Tag Archives: racing

Race Night Report – June 23, 2017 (and Spring Results)

Spring Series Results at end of post.

Race Night Report

We had a good turnout for our final outing of the KSC Spring Series, with 13 racers!  In fact, all available Albacores were out on the water, along with a Tasar, a Laser, and 2(!) Hobie 16 catamarans, despite the lighter conditions.

A delay getting people on the water (and finding boats…) meant that race 1 was sailed by 3 double-handers and a Laser.  To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Steve and Carla blasted around the course in the Tasar, leaving a couple of Albacores to fight with a Laser for the remaining places.  Jean skippering her very first race (she just got her blue tag!) and Frank were able to win second, followed by Ray and Chunshu.  Tuan (our first rookie this season) was awarded an on-course-finish in a Laser.

The second race saw the racers joined by Tony/Annie in a Hobie 16 catamaran at the start.  A second, very overloaded,  H16 started later in the race (Norm, Tom N, Jason, and rookie Devin).  Carla/Steve took the win (again) followed by Jean/Frank (again).  This time Tuan took 3rd, with Ray/Chunshu following and Annie/Tony scoring the first cat finish of the season.  The 4-men-on-a-cat was awarded an OCF to allow the 3rd race to get underway.

And what a nuisance that 4-man cat made itself that 3rd race :).  Just before the gun, the overloaded cat decided on an aggressive start at the boat end, enforced it’s rights, and pushed the Tasar across the start line early.  Ha ha, take *that* Steve.  The move was just a couple of seconds too early though, the H16 had to bear off and and the Tasar was able to duck behind the cat, do a dip start, and led the whole way though the race.  Still, it was fun while it lasted.

After rounding windward in 3rd place (behind the Tasar and H16), Jean and Frank made use of the Albacores superior direct light-downwind performance on a wind shift on the second leg, and passed the overloaded cat, who had to head up to maintain any speed.  The overloaded boat made up distance on the second reaching leg (more of a beam reach than a broad reach) and were able to establish overlap just outside the zone and round the leeward mark on the inside.  Remember how I said she made herself a nuisance?  Jean and Frank tacked quickly to get out of the cat’s dirty air, and the cat made a big tactical mistake… she tried to tack to stay in front of the Albacore, and just got stuck in irons, and was passed by Frank/Jean as well as Chunshu/Ray (lesson learned — when sailing a cat, don’t get into a tacking duel).  At the windward mark the overloaded cat was passed AGAIN, this time by Tony/Annie’s H16, who came from behind.  End results, Carla/Steve 1st, Frank/Jean 2nd, Chunshu/Ray 3rd, Annie/Tony 4th, Jason/Norm/Tom/Devin OCF 5th.

Apres-sail was a blast, as always, and a huge shout-out to Ray for bringing the beer/burgers!  Thanks again goes out to our RC (Reese and Sydney) without whom the race would not have been possible.

Spring Series Results

We got in 8 official races over 3 nights, in addition to the 2 races run on the practice night when the water was still too high to keep the boats at the beach.  This means that we have 2 dropped races (1 drop per 4 races) to take into account for series results.

Going into the night Jason had placed first in the prior 5 races, but with two drops, it was anyone’s game if Jason dropped the ball and placed poorly (which he did).  Tony (with a few 1st places), Carla, and Norm (2nd and 3rd place finishes) were all in contention.  Basically, if Jason scored poorly, and either of them got a few firsts, then it would all come down to “how poorly did Jason score”.

And, as we know, Jason scored poorly in the 4-man-cat, while Carla won all 3 races on the final night…

So who won the series?  (drum roll please…) The net result, including dropped races is a TIE at between Jason and Carla at 10 points each!  We now have to go to the score excluding drops for the official series winner, and it looks like Jason wins with 22 points vs Carla’s 40.  Congrats Jason, bragging rights are yours for a few weeks.

We had two rookies come out this series, Tuan and Devin.  Between the two, Tuan takes the “Best Rookie Award” and bragging rights, at least for the next five weeks. (Note: a previous revision of this post said that Devin had won, because I didn’t realize Tuan was a rookie — the official scoring chart, below, will also be updated)

Complete Spring Series Results

Summer Series 1 Starts June 29

Come on out next week when we’ll all start with 0 points for Summer Series 1 (June 29-July 27).  I especially invite our Learn-to-Sail students to come on out and exercise those shiny new blue tags.  We have a “best rookie” award, and great food/company afterwards.  Even if you don’t want to race by yourself, let your humble* sailing director (Jason) know (sailing@kanatasailingclub.com) and we’ll make sure we get a skipper or crew for you.  “Nobody left ashore” policy is still in effect; if you want to sail, we’ll get you on the water regardless of circumstances.

*well, he may not be so humble for the next few weeks — if you want to take him down a few pegs, come on out and beat him around the course!

Race Clinic – June 10, 2017

Tom Saunders managed to condense his one-week Silver Sail program into an hour and a half lecture on the secrets to winning races.  There were a few themes he returned to throughout the talk, and these will be bolded throughout this post.  The class then hit the water for some practice working on what Tom described.

Keep it simple, focus on the basics.  Tom laid out an anecdote about how how he and a buddy were able to place well in a national regatta with a beat up boat that had been sitting under a cottage for 30 years, just by making sure the sheet and vang tensions were right.  Don’t worry about the little stuff until you’ve got the basics nailed.

Tuning.  Rig and boat tuning were covered in an earlier session of the Advanced Sailing Skills course.  Make sure your sail controls work and that things are tensioned the way they are supposed to be, and you’ll have an advantage over all the jokers in the fleet who just rig up and go.  You don’t have to be adjusting the cunningham by millimetres 6 times a leg, but making sure your shrouds, centreboard, vang and sheets are working together is a huge step forward.  Also, proper rig tuning lets you point higher on the upwind legs, and we’ll soon see how important that is.

The start.  You won’t win a race on the start line, but you sure as heck lose a race there.  A good start means you have clean air, and can go where you want to go.  A bad start means you have reduced options, and are trying to sail in the slow turbulent air that other boats are leaving behind.

Tactics – be able to justify your actions.  When doing something, think about why you’re doing it.  Instead of starting a race “somewhere on the start line”, think about “should I start in the middle of the line, at the starboard end, at the port end?”  Have a plan.  If you’re on a leg, think about “why would I tack now?” and what advantage it buys you.  Think about “why would I delay tacking?” and what advantage that buys you.  When you think about doing something, being able to justify it to yourself is much better than tacking “because I was told I should be tacking more”.

In similar boats, with sailors of similar skill, you will never be able to beat someone by following them on the same tack.  If the person ahead of you is on starboard tack, you’ll never be able to pass them on starboard.  Any gust will hit them first.  Any wind shift will affect you both the same.  Any attempt to pass them to leeward will put you in their wind shadow.  Tacking onto port  may or may not be the right move we’ll go into (the “whys” later) but you can’t expect to beat them on boat speed alone.  This is especially true near the end of a race (if you weren’t able to pass them over the the last 6 legs, why do you think you can do it in the last few hundred feet?)

The act of tacking onto the same tack as the person behind you is called “covering”.  Here’s an example (because I love this video).  It’s from the 2015 Laser World Championship.  The boat in second place (USA, Chris Bernard) knows that he can’t beat the boat in the lead (Australia, Tom Burton) while they’re on the same tack.  Tom repeatedly tacks his boat to cover Chris, denying Chris the opportunity to pass.  Chris immediately responds by tacking, forcing Tom to tack again.  This is called a “tacking duel”.  You generally won’t get into tacking duels at club races, but you’ll see them at higher level events.  At 6:07 of the video, Chris (behind) fakes a tack.  Tom tacks his boat (thinking that Chris is tacking) and Chris is able to gain ground.  Tom realizes his mistake, and changes tactics from covering-Chris to just making a dash for the finish line.

One final general tip is to watch the race leaders.  People like Steve, Carla, Ken, the other Ken (and too many others to name), will often be at the front of the fleet, with the rest of us wondering what we’re doing wrong.  So, if you see the leaders all heading the to left side of the course, start thinking about why that is.  You don’t have to follow them, but it helps to figure out what they know (and that’ll help you make better decisions).

Starting Notes

We’ll talk about some properties of the start line before talking about how to execute a good start.

The sag (aka scoop, or dip) of a start line

On the water, it is HARD to judge where the start line actually is.  This leads to boats near either mark being close to the start line at the gun, but those closer to the middle of the start line tend to be a little farther back.  How hard is it to judge where the start line is?  Well, I’m going to go out on a limb, and say Olympic sailors are better than most of us.  And here is what the start line at the 2012 Olympics looked like 3 seconds before a race:

You see the boats how in the middle of the start line are farther back?  This is known as “sag” to the start line.  So, assuming you  want to start in the middle of the line, how can you get the best position?

One way is to assume that the sag is there, and just be out in front of everyone.  This takes a lot of guts.  If you overestimate the sag, you’re over the line early, and have to restart (or are disqualified).

Is the start line square – which end is favoured?

By “square” I mean square to the wind.  Let’s say the start line (and course) was set, and then the wind shifted 30 degrees.  If the wind is coming from the starboard side of the course (for example), the “distance upwind” from the starboard end of the start line (the “boat end”) is less than the distance from the port (“pin end”) of the start line.

Generally speaking, if you put your boat perfectly in irons, it will point towards the favoured end of the line.

The other reason one end of the line might be favoured over the other is that maybe the wind is different on one side of the course.  In the image below, a racer sees a heavy air gust on the starboard side of the course.  They might select the starboard side of the start line so they can tack immediately after starting, and sail to the gust.  Once there, they may choose to tack back onto starboard (the edges of gusts tend to be faster than the middle of gusts, so in the diagram, the sailor is trying to ride the edge of fast air)

One thing that Tom stressed throughout his presentation was having a reason for everything you do.  Here are some reasons you might select one end of the start line over the other:

  • You want to tack onto port immediately to get to the right hand side of the course — start at the starboard end of the line
  • One end is favoured — start there
  • You can’t decide which end of the start line is favoured — start at the middle of the line
  • There is a large clump of good sailors at the favoured end, and you don’t want to get caught in the scrum — start in the middle
  • You have trouble judging sag — start at one end of the line

All this is to say is that there are lots of things to take into account when picking a spot on the line.  It’s up to you to weight the different options and to pick a spot deliberately, and execute your plan.  Don’t just start “somewhere” on the line, start from where you think you can have your best race.

Starting Techniques

Before I start writing about some of the potential techniques you can use to start, I’m going to write a bit about the end goals.  The best case scenario for a start is to cross the start line, with the boat at full speed, into clean air, and with right-of-way over nearby boats, just as the race starts.  Now, that’s a lot to remember, and harder to get right.

Crossing the line at the right time

This is conceptually the easiest thing to get — you don’t want to cross the start line before the race starts (the best case scenario is that you have to turn around and cross again).  But you don’t want to start the race late either.

So whatever technique you use to start, you want to be very close to the start line as the race starts.

Crossing the line with speed

Even if you’re first across the start line, if you’re moving slowly at the start, then someone slightly behind you (but moving fast) can pass you.  So the second thing we have to think about is how to ensure the boat has some speed before we cross.

We know that reaching is a faster point of sail than close hauled.  We also know that close hauled moves us upwind.  This suggests that a good start technique might be to sail close to the start line some time before the start, and sail on a close reach or broad reach in the seconds before the start.  The amount of time it takes your boat to reach top speed will determine how long you have to reach for.  Once your boat is at full speed, you can turn it up to a close-haulled course just as the race starts, and cross the line with lots of speed.  The issue with reaching in the few seconds before a start is that you have to have the space to pull it off, which is why you have to be very careful about other boats and who has right-of-way over whom.

Right of way

Here is where things get complicated.

So far we’ve determined that we want to be near the start line, reaching just before the start, and we’re going to turn upwind to close-hauled just as the race begins.  But there are going to be a bunch of other boats trying the same thing.  How do we ensure there’s no one in our way (and, to a lesser extent, can we give ourself and advantage by getting in the way of other people)?

Let’s look at the Racing Rules of Sailing, specifically rules 10, 11, and 12, and how they apply to 3 different set of boats:

10: When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

11: When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

12: When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.

Given rule 10, it’s obvious that (everything else being equal) we would prefer to be on starboard tack at the start.  This means that we have right-of-way over everyone on port tack.  In the diagram below, scenario 1, the green boat is on starboard tack, so she has right of way over the red boat on port.  The port tack boat must do whatever to avoid the starboard boat.  If you’re the starboard tack boat, it’s customary to yell “Starboard!” to let red know that you are there, and have right of way (but it’s not a rule, they should be watching where they’re going)

Rule 11 means that if two boats are overlapped (that is, part of the “behind” boat is in front of the transom of the “ahead” boat) then the boat that is to leeward has right-of-way over the boat to windward*.  In scenario 2 below, both boats are on starboard tack, so rule 10 does not come into play.  The boats are overlapped.  Because the boats are on starboard tack, the green boat (on the port side of the red boat) is considered the leeward boat.  Thus, red, must avoid green (even if it means crossing the line early, or tacking onto port).  If you’re the green boat, it’s customary to yell “Up! Up! Up!” to tell red that she must head up to avoid you.

Rule 12 is pretty intuitive — you’re not allowed to bash into the back of someone else’s boat (scenario 3).  Note that because the red boat has not crossed the imaginary transom line the boats are not overlapped.  Red must stay out of green’s way.  Red could maybe make a choice here.  If she were to bear off, she could maybe establish overlap with green.  Then rule 11 comes into effect, and green would have to avoid red.  If red were to do this, she’d risk getting caught in green’s wind shadow.  Alternatively, red could try to sail up above green.  Green would maintain right-of-way but red could try to get into some undisturbed air and maybe beat green on speed.

Start strategies

The reaching start

This one is very easy to do if there are a small number of boats racing.  We’ll assume that you’re the only boat, for now.  The idea is to go on a beam reach, from one end of the start line to the other.  This ensures good position (you’re right behind the start line) and good speed (you’re on a beam reach) when the start sound goes off.  You also have a good window of time to pull off the start.

Let’s say that you time your run along the start line at 45 seconds.  If you start your run (pass one of the end-points) at about 22 seconds before the start, you’ll start exactly on time, right in the middle of the start line.  If you make an error in your approach (or the wind speed changes, or something) you have a very large margin of error — even if you’re 20 seconds early (or late) you still are able to pull off your perfect start.

The reaching start version 2

Let’s say there are multiple boats racing, all who are trying to pull off the reaching start (note — this happens frequently at KSC).  Let’s assume that all the boats are about the same speed when they’re reaching (i.e. you won’t be bumping into anyone going the same direction as you).  In this case, all you have to worry about are boats coming the other way.  No problem!  Instead of crossing “any one of the start line endpoints” 20 seconds before the race, make sure you cross the right-hand endpoint 20 seconds before the race.  This means you have right-of-way over anyone coming from the other direction (you’ll be on starboard tack, they’ll be on port).

In the diagram, there are a bunch of boats reaching along on starboard tack (green), and a bunch on port (red).  The port-tack boats have to turn to avoid the starboard ones, and the starboard boats have a nice lead when the race starts.

The “Timed start” – defending against a reaching start

Let’s say that there are lots of boats doing their reaching start, and they’ve all gotten good enough so they’re on starboard tack.  Let’s say the start line is starting to get crowded, and it’s tough to find a place in the line of boats all reaching along.

The Timed start is trickier to pull off, but if you do manage to pull it off then you get to start nicely while also throwing a wrench into the plans of those who are trying a reaching start.  It takes advantage of rule 11 to be the leeward boat over anyone reaching along the start line.

To execute the timed start, you must know how fast your boat can go from some point below the start line, to the start line.  You start below the line at the predetermined time (say, 45 or 30 seconds before the start of the race) and head to the start line on a close hauled starboard tack course.  As you approach the start line, you can start enforcing your rights under rule 11 (“Up! Up! Up!”).

The boats attempting to do a reaching start are forced to avoid you, since you’re the leeward boat.  They have a few options — try to head up (which might force them across the start line early), bear off and go around your stern (costing them time and distance right before the start), slow down to the point where they won’t hit you (costing them speed at the start), tack onto port (costing them time, distance, and potentially putting them over the line, etc)

The diagram shows what might be happening 20, 15, 10 and 5 seconds before the start.  Green is enforcing her rights and forcing red to make a tough decision.

The tricky part about a timed start is getting the timing right.  If you’re slightly early, then you can bear off just before the start line and burn a few seconds (assuming you have room).  If you’re slightly late though, then you end up starting well behind everyone else in the fleet.

The “Vanderbilt start” — A refined Timed Start

A variation of the Timed start is known as the Vanderbilt start.  You pick where you want to start on the start line, and put your boat there, on port tack, about 1 minute before the start.  At the 1 minute sound, you bear away downwind on a port broad reach for about 20 seconds, gybe onto starboard and head up to close hauled (takes about 10 seconds).  The starboard tack approach to the start line takes about 30 seconds, meaning you pulled off the perfect timed start, and started exactly where you wanted on the line!  Because all boats and crews are a bit different, the timing should be considered a guideline only, and you should work with your skipper/crew/boat to fine tune the numbers (maybe you start your gybe at 22 seconds, or 18 seconds after the 1m warning, for instance).

One final note about the Vanderbilt (or timed) start — I’d recommend using it when there are steady winds.  If there is a lull (or gust, or wind shift) in those 20-30 seconds before you hit the start line, then your timing will be way off (either early or late).

The held position start

This one is the toughest to pull off.  It’s a great technique in a Laser, or other boat which can be accelerated quickly, but you won’t see many keelboats trying it.  Furthermore, it’s best done in a big fleet when there are too many boats to pull off another start.

The idea is that you stop your boat on (or just behind) the start line, on starboard tack, but slightly in irons.  Anyone trying a reach has to avoid you (they will either be on port, or will on your windward side).  If you can hold position until a few seconds before the start, you can bear off and accelerate the boat just as the start sound goes.  If someone tries to come in on your leeward side, you can defend by bearing off and getting in front of them before they get their nose ahead of your transom.  This is called “defending”.  Note that defending will move you slightly leeward along the start line, so make sure you have some space (and defend that space)

The held position start is a game of cat and mouse where you’ll be tested on your ability to hold a position without drifting, be able to anticipate what others are doing, and be confident enough in your ability to enforce your rights.  In big regattas where 50 boats are on the start line, everyone is trying to get an edge on everyone else, there is a lot of shouting from boat to boat (“Up! Up! Up!”, “You’re not overlapped!”)  Often, the veteran sailors will “pick on” a new sailor after identifying them as a “marshmallow” (or “soft target”) who isn’t going to defend their start position.  Not nice, perhaps, but…

Anyway, now that you know what the folks on the start line are trying to do (between defend, and ensure they have a bit of space to leeward), you can make sense of what the boats are doing in videos like this:


Dip start (not when black/U flag)

Before we talk about the dip start, I should mention the black-flag/U-flag rules.  In a big competitive race, sometimes it’s tough for the RC to identify all the boats who are across the line early.  If they can’t identify everyone, they’ll abandon the race, and restart.  This gets old REAL quick when you have to start a race six times.  So they made the black-flag.  If the black flag is flying from the RC boat before a race, it means if you’re over the line early (technically, if you’re in the triangle formed by the start line and windward mark less than 1 minute before the race) then you’re disqualified — you’re not allowed to turn back and cross the start line again.  That’s a huge incentive to not start early.  The U-Flag is similar (slightly different rules apply if a race is restarted, but basically “if you’re over early, then you’re out”).

So, the dip start.  Instead of reaching back and forth just behind the start line (where everyone else is, or is lining up), you can be reaching back and forth in front of the start line.  Pick a spot that is free of competing boats, and “dip” behind the start line just before the gun goes.  Obviously, you’re not allowed to do a dip start when black/U flag is up, but you can try if only normal flags are showing.  This lets you sail in clean air and lets you pick a spot in the start line where there are holes.  I’ve never had the guts to try to pull this off, so I can’t speak to how hard it is, or how well it works.


Windward legs

Generally speaking, upwind legs are about minimizing the distance sailed.  There is an exception to that rule, but I’ll leave that to the end of this section.

Minimizing the distance sailed is important because most boats on a close hauled course will be traveling at close to their hull speed.  I’m not going to talk physics, but generally an Albacore will go the “about” same speed upwind in 10 knots, in 15 knots, or in 20 knots of air, and about the same speed whether the sails are trimmed “perfectly” or “just okay”.  The perfect sails and higher wind will go slightly faster, but we’re not talking a huge difference.  The difference between a good sailor and a great sailor is the great sailor will be able to sail the minimum distance at the same speed.  This mean tactically choosing a shorter route, and making sure that your boat is pointing as well as as it can.


Properly trimmed sails allow you to point close to the wind.  If you try to point too high, you’ll start to “pinch” and the boat will slow down drastically.  If a boat with proper set sails is racing against a boat with poorly trimmed sails, they might be able to point 5 degrees higher than the poorly set boat before loosing power.  To make up some angles, let’s say that one boat can point 30 degrees to the wind, but another can point 35 degrees.  The boat that sails at 35 degrees will end up sailing about 40m farther than the boat sailing 30 degrees from the wind over a 1/2 km windward leg.  So the first thing to do to minimize distance sail is make sure your boat is set up to point well.  Get the foot and leech of the jib tensioned right, apply the right amount of vang, and start making your way upwind.

Headers and Lifts

You can’t sail right into the wind.  When the course is square to the start line, this means you can’t sail straight to the mark, you have to be tacking back and forth to make your way there.  But the wind is oscillating slightly left and right from the average direction, right?  This means that sometimes a close hauled course on one tack is “more” at the mark than a close hauled course on the other tack.

When the wind is coming from one side (let’s say the starboard side of the course) then you can put your boat on a starboard tack and travel in a straight line (or closer to a straight line) toward the mark.  This is called a “lift”.  When the wind shifts to the other side of the course, and is more coming toward you, it’s called a header.  A header on one tack is a lift on the other, so it make sense to tack when you’re being headed.  Remember what we said about 5 degrees of difference saving you several boat lengths?  Well an oscillating wind might be shifting through 45 degrees (or more) or arc, so image how much distance you’d save if you could exploit that!

So, to minimize distance sailed, tack on headers, ride the lifts.

How do you know when you’re being headed, or being lifted?  This is a tricky one.  Top level sailors have a hard time figuring it out.  A compass on the boat sometimes helps.  If you know the course is set so the prevailing wind is blowing from (let’s say) 60 degrees, you might expect your boat to be pointing either 30 degrees or 90 degrees (depending on which tack you’re on).  If you’re on a close hauled course between 30 and 90 degrees, then you’re being lifted.  If you’re close hauled course is less than 30 degrees, or greater than 90, then you’re encountering a header, and should probably tack.  This is an example, how close you can actually point is dependent on the boat, on your sail trim, etc.

Another way to tell is to watch the rest of the fleet.  If it looks like those on port tack are sailing better, then tack onto port.  If Steve (probably the best racer at KSC) hits a gust and immediately tacks to starboard, then be ready to tack to starboard when that gust hits you, because it’s probably a local wind shift.

Sailing when no tack is favoured

If the wind is coming directly down the course, and neither port or starboard tack is favoured, then you can choose which tack you’re on for tactical purposes.  I won’t get into covering too much, but remember what I said earlier about having a plan?  Look at the situation and decide if it’s more advantageous to be on port or starboard.

In general, one wants to sail near the middle of the course.  Some people will sail way off to one side, but these people are taking a risk — they have to come back at some point, and if the wind shifts so they are headed on their way back to the course, then they’re screwed.  It’s okay to sail off to one side, but be sure you understand your reasons for doing so  Unless there’s a good reason to go to the edges, it makes most sense to stay close to the middle.  That gives you the most options if the wind shifts to favour either port or starboard.

The starboard layline parade

Some people will hit that starboard layline very early.  Others will make their way up the middle of the course, and tack onto the layline later.  This often leads to a “parade” of boats, one after the other, approaching the mark on starboard tack.  So when do you join the parade?  Generally, as late as possible.  There are two reasons for this:

  • If the other boat is on starboard and ahead of you, you’ll never beat him on starboard
  • It’s HARD to call the layline from far away.  Even if you do call it perfectly, the slightest wind shift will screw up the layline.

Having said that, if there are lots of boats in the fleet, it might be hard to find a spot in the parade if you leave it too late — remember, you’re approaching the layline on a port tack, so all the boats on starboard have right-of-way over you.  You have to aim for a “hole” in the parade and tack into it.

Check out this video — there’s a “wall” of boats on starboard tack, and the approaching boat (on port) has no rights over these.  She’s got to find a hole in the line, and attempt to not be caught in the wind shadow of the fleet


Upwind strategy

1st windward leg — you’re trying to establish yourself at the front of the fleet.  Tack on headers, don’t be afraid to take risks, and hit the starboard layline as late as possible to reduce the chances of over-or-undershooting the mark.

2nd windward leg — be a bit more cautious.  Weigh chasing that boat in front of you vs defending your position against the boat behind you.  Still tack on headers, but be careful about giving the boat behind you opportunities to make gains.

Last windward leg — unless there’s a really good chance of you catching him, don’t go for the boat in front.  Defend your position against the boat behind.

A note about upwind sailing in exotic boats

Earlier I had mentioned that windward was all about minimizing distance.  That’s true in the vast majority of cases, and all KSC boats.  There are a few exceptions though.  Some exotic windward planing hulls or foilers (29er, 49er, International 14, RS700, MPS, 18′ Skiff, Moth, etc) can sail upwind faster than their hull speed, given enough wind, and they may choose to sail a longer route if it results in significantly higher speeds.  KSC doesn’t own any of these boats, so don’t worry about it.  I only include this note because I can’t say “it’s always about minimizing distance” when there are exceptions to the rule.

Downwind legs

If upwinds are all about minimizing distance, downwinds and reaches are all about maximizing speed.  This generally means getting the boat up on a plane, and keeping it there.  A boat in 20 knots of air will go much faster than a boat in 10 or 15 knots of wind, so you’re better watching for gusts on the race course, and making your way towards those, if you can hit them.  If you’re faced with the choice of sailing slightly longer distance at a higher speed, take the higher speed.

Reaching legs

Most sailors, after rounding the windward mark, tend to sail too high initially, and then have to do a deeper run as they approach the gybe mark.  This is slow not only because it’s a long distance, but they might not be making best use of the gusts/lulls to maximize speed.

Let’s look at red’s path.  They round the windward mark, and feel the boat accelerate on a plane.  They think “wow, this is great” and ride the beam reach plane for as long as they can, until it becomes obvious that they have to bear off toward the gybe mark.  As they do so, the boat falls off it’s plane, and slows significantly.  By this time, the boat has no choice but to continue to head down toward the mark.

Blue’s path is different.  It establishes a plane, but bears off early as much as it can while staying on the plane.  When a gust hits, the boat can be headed more directly downwind while maintaining the planing speeds.  This lets the good sailor maximize downwind distance traveled during the gusts.  When the gust ends and a lull is encountered, the boat can be headed up onto a beam reach.  This fastest, most powerful point of sail while hold the plane and maximize speed as they eat up the horizontal portion of the course.  When the next gust hits, they can steer for balance, and push the boat deeper again, still at huge speeds.  They zig-zag along, probably doing about the same distance as red (although in an “average” more direct line) but at planing speeds throughout the leg, instead of only for half of the leg.

The above path of blue just takes into account wind speed changes.  There will be wind direction changes as well that a good sailor will attempt to exploit.  The key is to maintain your plane and maximize speed.

Direct downwind runs

Most boats sail faster downwind by going on a broad reach, gybing, and going on a broad reach on the opposite tack.  Tasars, catamarans, 29ers, Bytes, etc typically do this.  A notable exception to the rule is that Albacores tend to sail slightly faster directly on a run.  I don’t know why, but that’s what the Albacore experts tell me.  Lasers used to be considered faster reach-to-reach but modern Laser technique (which I’m not going to get into) is more about waves than wind, so be aware that those top Laser folks are going to be doing some crazy stuff on the direct downwind legs.

Boat-on-boat tactics

Boats sailing close to each other interfere with each others’ wind.  There are two positions you generally don’t want to be caught in — stuck in the wind shadow of another boat, and being lee-bowed by another boat.

A wind shadow is pretty easy to conceptualize — the air hits the sail of the boat in front of you, and is therefore slower, more turbulent and possibly in the wrong direction for boats behind.  This is sometimes talk about as “eating the other boat’s dirty air” or “the other boat is throwing junk” or some other terms like that.  In general, the lighter the wind, the bigger the wind shadow is.  That’s because the turbulent air has less clean air flowing around it to smooth the wrinkles.  I’ve heard that a typical wind shadow is cast about 4-times-the length-of-the-boom behind the boat, but that may be just an anecdote and I have not seen any proof of that measurement.  Take that advice with a grain of salt.

The 2nd situation, being “lee bowed” is tougher to explain.  As a sail encounters wind, the direction of air flow is directed to follow the curve of the sails.  But air is also “sticky” and it’s not just the air that hits the sails that is deflected — the nearby air is also turned.  If you’re slightly behind a boat, you’ll find that the wind you do feel is more “head on” than you expect.  That’s the result of the boat in front bending the air flow.  And what do we know about headers?  They suck!  You’ll lose power since you now appear to be pinching (as far as your sails know).

Now that you know where not to be, you can judge what the boats around you are doing and attempt to avoid those situations (or, even better, but them into those situations)


Tom, who gave the talk, wrote a book about all this stuff for the old “Silver Sail” standard, although it was never published.  He put the book on the KSC web site.  Note that the parts of the book that deals with how to use rules to your advantage is out of date (the rules were greatly overhauled since it was written) but the “how to tune your boat” and “how to make it around the course fast” parts are great.  http://kanatasailingclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Basic-Racing-Skills-Silver-Sail-manual.pdf

The Racing Rules of Sailing published by World Sailing contains all the technical rules about participating in a race.  You don’t have to know this document, but it’s a good reference.  It’s updated every 4 years (after the Olympics).  http://sailing.org/documents/racingrules/index.php.  Inside the KSC club house there is also the book “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing” (which covers the 2013-2016 set of rules, which is pretty close to the 2017-2020 rules).  This book is quite good at not only listing the rules, but going into situations when they might apply and understanding what each boat’s obligation under the rules are.

In physical book form, Frank Bethwaite (Olympic coach, and also the guy who designed the Tasar, the fasted monohull in the KSC fleet) wrote High Performance Sailing, now in it’s second edition.  https://www.amazon.ca/High-Performance-Sailing-Frank-Bethwaite/dp/1408124912.  You can also talk to Jason and he’ll lend you his copy.  The sequel “Higher Performance Sailing” is good too (again, talk to Jason).

Online, YouTube is your friend.  For Laser sailors, I also recommend Doug Peckover’s blog Improper Course which contains lots (and I mean LOTS) of tricks and tips for sailing the Laser.  Also check out Dick Tillerman’s Rules of Laser Sailing.




Race Night Report, June 8, 2017

Boats are at the water, and race season is off to a start!

We had two races in light but very shifty conditions (the wind flipped 180 degrees, and we raced a Windward/Leeward course since the gybe mark was on the wrong side of the course).

Tom N and Norm took out an Albacore, and an OCS start cost them in the first race.  Ray in a Laser and Jason in an Albacore battled it out to the windward mark when Ray’s mainsheet let go of the boom block and became unthreaded.  Jason took a couple of penalties on the second upwind, but managed to hold on for first.

1 – Jason
2 – Norm, Tom N
DNF – Ray

With Ray’s boat jury-rigged, Race 2 was held.  The wind however unfortunately died further and Jason was just able to finish before we were in drifting conditions.  Rather than go into shore like any sane person (Ray), Norm and Tom elected to spend an extra half hour on the water to complete the final leg and claim 2nd (rather than DNF)

1 – Jason
2 – Norm, Tom N
DNF – Ray

Post race beer/burgers were enjoyed by all (many thanks to Frank and Jean for cooking!) as we discussed the best way around the modified course using paper plates and beer bottles

Photo credit to Frank Boyaner

Race Night Report – Thursday June 1, 2017

The high water (and fact that boats weren’t yet at the beech) meant that the June 1 race night was a practice race, and will not officially count towards the season score.  We did get a few boats on the water though to run through the course and work out some kinks in our race plan.


This was really the story of the night.  A forecast 10 knots (with gusts of 15) did not come to pass.  Instead, we got about 6 knots with gusts in the 12-20 range.  A couple of capsizes happened throughout the night, but those who managed to hold on were flying in the gusts.

The Results

Chunshu and Norm (Albacore), Ray (Laser), Carla (Byte) and Jason (Laser) braved the couple of races, but end results were not tallied.  Notably, Jason sailed the wrong course in the first race, and others apparently chose to follow (pro tip — never assume Jason knows what the heck he’s doing)

The Apres-sail, the RC, and other comments

Many thanks to Frank and Jean for bringing hamburgers and refreshments, and instructors Sydney and Reese for doing Race Committee duties.  They set a course and ran a couple of quick races, all while keeping an eye on the fleet from a safety perspective.  As a final note, the Ottawa Skiff and Cat Grand Prix (OSCGP) is running this weekend, and Nepean One Design (NOD) is running the weekend of June 14.  KSC members are more than welcome to take a KSC cat to OSCGP and to take an Albacore or Laser to NOD.  See nsc.ca for details on these regattas.

Advanced Sailing Skills, – May 15, 2017


This off-the-water class was concerned with the physics of sailing.  Tom did his “Theory from Hell” lecture (thanks, Tom!) and Reese spoke about how to apply the forces generated to the actual boat.

I’m going to present the information in a bit of a different order than was listed in the class.  I’ll talk about the forces on a boat first, and talk (briefly) about how the sail force is generated later.  We’ll discuss laminar flow, turbulent flow, and finally apparent wind.

But first… ready to take a review of Grade 12 Math?

Vector Math

A scalar (like the number 8) is a mathematical representation something that has magnitude (or size, or quantity).  A vector is a mathematical representation of something that has magnitude and a direction.  Forces on an object can be represented by vectors that are made up of how strong the force is (the magnitude) and which direction the force is pushing (the direction).

On diagrams, force vectors applied to an object are often drawn as arrows.  The direction of the arrow shows the direction in which the force is applied.  The placement of the arrow shows where the force is applied.  The length of the arrow shows how much force is applied (the longer the arrow, the more force).

We use vectors in sailing to understand how forces affect the boat, how apparent wind changes as the boat moves, and to understand how the heck we can sail “into” the wind.  Don’t worry, we won’t be doing number-crunching.  We’re more concerned with “push here to turn left”, not “calculate how fast you turn left when you push here exactly this hard”

Breaking down and summing vectors

Just like scalars can be added together (8 + 6 = 14) vectors can be added.  If the vectors are in the same direction, adding them up is just like adding numbers (if the wind is blowing 6 knots from the north, and speeds up by 6 knots from the north, then the result is that it is blowing 12 knots from the north).  When vectors have different direction, the adding is not quite as simple (if the wind is blowing 6 knt from the north, then speeds up by 6 knts from the east, then the result is 8.5 knots from the north-east).  We won’t be doing any number crunching or trigonometry, it’s just something to be aware of.

Just like adding two vectors into one vector, a vector can be broken down into two (or more) smaller vectors called components.  In the above example, a 8.5 knot wind from the NE can be thought of as “6 knots from the N and 6 knots from the E”.  Vectors are usually broken down into components that are perpendicular to each other (like N and E), but you can break them down into components of any direction as long as they add up to the same thing.

We’ll see summing and breaking down vectors more as we analyze how the foils counter the sail and how the apparent wind works.


In the real world, when we push or pull on something off-centre, it tries to turn.  Let’s take the example of a canoe floating beside a dock.  If we push on the middle of the canoe, it moves sideways.  If we push on one end, it moves sideways, but also tries to turn.  This turning force is called “torque”.  If we want to turn the canoe only (without it moving sideways) than we can push on both ends of the canoe in opposite directions.  The “sideways” parts of the pushes cancel each other out, but the torque from each push is added.

The torque produced is proportional to the distance from the pivot point.  That is, if you push with the same force at a distance twice as far from the pivot point, then the torque is doubled.  That’s why it’s easier to loosen a bolt with a long wrench than with a short one.

Equivalency Vectors

Dealing with tonnes and tonnes of vectors is hard.  Often times though we can replace lots of vectors with one vector.  Let’s say that you have a bunch of people pulling or pushing on an object to move it.  For the purpose of analysis, you could replace all the forces that people are applying with a single force that represents the sum of their effort.  As long as the equivalent vector applies the same net force as all the individual efforts, and the same torque as all the individual efforts, you can concentrate only on the one vector to make the math easier.

Forces on the Boat – CE and CLR

The Sail, and Centre of Effort (CE)

The wind blowing across a sail generates a force on the sail.  This force is part forwards, part sideways.  Got it?  Good!  Hey, that was easy!

While the sail actually has lots of little forces pushing against the sail all over it (perpendicular to the sailcloth), you can imagine it as one big force.  This force (which we’ll call the effort) is applied about 1/3 the way along the sail and about 1/3 the way up the mast (in other words, not quite the middle, but pretty close to where the sail is “baggiest”).  The point at which the force is pushing is called the Centre of Effort, or CE.

The direction of effort is (roughly) perpendicular to the sail at the sail’s deepest point.  It generally points forwards some amount, and to leeward some amount.  A fuller or tighter sail can change the direction somewhat, but it’s okay to think of  it as pretty much perpendicular to the sail.

CE on Boats with 2+ Sails

The above talks in terms of CE in a boat with a single sail.  The principals are the same for a boat with a jib.  Some points before we take a look at double-handers:

  • There are two sails generated forces — we’ll have to add them up
  • The main is usually bigger than the jib, and usually generates more force — our combined CE will be dominated by the main’s contribution
  • The mast is usually a bit farther back on double-handers

This means that the force generated by the main is a bit farther back in the boat, but we have a new force generated by the jib forward.  The jib force is generally smaller than the main.  The sum of these two forces is between the two individual forces, but closer to the main force.

The total CE generated by the sails will generally be close to the mast, but a little bit behind.

Some boats have a third sail that goes in front of the jib called the spinnaker (typically only raised when going downwind).  This sail also generates force and the CE will be moved forward farther when the spinnaker is raised.  The same principals apply on boats with multiple masts, or multiple sails.

The Foils, and Centre of Lateral Resistance (CLR)

This one is not quite as intuitive as the sail(s).

Picture a canoe.  The canoe is easy to push forwards/backwards, but tougher to push sideways, right?  The shape of the canoe (narrow in one dimension, wide in the other) resists the sideways motion.  This is called “lateral resistance”.

Sailboats have hulls that produce some lateral resistance, and the rudder produces some as well (when it’s straight), but the majority of the lateral resistance comes from the centreboard (or dagger board, or keel, or whatever you call the “fin” that sticks down into the water — I’ll just call it the centreboard).  A few sailboats (like the Hobie 16) don’t have boards, so the hull is shaped to provide extra lateral resistance.  For the purpose of this analysis, we’re talking about boats with boards.

Just like we were able to take all the little forces on the sail and come up with an equivalent force applied at the centre of effort, we can take all the little lateral resistances and do our analysis based on a single force generated at the “centre of lateral resistance” or CLR.  Since we’ve already mentioned that the centreboard is providing most of the lateral resistance, you won’t be surprised to learn that the CLR for the whole boat tends to be pretty close to the middle of the centreboard.

Sailboats generally produce a lot of lateral resistance, much more so than a canoe.  They make so much, that we often “cheat” in our analysis and say that the boat doesn’t move sideways at all.  If we apply 100 pounds of sideways force to a sailboat, we’ll say that the boat produces 100 pounds of resistance, and doesn’t move sideways.  It actually does move sideways a little bit, but for the purpose of this write up we’ll say it doesn’t.

A note on terminology — “foils” or hydrofoils are the thin blades move through the water and generate forces.  In the boats we’re talking about, the centreboard and rudder are the foils.  There are a few types of boats which have horizontal or angled foils.  Rather than produce a force to resist the boat moving sideways these produce an “upwards” force to help lift the hull out of the water.  You can get some pretty amazing results with this, but when this page talks about “foils” we’re taking centreboard and rudder, not lifting foils.


Just like a boat resists moving sideways, the hull and foils of a boat also resists moving forwards or backwards.  This resistance is called “drag”.  Drag is usually much less than lateral resistance though.  (Warning: math incoming) Drag tends to increase proportionally to the square of speed of the boat.  That is to say, a boat going twice as fast generates four times as much drag, everything else being equal.

In a moment we’ll see a sail generate a forward force on the boat.  We know that an unbalanced force causes something to accelerate (Newton’s 2nd law).  As the boat speeds up, the drag grows until the forward force equals the drag force (at our top speed).  Later on in the class, we’ll be (I assume) talking about things we can do to reduce drag to increase our top speed.  For now though, our analysis does not take drag into account.

Applying CE/CLR

Analysis without considering torque — how does a boat sail  upwind?

We’re going to first consider a beam reach (we’re sailing perpendicular to the wind) because it makes more intuitive sense, at least to me.

For the purpose of this analysis, we’ll consider all forces as if they act on the “middle” of the boat, without generating torque.  That part comes later…

Adding Torque to the Equation

Terms to know – weather helm and lee helm

I’d like to talk about two terms we’ll be using.  For some reason, the direction the wind is coming from is sometimes called “wind” (as in “windward”) but it’s also sometimes called “weather”.  The direction the wind is blowing to is “lee”.  The various forces on the boat might be exerting a torque on the boat, trying to turn it into the wind (“weather helm”) or away from the wind (“lee helm”).  Most boats are designed to have a small bit of weather helm when sailed properly.  This will turn the boat into the wind and stop the boat if the skipper falls off or lets go of the rudder, or something.

Torque to roll the boat

Probably the easiest effect of torque to understand is how a boat stays upright.  That’s because we’ve all hiked out on a boat, and we’ve all experienced the effects of moving around while hiking.

We have the wind pushing on the sail.  For this analysis, we’re looking at just the “sideways” part of how the wind pushes, and not the forward part.  The wind is pushing some distance up the mast, at CE.  Counter to this, we have the lateral resistance in the opposite direction somewhere below the waterline.  Remember our canoe example at the top of this post?  The two forces pushing in opposite directions some distance apart are working together to torque the boat around a pivot point.  In the diagram below, these forces (red) are producing the red clockwise torque around the pivot (purple X).  This is the torque which will heel the boat and capsize if you don’t do anything to stop it

To counter that torque, we need to exert an equal amount of torque in the counter-clockwise direction.  We do this by hiking.  Gravity exerts a force on our body, which is transferred to the boat using our legs as levers.  The heavier we are (the more downward force) or the taller we are (the farther away from the pivot the force is applied) the more torque is generated.  Jason uses this as an excuse to have a second helping of desert.  You want to apply just the right amount of torque such that the boat stays flat.

Let’s look what happens when the boat heels.

First, there is less sail area presented to the wind, so the sideways force (red arrows) become smaller.  Second, the CE moves “down” toward the waterline as the mast tilts.  The CLR moves “up” as well.  All this means the red vectors (which are smaller anyway) are vertically closer to the pivot point, providing less torque.  The net result — less hiking force is needed to keep the boat steady.

In strong winds, even the tall heavy sailors can’t generated enough torque to keep the boat flat.  Most of the time, you’ll see a fleet of Lasers sailing along, all with a bit of heel according to the skipper’s ability to generate righting force.  Good Laser sailors know that sheeting out to spill some wind (reducing the size of the red vectors) results in a flat boat and less drag, and generally go faster than the kids who try to hold all the wind in their sail and heel too much.  To put it another way, the good sailors will generate as much torque with their body as they can, and then adjust their sail to their body.  The other sailors will try to generate as much sail power as they can and then wrench their body trying to tame it (and fail to do so).

If you get a chance to watch Steve Harrington on the water at a KSC club race, he’s a perfect example.  The guy’s 145 pounds, 5’6″ and his Laser is dead flat in even the strongest winds.  He’s also winning every race.

Torque Affects of CE and CLR on weather helm and lee helm

Let’s look at the boat from the top.  This is similar to what we did when we looked at how we sail upwind, but now we’ll look at the torques the different forces generate.

The boat will tend to pivot at some point between the CE and CLR.  The two sideways components (blue and purple) will together torque the boat in one direction.  If CE is behind CLR, then they’ll be rotating the boat into the wind (weather helm).  If CE is in front of CLR, then they’ll rotate the boat away from the wind (lee helm).  If they are perfectly lined up with each other, then they won’t be torquing the boat at all.  The forward component of the sail (green) will however torque the boat (weather helm), even if CE and CLR are perfectly in line, since it’s pushing forwards off-centre to the pivot point

Moving CE/CLR to steer

Let’s take a look what happens to CE and CLR around the boat.

Let’s say you were to move CE forward in the boat.  What would happen?  The sideways components (purple and blue, above) wouldn’t have has much leverage around the pivot point, and you’d have less weather helm.  If you move CE so far forward that it’s in front of CLR, you’re actually generating lee helm with those sideways forces.

Now what about that green “go forward” component?  If you roll your boat to windward (that is, towards the right side of the diagram above) then you can move your CE to the point where it is directly above CLR.  This would eliminate the green torque component.

How would you move CE forward (or back) in the boat?  Sheeting the main in would move CE farther back and in towards the centreline.  Sheeting out would move CE forward, but away from the centreline.  Sitting farther forward in the boat would tilt the mast forward (and tilt the centerboard backwards) to move CE/CLR forward/back.  Hiking the boat to windward would move CE towards the centreline, and heeling to leeward would move it away from the centreline.

So to steer without a rudder you would:

  • To turn into the wind, generate weather helm
    • move back in the boat to move CE backwards behind CLR (more blue/purple torques)
    • stop hiking so hard, let the boat heel to leeward to move CE out and away from CLR (more green torque)
    • sheeting in would increase force from sideways components (more blue/purple force, thus more torque), move CE back (more blue/purple torque) but would also move CE in towards the centreline (less green torque).  Sheeting in is usually a net gain in weather helm
  • To turn away from the wind, generate lee helm
    • move forward in the boat to move CE forward ahead of CLR
    • hike harder, heel the boat to windward to move CE in closer to the centreline of the boat (less green torque)
    • sheet out to move CE ahead (reduces blue/purple torques, but increase green torque).  Sheeting out is usually a net gain in lee helm

On a double-handed boat, you can also use the jib.  Picture the scenario where you let one sail (either the main or the jib) do all the work, while the other one just flaps around

  • if you’re using the jib to generate all your power, the CE is very far ahead of the CLR, and you turn away from the wind
  • if you’re using the main to generate all your power, the CE is very far behind the CLR, and you turn towards the wind

Thus, it’s quite easy for a single sailor to sail a double-hander without a rudder — let one sheet loose, and yank on the other.  You can play with how much of each sail you’re applying until you find a balance that keeps you straight.

How a Sail Generates Forces

I’m not touching this one.

There are countless articles written about how a sail generates force, many of which contradict each other.  Most resources you’ll find online either

  • oversimplify things to the point at which they are flat out wrong
  • present part of the physics while ignoring others, leaving questions unanswered
  • insult people who present a different model of how a sail works
  • all of the above
  • all of the above, and then they claim that you’re just not smart enough to understand

In other words, it’s the airfoil teaching effect:

(image used with permission, original source https://www.xkcd.com/803/)

In my humble opinion, knowing how to use the force is more important than knowing the details of how it is generated.

Turbulent and Laminar Flow

I will speak briefly on turbulence.  A fluid (air, water, etc) will tend to flow in nice straight lines (laminar flow).  When it encounters an object, it has to go around the object.  If the object is fairly small, is nice and smooth, and allows for gradual flow around the object, you can have laminar flow around it.  If the object forces abrupt changes in the direction of the fluid, you create turbulence, and eddies or swirlies are introduced into the system.

When laminar flow is established can be harnessed to generate the sail and foil forces with minimal drag.  When a flow becomes turbulent the amount of force we can generate drops significantly, and the amount of drag increases.  To put it another way, we’d like all the fluids moving around our boat to have laminar flow if possible.

How do you know you have laminar flow?  Look at the tell tales on your sail.  If they are streaming backwards, they’re getting caught in the laminar flow as the wind blows across your sail.   Great!  If your tell tales are spinning around, flapping forwards and then back, or other erratic behaviour, then they are getting caught in one of the eddies, which indicates you have turbulent flow.  Turbulent flow means your sail is not generating as much power, and there is more drag on your rig.

We can’t see tell tales on our foils, but we can look at the water behind the boat.  If the water in our wake is relatively smooth, then then foils are not generating much turbulence.  If our wake is full of bubbles, and little whirlpools, then its and indication that our hull is dragging significantly.  Reducing hull drag is beyond the scope of this write-up, but try sitting farther forward in the boat and using less rudder if possible.

Apparent Wind

True wind is what the wind is doing relative to the ground (or water, or other stationary point).  You may be in a lull, or a gust, or just steady wind.  Whatever the case, if the wind is blowing 10 knots from the North relative to the surface, then that is the true wind at this point in time.

Induced wind or boat wind is the wind that’s created by moving across the surface.  If the true wind is dead still, but you’re riding a bicycle at 30 km/h then you “feel” a wind on your face as if it’s blowing 30km/h right at you.  That’s induced wind — wind created by your motion over the ground.

Apparent wind is the combination of the two.  Let’s say the wind was blowing at 10 km/h and you were riding a bike at 30 km/h directly into the wind.  You would “feel” 40 km/h (10 km/h true wind, plus 30 km/h induced wind).  If you were biking away from the wind, you would feel 20 km/h.  If you were biking sideways to the wind, you’d “feel” the wind come at you at about 32km/h from and angle about 32 degrees.

When you are travelling slow, the induced wind is small, and apparent wind is pretty close to true wind.  When you are travelling very fast the apparent wind becomes closer to the induced wind.

You’re sails operate on what they feel — the apparent wind.  So if you’re at a standstill on a beam reach, your sails “feel” the true wind coming from directly beside you.  As your speed increases, you’ll be generating more induced wind.  This will make the wind “appear” to come from more in front of you.  As you speed up, the boat may move from a beam reach to a close reach, even to close hauled just be speeding up.

Another example is gybing a Laser in strong wind.  You want to be going as fast as possible when you gybe.  If the wind is blowing at 20 knots, and you’re going 5 knots in the direction of the wind, then there’s 15 knots of apparent wind coming behind you.  Tough as hell to gybe that.  But, if you’re going 15 knots downwind, then there’s only 5 knots of apparent wind coming behind you.  That’s a walk in the park!  So catch a wave, get up on a plane, do whatever you need to do to speed up that boat heading into that gybe!

Side note – Some boats can sail faster than the true wind on reaches.  That’s because it’s not the 5 knots of true wind that is operating on the sail, it’s the 20 knots of apparent wind that the sail is using.  The 29er, for example, will sail at a speed of about 18 knots on a broad reach in 12 knots of wind, and you’re actually “tacking” through the apparent wind when you gybe.


How Scoring Works – Appendix A Demystified

The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) contains a suggested mechanism for scoring at regattas, detailed in Appendix A of the rules.  A regatta doesn’t have to use this mechanism (the Sailing Instructions, or SIs, for the regatta will describe the scoring system) but Appendix A is a popular choice.  This article describes how Appendix A works, and talks about the changes to Appendix A that KSC uses for our weekly race series.

The Basics

In simple terms, you get one point for being first, two points for being second, etc (Rule A4.1).  At the end of the regatta, the boat with the fewest points wins (like golf) (Rule A2.1).

Sounds simple, right?

The devil is, of course, in the details.  What happens if a boat doesn’t race?  What if a person crews for one boat one race, and a different boat the next?  How do “dropped races” work, that kind of thing.

Breaking the Rules

Generally speaking, a boat that breaks a rule (or doesn’t race) is scored as if it finished “last place plus one”.  If there are 10 boats in the regatta, you’d normally expect the scores to be 1 point (for the first place boat) to 10 points (for the last place boat).  If only 8 of the 10 boats participated in the race, they would score 1 to 8 points, and the two boats who did not race are scored 11 points each.

Boats might not race for a number of reasons — maybe the didn’t show up for the race, they were unable start the race in time, they were over the start line early (and didn’t rectify the issue), they had problems and had to leave the race, etc.  Under Appendix A, these situations are generally treated equally (by awarding “last place plus one”).

The other situation where a boat will be scored as “last place plus one” is if the boat is disqualified.  This typically occurs when a boat breaks a rule (maybe it caused a collision when the other boat had right-of-way).  A boat can exonerate itself by doing penalty turns (usually two 360 degree turns) as soon as it is able to safely do so.  If a boat doesn’t do its turns, it may be disqualified and awarded “last place plus one”.

There are other conditions which could cause a change to a score.  The judge could decide to award someone a score based on where they would have likely finished if a boat were interfered with, or a boat may be penalized a certain number of points for some types of infractions.  Generally speaking these cases are quite rare, but you should know that they do exist.

Some common “scores” which you’ll see on a scoring sheet:

Code Meaning
DNC Did not come to the starting area (didn’t show up for the race)
OCS On course side (you crossed the start line early)
DNS Did not start the race in time (other than DNC or OCS)
RET Retired (you started the race, but headed back to port before finishing)
DNF Did not finish the race in time (but were still trying)
DSQ Disqualified (broke a rule and didn’t do your turns)
BFD Black flagged (started early when black flag was up)
UFD U-flagged (started early when U flag was up)


Dropped Scores

Everyone has a bad race now and then.  Furthermore, maybe there was a tough situation and you got disqualified for breaking a rule one race.  This might not make a big difference in a regatta with only a few boats, but in a big regatta with 50+ boats, then having one bad score can completely kill your chances of placing well.

Enter “dropped scores”.  This lets you ignore your worst scores from the regatta.  Appendix A allows you to ignore your worst score in the series (Rule A2.1), although it is more typical for the SIs to specify a number of scores to exclude based on the number of races sailed.  This might be worded something like “excluding her worst score when 5 – 11 races are scored, or her two worst scores when 12 or more races are scored”.

In regattas, one dropped score per five or six races is typical, whereas weekly race series often allow for more dropped scores.

Boats and people

One final thing to note about Appendix A (and the RRS in general) is that they talk about a boat as the entity participating.  In other words, the people on the boat don’t matter, it’s the boat that races.  Let’s say you have an Albacore with sail number 8034.  The Albacore’s place will be scored in each race regardless of who is skipper, who is crew, etc.  At the end of the regatta, it’s the score that “Albacore 8034” has which determines it’s position.  For most regattas, this is fine — the boat will typically be skippered and crewed by the same people for every race.

Kanata Sailing Club Races – Changes from Appendix A

KSC took the Appendix A rules, and makes a few adjustments to suit our needs.  The first big one is that we score people, and not boats.  At KSC race nights, where we have people constantly changing boats from one week to the next, scoring a boat doesn’t really work.  Our solution is to have every sailor pretend to be a boat (as far as scoring is concerned), and we score each sailor as if they finished in the place their boat did.

Let’s say that Alice, Bob, Charlie, and David are racing.  Bob is crewing for Charlie.  In the first race, Alice finishes first, Bob and Charlie second, and David third.  Alice gets one point, Bob and Charlie each get two points, and David gets three.  In the next race, David wins, followed by Alice, and finally Bob/Charlie.  David gets one point, Alice two, Bob/Charlie three.  The total score at the end of the second race is: Alice (3 points), David (4 points), Bob (5 points), Charlie (5 Points).  Scoring can continue from there the next week even if Bob and Charlie sail in different boats, or Alice/David sail together, etc.

The second change we make is that we allow for a lot of dropped scores.  We might be changing the ratio in the future, but as of 2016 we allowed for 1 dropped score for every 4 races scored.  This means that if you miss a week you’re not overly penalized.  But it also means that you do have to show up for a few weeks and score consistently well during those weeks to win the series.

Unlike a regatta, we don’t know how many people will show up over the course of the series.  On a good night we might have 10 boats racing (maybe 3-4 Lasers, 3-4 Albacores, a Byte, maybe a 29er or Hobie Cat, etc).  Basically, we figured that we probably won’t have 15 boats.  We chose the number 15 as a the score for people who don’t show up (“DNC” or “Did not come to starting area”) so people who don’t show up get an automatic “15th place”.

A final change we made is that we thought it would be better to reward those who made an effort to race above those who didn’t show up.  Boats who are disqualified, do not start in time, forced to retire, etc are awarded points greater than the 15 points those who didn’t start. In the following table, the number of points “n” indicates the number of points for the last boat who finished the race normally.  Note that even if we do have an abnormally huge number of boats racing, your score will not be higher than 15.

Code Points Meaning
DNC 15 Did not come to starting area (no show)
OCF n+1 On course finish
DNF n+2 Did not finish race
RET n+2 Retired (started race, but left to go back to club)
DSQ n+3 Disqualified (ex. broke rule and did not do turns)
DNS n+3 Did not start (is on the water, but didn’t cross start line in time)

2016 KSC Open Regatta


It’s that time of the year again, Labour Day is approaching and (with it) the KSC Open Regatta!  Come one, come all to our club and test your skill against some of the Ottawa area’s best racers.

Albacore and Laser sailors can expect a great 2-day event with lots of fun and great people.  We are pleased to announce that this year’s prizes are beautiful beer mugs with club and class logos etched in (mug for first place Laser, and a mug each for skipper and crew of first place Albacore).

As always, sailors of other classes of boats are welcome to participate in fine racing (however will be ineligible for prizes).

A change over previous years is that a light lunch will be provided on the water for all participants who register before Saturday August 27!  So sign up now!


Date: Sept 3-4, 2016 (Sat/Sun Labour-day weekend)

Entry fee: Single-handed $25, Double-handed $35 (discount for classes with no prizes)

Notice of Race

Sailing Instructions

Race night report, Aug 1 and Aug 8

Well, apparently I didn’t write a report for Aug 1, so this one will have to serve for both

Aug 1

A big wind day saw lots of close racing.  Emily, Heidi and Stephanie set up a short course with a 20 minute target time, and we managed to get 4 races in (wow!)  A significant shift to the right meant that the later races were not quite square to the wind, but it made for great racing.  The cat (Tony/Annie) scored its first win of the season in Race 2, and the 29er showed what it could do with the spinnaker in the gusts, but the Albacores were the consistent winners.  Dominic/Jeremy took the night with 1/2/1/1 finishes, with Ken/Frank S (2/4/2/2) following.  Jean/Frank (Albacore) and Max (Laser) tied with 3/5/5/3 and 5/3/4/4 finishes respectively.

Aug 8

The first of 3 races saw big wind and waves, while the second and third were light-air races.  The course was much more square than the previous week (great job, RC) and good close racing followed.  Carla/Steve (Tasar) took the night with 3 1st place finishes, followed by Ken E/Norm with 3 2nd place finishes.  Jason (Laser) scored 3/3/4 to round out 3rd place for the night.

Standings so far

The Summer Series 2 standing have Ken E (12 points) in the lead with Frank and Jean tied for second (23 points).  Carla (26 points), Jason (28 points) are challenging Frank and Jean with a group of racers (Tony, Dominic, Jeremy) all at 35 points.

The Season has Ken E in a healthy lead (36 points) with Jason (63 points) and Dominic (83 points) the closest contenders.

Full results, as always, available on the racing page at http://kanatasailingclub.com/sailing/racing/

Race night report, July 25, 2016

Series report after race report

Very light air and changing weather conditions challenged the sailors for the final night in Summer Series 1.

As the tail end of a thunderstorm was blowing through the area, the racers were debating whether or not to hit the water.  The clouds certainly looked like they had passed, and sunny skies were above, but most folks waited  a good half-hour without any thunder or lightning before rigging up.  This meant that we only got 2 short races (rather than the planned 3) in for the night, and several boats didn’t make the 1st race either.

The first race saw an extremely close contest between Lino/Dominic (Albacore) vs Ken/Corinne (Albacore).  As Ken/Corinne were coming up to the leeward mark on the last leg, Lino/Dominic made a sneaky play and overlapped the boat, forcing Ken/Corinne to give mark room.  The finish was very close with Lino/Dominic taking the race  and Jennie/Andrew (Albacore) coming in 3rd followed by a 4th place OCF for Chunshu (Laser).

The second race was a bit better attended with Jason/Norm (29er) joining the fray.  A tough start saw a few boats struggle to get on port tack in a light wind shift, with Jason/Norm and Lino/Dominic fighting for a puff of air at the pin end.  A few decent gusts came and we still had a fairly close race rounding the windward mark.  Jason/Norm put their spinnaker up, but the shift in the wind meant the gybe mark was almost dead downwind, and they couldn’t catch the Albacores.  The next leg was fairly processional, and a shifty final upwind to a shortened course windward mark meant Ken/Corinne took the race, followed by Jennie/Andrew, Lino/Dominic, Jason/Norm and Chunshu.

Summer Series 1 Results

What a great series it has been!  We had 3 good windy nights, and two lighter air nights with 11 races run in total (no cancelled races!) and awesome turnout.  We were fortunate enough to have guest sailors (including  Dominic, Andrew, and Jasper) and 30 sailors took part in at least one race.  It is my pleasure to announce those who have bragging rights for the next 5 weeks:

Old hands
3rd place: Jason (29 points) (yay)
2nd place: Ken E (23 points)
1st place: Dominic (18 points)

3rd place: Kevin (88 points)
2nd place: Jean (81 points)
1st place: Norm (65 points)

Complete results, as always on the Racing page

Honourable mention: This race series ran so smoothly due to the efforts of our Principal Race Officer (PRO) Mario Poirier who also ran the Spring Series.  Mario was out in the RC boat every single Monday ensuring that the course was set up, that the results were recorded, and that everything was run smoothly.  Mario will be out of town for Summer Series 2, so we probably won’t see courses set quite so square to the wind for a while…

Complete Season Results

We’re 2/3 the way through the season, with 5 race nights left.  Because we only completed 4 races in the Spring Series, the season more closely resembles the Summer Series 1, but there’s still time to shift things around.  Ken E leads the scoring (28 points) and Jason is a distant second (41 points).  Corinne is positioned third (59 points), but Dominic is coming on strong (63 points).  There’s still lots of time for things to shift (perhaps up to 150 points depending on how many races we get in during the fall) so nothing is set in stone yet.

See you on the water!

Race night report, July 18, 2016

What a night with the wind blowing like crazy, and the sailors moving like crazy to match!  Steady winds in excess of 15 knots and gusts to the upper-20s were the order of the night, and some sailors elected to stay ashore rather than fight the wind and waves.  Mario found an RC volunteer (many thanks, Norm) to run the race, which allowed Heidi and Emily to take the second boat out as a rescue boat.  Turned out to be a good call, as a catamaran capsize and tow in was needed before the first prep signal went up!

In an effort to make these posts shorter, I’ll try to limit myself to one or two paragraphs per race…  First race saw a boat-end favoured line, and a good clean start.  Steve/Carla (Tasar) pulled away from Dominic/Monica (Albacore), Luc (Laser) and Jason (Laser) early on.  Slightly late starts by Frank/Jean (Albacore) and Mike R (Byte) followed.  A sloppy tack to port by Jason meant that Dominic/Monica could tack and get above him.  Luc elected to stay on starboard, however the wind slightly calmed on the that side of the course, meaning he lost boat speed.  Not much change is position from there (great defending by Dominic/Monica to fend off Jason on the reaching legs).  Final results were Steve/Carla (Tasar, 1st, by a mile), Dominic/Monica (Albacore, 2nd), Jason (Laser, 3rd), Luc (Laser, 4th), Frank/Jean (Albacore 5th), Mike R (Byte, 6th) with an OCF 7th for Mike T/Jasper (29er).

The 2nd race saw Jennie/Andrew (Andrew’s 1st time sailing!) join the fleet in an Albacore, and the 29er was in the thick of it from the beginning.  A slightly favoured pin end of the line led to congestion on the start.  Steve/Carla, Dominic/Monica, Mike R , Luc and Jennie/Andrew all had good starts.  Frank/Jean came up from behind with the 29er bearing on.  Jason messed up the start (got tangled in the mainsheet) and was forced into a poor port tack start behind most of the others.  He was able to find a hole in front of Frank/Jean and the 29er to sneak through, but was well behind the rest of the fleet.  But surprise!  A capsize (and quick recovery) of the Dominic/Monica Albacore meant that we had tight race on our hands.  At the leeward mark (well, for most boats — Steve/Carla were already well on their upwind leg by the time the others reached leeward mark) something amazing happened…

The 29er was first to hit the mark and head upwind.  They weren’t making good headway, so they tried to foot on port tack… farther, and farther and farther.  The Albacores followed.  Luc and Jason recognized that a major shift to the right occurred, jumped immediately on starboard tack and pointed straight at the mark.  By the time the other realized their mistake, the Lasers were in 2nd and 3rd (and everyone waved to Steve and Carla crossing the finish line).  Jason was able to maintain 2nd place for the final downwind leg and finished without issue, but the real battle was between Luc and Jennie/Andrew’s quickly approaching Albacore.  The shift meant that the Albacore’s superior pointing ability didn’t come into play, and it was down to raw speed between the two on a close reach.  In the end, the Albacore took it by half a second (both boats had to check with RC to see who finished first between them).  Dominic/Monica (Albacore), Frank/Jean (Albacore), Mike T/Jasper (29er) and Mike R (Byte) rounded out the finishes.

We now quite a pack in the summer series standings — Dominic (1st place, 14 pts), Ken S (17 pts), Jason (19 pts) and Ken E (20 pts) are right in the thick of it, with one race night to go.  Also, note that we’re at 9 races currently, and one more drop comes into effect at 12.  If we somehow manage to get 3 races in next week then this will come into play.

Summer series 1 and complete season standings can be found on the racing page

Post race, Mike R (sailing the Byte) stayed on the water to help a Laser that was struggling to get back to shore in the strong winds.  The power boat whipped out with Luc, Jennie, Andrew and Jason aboard to assist, and Luc volunteered to to jump into the Laser to help the boat back.  A huge shout out to Mike R, Luc, Jennie and Andrew for keeping an eye on safety, and having fun in a safe environment is what KSC is all about!  Many thanks again to Mario for running a fantastic race, Norm for riding RC, Emily and Heidi for running mark-set/rescue boat!