time is the limit of my income; still looking for work to pay for a new mast. To bring the light one up to racing spec is costing:

- $250 2nd hand Williams/Ottoman sail (thanks Alan!), was also offered great Redhead sail 2 seasons old for $400. New sails are $1200-$1400.

- America section mast $400-$500?

- downhaul adjustable from sidestays $250 for Ronstan parts

- vang adjustable from sidestays $150 Ronstan parts

- outhaul & leech line adjustment system with cam cleats $100

- home-built rudder blades & centreboards copying latest designs $200 in resin, fibreglass & timber ($1200 to buy professional carbon blades?)

- homebuilt rudder boxes with cam-cleat adjustment system $100

$1450 total. According to the VPTCA "a competitive second hand boat will cost at least $3500". I guess I'm still doing OK. If anyone is looking at similar upgrades I can supply all the RF part numbers, photos & system designs.

In hindsight buying a more modern 2nd boat on a trailer would have been more cost effective. I'd be looking for a hull that was under 55kg (minimum is 50kg) and would push the bow panels to test for stiffness. For example old "Why Worry?" is fibreglass sheet (no foam core) and depresses about 1cm when pushed. It weighs 76kg and is very slow. "Pelikinetic" is foam core, but an old type susceptible to getting dented, it moves only a few mm, weighs 52kg and goes OK. "Boy at Heart", Mike Wold's carbon fibre hulls did not move at all & is very fast. Newer ply boats have 1/2 decks that specifically keep these panels stiff & do not depress at all; worth looking for.

Boats for sale at:

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ptiger/marketplace.html

http://www.bur.st/~h20melon/other/nswptca/images/Market.pdf

Racing costs:

- $150/year boat insurance (RACV)

- $90/year club & YA membership; WLBC see http://www.nnswsabot.yachting.org.au/db/Clubdisplay.asp?ID=2113&Action=Display

- $30/year association membership

- $200 titles entry fee

- $50 each regatta entry fee + travel & accommodation.

It's all relative. Arriving at McCrae yacht Club for the Vic state titles last year I saw 2 A-class cats on the deck of a massive ocean-racing trimaran; which was racing boats & accommodation off to their titles. My mind boggles at their costs.

[This message has been edited by tonyquoll (edited 10 February 2009).]

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Totally agree with everything that Dave has said. You don't need that absolute latest and greatest to perform well.

- Take Windrush, about 8yrs or so ago we had a multiple time national champ, Mark Quadling.

Quad would absolutely sail the pants off the entire fleet at Nationals inc. Brett Burvill. He did so with the oldest, most worn Mylar in the fleet, it was worn to the point he'd fallen through it twice when he won his last national title...

It's about finding a balance between sailing nouse and the quality/upkeep of your equipment.

- Your concept of 'roll-tacking' is completely possible in catamarans. When i did the ISAF Youth Worlds in Hobie 16's, in under 10knots we used to 'roll-tack' it.

Theory is similar but it doesnt have the same effect as with dinghy's. Think about how you paddle a canoe.

Basically as you go through the tack, instead of moving over to the new side as the boat starts to go head to wind (and keeping the hulls fairly level) you stay on the old side till it is past head to wind. This in essence lifts the new side (windward hull) higher in the water, allowing it to turn the arc quicker, hence reaching a close hauled course quicker.

In under 5knots you can exaggerate this a little more.

- As with everything Practice is the best way to gain speed. If you regularly race with a group of PT's, suggest that you all get to the club and hour or 2 early. Head out early, try some 2 boat 'match racing' (if you want to call it that) and check your speed against someone you know is faster. Experiment with some of your control lines (vang/downhaul/outhaul/rig tension), make minor changes and speed test against your 'opponent'.

Use the F1 principle, if it makes you 0.001 of a second faster, its stays... If it dosn't don't completely discard it but think about what the change did to the rig and store it in your memory.

If it made the sail flatter well maybe you need more depth, the question is then do you need depth in the head of the sail or depth in the foot? The answer depends on the sea state and wind strength.

Once you have found a setting for a specific breeze put a mark on the control lines or on the mast/boom, so next time your in the same conditions you can automatically set it to the fast setting. I find colour coding to be much easier to remember in a hurry. (green = drifter/under 5knts, yellow = light/6-12knts, orange = moderate 13-19knts, red = 20+knts. This way i can also guage is its in the upper end of the wind range for a colour i can set it so its closer to the next colour in the scale. ie. If its blowing 16-18knts i'd have it about 3/4 the way to the red marking.

- Also there are MANY great innovative ideas on other classes that can be adapted to suit your class. Ie. my downhaul control lines (inspired by my Tornado sailing) are always taught and only 1 line runs to each sidestay across the deck before it 'disappears' which means once i am at full downhaul and the control lines are at their longest i still only have the same length of rope on the deck, hence making my deck ALOT tidier and easier to find/use the line you want.

If your at the Koonawarra regatta this weekend, come over and have a chat to me, Michael, Windrush 14 S/S 6327.

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Thanks Michael!

Here in Mallacoota, VIC, we have great sailing on a beautiful lake, a wilderness for speccy views, but no club or races. Our mis-matched fleet includes pairs of Hobie 16, Windsurfer, Hobie trimaran/canoe and my Paper Tigers. The Hobie 16s set an inspiring example by braving the entrance, sailing out to sea and down to Gabo Island back in a day.

A mate & I regularly sail my PTs, but as "Why Worry?" is so slow, it's not a fair race. We'll be at the Twofold Bay Regatta, Eden, this weekend. Best wishes for Koonawarra, sounds like it'll be great racing!

I've been using an Etrex GPS to check 0.1km/h differences in sail trim & other variations. Some observations from this:

- sitting further forward makes a much bigger difference to speed than having a centreboard up or down.

- a flat, streaming sail produces near identical speed to a full, overpowered sail off the wind.

- top speed is limited by drag, not wind strength or sail shape.

Hull flatness, finish, the gaps around the centreboards, and rudder alignment are areas I'm trying to improve. So far "Pelikinetic" tops at 30km/h, "Why Worry?" at 26km/h, both in 15 knots wind, broad reach. In stronger winds, the nose tends to dip which limits speed off the wind, and as I can only hike out to far, there is a limit to drive from the sail.

Similar to your colour code idea, I've drawn marks on the mast & boom for quick reference. Mostly I'm learning to read the tell-tales to know what to adjust to keep optimum shape. To be a champion cat sailor is to be a master of sail trim.

In your example of sailing brilliance getting a boat with defects over the line first, I'm betting that the boat was light weight, perfectly finished, with fully adjustable controls & good blades. Mylar doesn't stretch with age, it just de-laminates. It’s clear in my mind that there is a minimum level of equipment required to race competitively. My recent experiences felt like I was pitting a family sedan against V8 supercars.

I dont mean to take anything away from the winners, nor implying that a win could be bought with an expensive new boat. There's an incredible amount of talent and experience in the PT class and only brilliant sailing will win.

Components such as my bent, oval-section mast must be slower than the new ones. At the nationals all of us with old oval section masts finished 30+ place. Let's be objective about what's worth upgrading to improve performance.

Thanks again

Tony

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Sail trim isn't as important as you might think.

If you watch someone like Ian Markovich you'll see that yes he does have his sail trimmed 'in the ball park', but its not all sail trim that makes him 'fast', he is just a very good all round sailor.

Often National title races are won and lost on the startline or up the first work.

- Course knowledge, making sure you are on the course early enough to sail a full work and get a feel how the breeze is shifting/gusting etc.

- Boat handling, reacting to gusts, shifts etc. using minimal steering to make the boat turn hence reducing drag. A good test for this is go sailing without your rudders... Yes this sounds bloody stupid but it is entirely possible to sail a boat in a straight line, tack etc without rudders. It will take you a while to work it out but keep at it.

- Tactics, positioning yourself in a place to attack/cover over the fleet etc, making sure you have a clear area to 'tackout' if you need/want to etc.

Just to name a few areas that make a HUGE difference.

Obviously things like a bent mast will slow the boat down, but what im trying to point out is that its not just the boat that makes you fast. A mid pack skipper that buys the fastest boat will only get you into the top half of the fleet from there its all about boat control, tactics etc.

Take the A-Cat worlds as an example of this, Glen Ashby won not because he had superior speed (in fact they say the top 10 were all as fast as each other). He won convincingly because he had superior knowledge, tactics, planning, handling etc etc etc.

There is SO much that goes toward winning races/national titles that you just cannot pin point one area and say if i can be good at that i will win.

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This is an excellent conversation! Great contributions. Some very sound advice there Michael.

Having sailed against Ian Marcovitch many times, I can attest to what Michael is saying about him. "Tenacious" is the word that comes to mind. He is constantly looking around at the wind, the clouds and other boats, while still watching sail trim closely. He rarely misses the vital information needed to do well. He never gives up. He thrives on the competition and close racing. And he really enjoys himself.

At our recent State Titles, I found I matched him for speed most of the time upwind. But, in a series of fairly shifty conditions, he rarely blew a beat. He is like a sponge, absorbing all the information available and making use of it.

Garry Williams, who grew up sailing at the very tricky venue of Wagga's Lake Albert, is much the same. To watch Garry and Ian competing against each other in light to moderate and shifty conditions is like watching a chess match unfold.

To me, Glenn Ashby is a classic example of consistency. He not only wins a lot of races, he rarely has any places out of the top five. This is amazing given the quality of sailors he regularly competes against. It was interesting to look at the race results of the A Class Nationals and Worlds. Highly talented skippers would have great performances and then in the next race place well down the list. Glenn's boat handling is inspiring and he continually makes smart choices around the racecourse. Putting together such a consistent series is something to be sought after. Many of us manage to put together one or two good races in a series, but knowing what we did well and why can often be difficult to pinpoint.

I agree that there are so many things that go toward winning big events. Often, the guys around mid-fleet just don't get their mind around all the areas they need to improve in, so they never quite make it to the top.

But I suppose that's one of the many great things about sailing. You can compete at the level you want to and, especially in larger fleets like the Paper Tigers, there is nearly always someone else to have a close race with. And that is often the most fun!

And on the issue of bent masts, this can be a real performance killer. Being a rotating mast, it will respond very differently on each tack with even the slightest sideways bend in it. A similar experience will be had if the mast spanner/lever is not symmetrical. A replacement mast should be available for around $300, but you would also need a new bottom fitting to suit the new shape. Keith Deed sells these for around $55. Most other fittings should transfer across to the new shape mast, with maybe a little tweaking required. The gooseneck slide can usually be modified to suit. If you do decide to spend up on a new mast, treat it carefully initially, as they will behave quite differently to what you are used to. Despite being a deeper section, they still bend sideways quite easily, so judicious use of the lower forestays is essential off the wind in a blow.

Regards,

Dave.

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Update:

Start line tactics; with just 4 cats lining up to start at the Twofold Bay Regatta, the flying port-end start seemed to give a good headstart on the 2 Mosquitos who did the stall-start at the boat end.

Due to a slow drift to the start line in race 3, I ran the line on starboard from the boat end while the Mosquitos came on port from the port end; which again let me start in front. Lucky! They soon powered off to easy wins, but that's another story.

"Pelikinetic" show massive improvement in drifter conditions, due to the following:

- rudder handles bent inwards to provide toe-in, with cross-bar shortened to ensure rudder blades perfectly parralel when straight ahead.

- gaps around centreboards filled in with car-bog (polyester base putty), to leave NACA shape slot rather than big rectangular hole

- hull polished with silicone+wax automotive product to bring up gloss finish

The rudder toe-in resulted in the boat maintaining speed through tacks, as the inside blade now turns more than the outside one, providing a turning radius (like the front wheels on a car).

Getting the rudders aligned reduced drag, as the cross-bar had been too long. Now the difference in speed between hull flying and hull just touching is not noticable, where it had been significant.

The hull finish & centreboard slot are hard to seperate in terms of end result, but the boat now glides nicely in drifters. This is probably due to the gloss finish, where it had stuck to the water with a 1200 wet& dry matt finish. I'm expecting the centreboard to slot to help with top speed; not yet had a chance to test with the GPS.

The bent mast exhibits all the problems Dave mentioned above, plus it makes the sail battens pop into a reverse curve on downwind runs, port tack. I'm guessing the mast tip pulls the leech line, which pops the battens into the wrong curve. Only happens in very light winds.

On a previous mast, I jumped on the bend to make it straight, but the metal memory still affected rotation as it bent more easily in one direction than the other. Then it snapped in half at the exact spot it had been straightened. It was blowing 30 knots, on a broad reach, sail pulled in hard when a rear-lower stay broke first then the mast folded top forwards & went overboard. Inspecting the metal showed a lot of crystaline fatigue, and some tensile failure. It may have broken anyway in the conditions, being 30+ years old.

Cheers

Tony Hastings

tonyquoll@yahoo.com

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