Team Sailing Tips

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What is a slam dunk in sailing?

Avoiding Slam Dunks

In sailing races, "slam dunking" occurs when an opposing boat tries to tack onto your wind in a close enough proximity to stop you from tacking away. In order to prevent and overcome a slam dunk, do one of the following:

a) bear off before the opposing boat has a chance to catch up to you, or
b) tack immediately.

Do not try both tactics, but rather choose one and see it through.

   
What is a good tactician?

The Master Tactician

The tactician is one of the most important members of any racing team -- whether you're in a local yachting club or the US Sailing Team. It's the job of the tactician to plan out the course of the regatta, and anticipate as much as possible (weather, competition level, etc.) before the race begins. However, to be a truly excellent tactician, here are a few important tips:

  • Give clear orders to your crew in a positive and upbeat manner.
  • Don't overreact to mistakes. They happen. Instead, look at the quickest and smartest way to correct them.
  • When behind, changing tacks erratically will not win the race. Look at the big picture and note where you may be able to move ahead more strategically.
  • Keep morale high...no matter where you are in the race.
  • Although it may be hard, try to accept the responsibility for any errors that occur so that your crew can stay focused.
  • After the race, take notes! Use these to better your performance in the next regatta.

   
How much should a crew member move during a regatta?

Staying Still to Move Faster?

Believe it or not, in a team sailing regatta, the more a crew moves around, the less chance they have of winning. It may seem that a deck hot with crew action must mean the team is knowledgeable and full of hidden tactics that will win the race. In actuality, too much movement on the boat can slow your boat down considerably. Think about it: If something as light as a sail can make a huge difference in the speed of your craft, imagine what effect the weight and movement of several human bodies can have. In order to ensure smooth and speedy sailing, each crew member should ideally perform his/her tasks and freeze in position. In fact, part of your task as a crew member is your position at any given point. Keep excess movements to a minimum to keep boat speed to a maximum.

   
How can I get more power from my mainsail?

A Powerful Racing Tip

To create more power in your mainsail (pronounced “MAYN-sul”) during a team sailing competition, you need to increase its depth. In other words, the sail's shape should be more curved. Light to moderate winds, you should increase the depth. When trying to negotiate upwind, a flatter sail shape is more desirable. Much like the edges of a sheet of paper being pushed together or pulled apart, the mainsail will become fuller if the leech (back edge of the sail) and the luff (front edge of the sail) move closer together, and flatter if they move apart.

   
When should I overtake an opposition boat on a team sailing race?

Team Racing: When to Get Aggressive

Team racing requires that the crew think alike as often as possible. All of you need to keep your focus on upcoming marks even before you reach mark one. Also note the buoyroom between marks, as these are good opportunities to overtake opposition boats. Do not overtake an opposition boat if it is closely followed by another from its team (it's not worth your effort). Only make your move if the boat behind your competitor is one from your own team, and that team boat is not followed by another from the opposition. You want clear sailing for your maneuvers, and that requires a united front from your team.

   
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William Pirraglia