Three simple tips for getting better at the start

Getting off the line smoothly and gaining an early advantage can greatly increase your chances of a successful outcome. In this article, we will explore some simple yet effective tips to help you improve your regatta start and position yourself for a strong performance.

Three simple tips for getting better at the start
Credits: Matias Capizzano

You know what they say:

The start is the 70% of the regatta

But, why is it so important? Because having a good start allows you to do your strategy and get in a good position to the first shift.

This is why we are going to have a look at three simple tips to help you get off that start line in clear air and in your ideal position.

#1 Checking the line

Many times the start has an end that is favored. To check this, we can use diferent methods

  1. Sail straight down the line towards the left side (port end) and adjust your sail so that it aligns perfectly with the tell tales. Then, change direction by turning your boat and sailing back towards the right side (starboard end), without adjusting the main sheet from its previous position. As you sail back towards the starboard end, if you feel the need to tighten your sail, it means the line is biased towards the right side. However, if you need to loosen your sail, it indicates a bias towards the left side.
  2. Stop you boat head to wind on the line. Then use both your arm to point at either end of the line, the end with has a small angle between your arm at the front of your boat is the favoured end. This technique can be challenging if you are in a single hander or if it is windy.
  3. Cross the line sailing to see if port or starboard cut the line in a more direct way.
  4. Check it with a mate! The idea is that both of you have a countdown (aprox. 2 minutes) to start. One will start on starboard on the right side of the line, and the otherone will start on port on the pin. Both boats will sail on the same direction until the two meet. The one that passes through the bow is because it started on the favored side.

#2 Timing is the key

Timing is crucial for a successful start. Pay attention to the countdown sequence and position your boat to cross the start line at full speed as the race begins. Practice your timing by participating in mock starts or using start line apps or devices that provide audible signals. Aim to hit the line at full speed, ideally with a few seconds to spare.

Pay attention to the flags of the Race Committee and your timer.
Photo by Maël BALLAND / Unsplash

#3 Knowing the fleet

Noticing where certain boats are lining up and understanding how that is going to affect you, means that you can readjust your original plan to make sure you have the best chance of achieving it.

But also if you’re not too sure on what to do your-self and there are all of the best sailors at your club lining up down at the port end, that can give you a good indication that that’s place to be.

Keep in mind that it is crucial to pick a spot that is next to a slow boat. You don’t want to start with the fleet champion on your lee bow.

Like any skill, mastering the regatta start requires practice.
So practice, practice, practice!

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