down wind tactics

This Wednesday’s beer race, we mixed it up again with Paradigm. Paradigm was designated as the rabbit for today and headed to close hauled course on port as soon as she came back out the harbor for the second time. We crossed her stern on starboard tack, while Paradigm continued sailing on port for about four boat-length and tacked on starboard. She was approximately 4 boat-length to weather and behind at this point. We both sailed on starboard until we are near the port layline. By this time, Mist was able to climb up to weather almost in line with Paradigm and still ahead of Paradigm by a boat length. I let Paradigm call the tack to the “C” mark so that I can be sure that I didn’t have a starboard tack issue and also I’d like to cover Luther on the down wind leg as I’d like to expose our crew to down-wind covering tactics. Besides, it’s always fun to give Luther a little dirty air and see how he would respond tactically. We are now close to a starboard broad reach/run to Channel marker# 8 and provided us a great range of options for blanketing Paradigm. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Luther to luff us up, and we trimmed in the sails in response to his luff. However, since we are so close together, Luther can hear me telling the crew to trim in or let the sail out. Therefore, he would luff up as soon as I instruct my sail trimmers to ease sails when I see that he has started to head down. This went on for about six or seven times with occasional luffs as high as close hauled from a broad reach course. In due time, the trimmers got the idea when to trim and I do not have to telegraph our moves to Luther verbally. We kept away from him pretty well and maintained enough speed to cover him at all time that he could not shake us off. In addition, the J-100 was also on our hip and responding to the wide course gyrations that we had to make as Paradigm luff us. Finally, I gybed over on to port just to see if I can break away from him enough to get some speed and get ahead. But the wind is too light for my heavy displacement hull to have any real speed advantage to get ahead even if I have a hotter angle to reach up. Besides, by the time I reach up to his lee, he would slow me down anyway. So after a little while and while Luther is not watching us so closely, we gybed over to starboard and aimed for his transom for another bout of covering tactics. By this time, we both have sailed much too high to be on broad reach to the mark, instead, we were now both on a run. We both winged out our jibs to catch as much pressure as possible and this gave the crew another situation to apply to their experience – how to transition from winged out sail to a broad reach configuration as well as gybing the sails in response to competitor’s luffs and luffing against competitors. As we got closer to Mark #8, we were all on port gybe heading towards the mark and an interesting tactical situation was developing… 1. We were all sailing on port approaching the mark. 2. Mist (green) initiated a gybe. Because we are now on starboard tack, and that we have an overlap to the J-100 (yellow) by a gybe rather than from behind, we have full luffing rights. 3. Mist headed up slightly to J-100 and forced the J-100 to gybe which then forced Paradigm to gybe as well. This sets Mist up as the leeward boat with full luffing rights, but I chose not to luff too hard as the J100 is now between Mist and Paradigm and I didn’t want him to interprete this as an aggressive act against her rather than the real intended target – Luther. 4. Mist headed down after a half hearted luff, which really didn’t accomplish much as the J-100 continued to gain on the down wind leg and is now abeam between Mist and Paradigm. 5. This sets up a rounding in which Mist is the outside boat and Paradigm did the usual sharp luff at the mark to prevent any possibility of any one shooting above her. 6. Mist was able to point higher than the J-100, squeeze her to where her jib is feathering and slowed her down until Mist passed her. But Paradigm had slipped ahead and we could not catch her before the channel entrance. <a href=”” title=”Actual beercan tracks” target=”_top”><img src=”” width=”520″ alt=”Actual beercan tracks” class=”centered” /></a> Here’s what needed to happen if we were to execute this in a more competitive scenario: 1. Same port tack approach. Gauge when to gybe to starboard tack. Need enough room to make sure that when Mist head down to the 2 boat length circle, that she will be clear of the overlap. 2. Gybe to starboard. Given we had gybed, Mist now has full luffing rights as we did not achieve this overlap from astern. Mist begins luffing with steady but determined pace to make sure the J-100 comprehend the magnitude of the luff to at least to a beam reach. This means luff fast enough to surprise her with our luffing speed, but not making contact. 3. When the J-100’s helmsman is watching Paradigm to make sure she will not come too close to Paradigm, Mist would immediately head down towards the 2 boat length circle. Alternatively, Mist could elect to luff long enough to establish an inside course while Paradigm and J-100 would disengage by sailing behind Mist’s stern when Mist was luffing. This last option would be a valid when match racing or when there are no other competitors to factor in the race. 4. Taking the advantage of latency, Mist would be making her way down to the 2 boat length circle. With the right amount of turn, the perpendicular line from the transom will not have any overlap as Mist enters the 2 boat length circle – therefore Mist will not have to give room to either Paradigm or the J-100. 5. Both J-100 and Paradigm will have to avoid Mist as she rounds the Mark. 6. This sets Mist ahead and in clear air for the next leg. <a href=”” title=”A more aggressive tactic” target=”_top”><img src=”” width=”520″ alt=”A more aggressive tactic” class=”centered” /></a>

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