Hey Jane, Tom and Mom,
Nice work on Saturday - that was quite a long session, but I felt like we covered a lot of ground, and improved a lot on all of the drills we worked on. I wanted to send you a quick, written debrief to recap what we talked about and to give a few suggestions for where to go from here.
Hope this helps, and looking forward to getting in the boat with all of you again.
The first thing we talked about this weekend was pre-start routine. Every good race starts with a little bit of research. Go out there, check out the line, check out the wind, check the current, and make a game plan. Here is a checklist that we go through before every single start (and you should too!):
Take a wind shot to check wind direction - Jane steers head-to-wind and calls it, while Karen and Tom look at the compass.
Check current at inboard end and outboard end to determine if one side of the course has favorable current.
Run the line to get line heading, then do geometry math (+/-90 degrees) to find out which end of the line is favored.
Do three practice starts to judge how far from the line you can be at 30-40 seconds (how much distance will you cover in 30-40 seconds including a tack.
Decide if the wind is a thermal (direction around 235, hot in Ojai, “sea breeze”, likely clear sky with some exceptions), or a gradient wind (not the thermal, and not a Santa Anna). If it is a thermal, seriously consider going right on the first beat, and then gybe-setting around the top mark.
Feel free to text me on Wednesday (I’ll try to remember to text you) about the conditions for the day - happy to give my thoughts on which side of the course will likely pay.
Starting is all about judging time and distance and learning your options for controlling each. We did a lot of boat control drills and starting drills this weekend to practice slowing the boat, and timing your final approach. While this isn’t the final product that you need to learn to nail the starts, it’s a great start (no pun intended), and if you practice judging the time distance, you’ll get better and better at it. Jane, remember that you have 2 options to slow the boat - a “speed check” where you put the bow above close hauled and let the boat slow, or a big duck down below a beam reach to sail extra distance. I tend to try to do the speed check early, and the duck later (closer to “go”) so that you don’t accidentally get too slow right before the gun. This takes a lot of practice, and even more practice to be able to execute well next to the competition without fouling, but what we worked on was 70% of the challenge. Two big things to keep in mind are:
Always try to be on port tack one minute before the start, and tack to starboard around 50 seconds. Try to position yourself 40 seconds from the line so that you have 10 seconds of wiggle room “to kill”.
When in doubt, bail out and try to start on port!
This is a topic that you mentioned having questions about Jane, but one which we didn’t really get into. While it’s a very broad topic, the most important thing for you to understand is the basic downwind tactical building block of asymmetric racing - the jump. Here’s a technical article that I wrote about this play a while ago, and there’s a more digestible version in the book I wrote on tactics if you scroll down to play DW3.1. There’s a lot more info there if you’re inclined to read about it. I would stick to 3.1 as well as the downwind strategy portions at first as most of this is very high level.
Overall Team Philosophy
I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but the number one thing that I would stress for you guys as a team, is that all parts of your racing should be able to fit into a nice, neat process. Tom talked a bit about Kent and my interactions onboard when we sailed the Centennial Cup - calm and objective. This comes from both knowing our roles around the race course, in everything from decision making to boat handling. We’ve developed this from lots of racing obviously, but to expedite the learning curve, you might consider going through the exercise of building out a “boat handling playbook” (see template below), wherein each person’s role gets defined for each maneuver.
This is not intended to be a tool for placing blame, but a learning tool to help everyone remember what they’re working on - remember, there are a lot of pieces to memorize in a good system so mastering it will take time! In other words, when (not if) things don’t go according to plan, go back to the document and remind yourself of the system that you’re working on building. Next time we get a chance to go out again with the four of us, my top priority would be spending some time working on this boat handling playbook to ensure that everyone is doing their roles in to each maneuver