Christian Brewer is an RYA Race Training Instructor and sometime Squib crew

I have been asked to write this article to help those Squibbers who had difficulty at the 2001 Nationals getting a good start off a line without a visible transit. So here are some pointers for you to consider over the winter months in preparation for other Nationals in future years. 

The objective is to be the fastest boat off the start line at the gun - and at the favoured end of the line according to line bias or best route up the first beat. 

First things first - practice! Good starts begin with time spent on the water, practising boat handling. This involves playing near a fixed mark, practising accelerating, stopping and staying still in the water. Superior boat handling is the key to getting a good start in a large fleet. With good handling mastered, you can now determine how and where to start on a long line without a good transit. 

Use your compass

Always take an accurate line angle using the compass. This is best done by passing close to the stern of the committee boat then aim for the pin in a straight line.  

 

Now bring the boat head to wind in a clear patch to determine the wind direction. When head to wind, less than 90 degrees to the line angle the pin is favoured; more than 90 degrees the committee boat end is favoured. You need to keep checking the head to wind angle to determine any oscillation in the breeze. 

 

With this information you should be able to determine which end is favoured according to the line bias before the five minute gun has gone. Then work out which way is favoured up the beat taking tidal and forecast wind information into account. This will be especially important at Lowestoft and it may be that you do not want to be right on the favoured end unable to tack off. 

Use the mid line buoy

Sail down to the pin end. Once there, check out the position of the mid line buoy. Go beyond the pin, line it up with the committee boat and determine how many boat lengths the mid line buoy is above or below the start line, use other boats hovering on the line as a guide to distance.  

 

The trick to a good start is to position your boat near to the line where you want to start. You can use a hand bearing compass to judge whether you are over or behind the line. Less than your line angle, you are over. 

 

More than your line angle, you are behind (assuming that the committee boat is on the starboard end of the line). 

 

Check your position relative to the mid line buoy for reassurance. Quite often the middle of the line sags. Confidence in your position may have you one or two boat lengths ahead of the rest of the pack who have not bothered to carry out your checks. 

The Rules 

With the five minute gun gone you need to start being aware of the actions of other boats around you. This is where you need your knowledge of the rules. (Check the table below) Be especially aware that a boat to leeward overlapped has luffing rights and can prevent you from bearing away.

Starting Rules After P Flag Approaching Start Line After Start Gun
Port & Starboard Port must keep clear. Starboard can change course so long as Port is able to keep clear


Windward/Leeward Windward must keep clear.


Establishing overlap to leeward Windward must keep clear. She must respond as necessary as soon as any overlap is established. Leeward boat must give Windward an opportunity to keep clear.


Luffing  Leeward can luff to head to wind so long as Windward is able to keep clear by responding at once.  Leeward can luff to head to wind so long as Windward is able to keep clear by responding at once. Leeward may not luff above her proper course (normally close hauled for a beat) unless she has luffing rights.

Luffing Rights

Not needed- See above

 

Leeward has luffing rights if -  Windward came from astern - or overlap started with Leeward more than 2 boat lengths to leeward - or either tacked to create the overlap. 

Room allowed to luff round start mark? Yes Yes:- this is proper course - but room to tack allowed only if start mark is also an obstruction and neither boat can lay.

Room allowed for inside boat at committee boat? Yes  No :- unless there was room to pass at “point of no return” before leeward boat luffed 

Speed equals lift

With 12 seconds to go you should be accelerating into the space you have created to leeward so that when the gun has gone your boat is travelling at full speed. Speed off the line is vitally important as the foils will be providing the lift necessary to give you height over the boats to leeward. It is not so vital to be right on the line as long as you are travelling at full pace in clear air. 

Being stationary when the gun has gone is a position to avoid. Others immediately run over you creating disturbed air. You attempt to point but because the foils are not working, you find yourself slipping sideways and struggling to keep clear of accelerating leeward boats. 

Summary

•  Have confidence in your boat handling, crew work and knowledge of the rules to enable correct positioning on the line.

•  Position yourself with room to leeward to accelerate into before the gun goes.

•  Achieve full speed in clear air at the gun.