The reason why a good start will solve your problems (and how to have a good start)

Oh, the start... what a difficult thing to learn. For many begginers (and not so begginers) is a karma. But don't worry, we will give you some good tips to improve your starts and therefore your regattas.

The reason why a good start will solve your problems (and how to have a good start)

Note: this lesson is about strategy, not technique

Many coaches say that the start is 70% of the race. This means that

good start = good race
bad start = bad race

You might be thinking that many people sometimes have bad starts and still get a pretty good result, and that is true. So... why is it so important? 

Why having a good start is so important

A good start gives you a good position with respect to the other boats, and lets you focus on the two things that really matter on the first third of the upwind: speed and the first shift.

If you have clear wind and can get the first shift before the others, you will have an easier and neat race.

Unlike the green boat, the red boat didn't have a good start. He is worried about looking for clear space in order to have clean air. The green boat can't focus on the first shift because it is worried about gaining a better position, and is out of the wind phase.

Having a good start allows you to focus on speed and arrive in a good position to the first shift

 When you arrive at the race course

When you arrive at the race course the first thing you have to do is sail with other boats to see if you are going fast. This is the moment to change something in your boat/sail.

After that, you and your team have to test the race course. Pay attention to the favored side (do more than one crossing), the timing of the shifts, the gusts, the current, if the windward mark is more to the right or to the left.

Once you finish the testing, return to the start analyzing with your crew/skipper what you have seen. What is even more useful is to watch the other boats testing in order to compare its results to the ones you had obtained. 

With all the information you collected you have to plan a strategy for the race.


Having a prestart protocol will  make the starting process much easier. It will help to reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.

This protocol needs training, so you have to do it in every race, either its practice or a regatta.

  • 10-7 minutes before starting you should have a strategy for the race.
  • 7-6 minutes: you should know in which area of the starting line you will locate yourself.
  • 6-5 minutes:  you can make a last recheck/change on the sail or boat.
  • 4 minutes: see what flag is up (black, uniform, etc.). This is sooo important! Also you should check if your timer is well synchronized.
  • 3 minutes: recheck of the wind. Is it still the same? Did it shift? Went up or down? ( for this watch the wind indicator or the flags of the race committee). Start to watch the behavior of the fleet (begins to reveal the fleet's starting intentions). It is the last opportunity to re-define the zone.
  • 2 minutes: check the distance to the line (time to burn/ok/delayed). See who is on your side of the line! (the strength of the sailor --> también  fijarse si es  rápido, hace modo alto, etc.)
  • 1.15: Is there any free space nearby?
  • 45 seconds: distance to the line. Anticipate the movements of the other boats.
  • 30 seconds: watch out and gain leeward space (gain every single meter that you can).
  • 20 seconds: distance to the line and control of the windward fleet (orzar=point up).
  • 10 seconds: ACCELERATION
  • 0:00  CROSS THE LINE!
be an actor, not a spectator
a group of sailboats sailing on a body of water
Photo by Arthaud Yachting / Unsplash

Once the race begins

Once the top has sounded the fleet divides in two groups: the ones that had a good start and the ones that had a bad one.

The first group will focus on sailing fast and maintaining the position they have, in order to have a good cross when they tack

The second group, the ones that had a bad start, will focus on relocating so as to have clear air, sail as fast as they can, and gain a position that allows them to follow/continue the strategy that they have planned. They will be aware of the movements of the windward boats (so as to avoid the others blocking the wind), not getting in the centre of the fleet and sailing in a header el mayor tiempo que puedan.

If you get lost, keep it simple and focus on speed, being in a header,  and having clear air.

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