Tag Archives: rules

Advances Sailing Skills, May 13, 2017

The second session was a brief review of points of sail, and an introduction to roll tacks.  Lasers were rigged and launched from the end of the ramp.  No capsizes!

Forecast was 6-8 knots of wind from S, however observed was maybe about 4 from SW with a couple of gusts in 6 knot range from SE.

Course set was initially intended to be a 2-bouy beam reach course, but ended up being closer to a close hauled on one leg, and broad reach down the other.  When headers hit, it could’ve almost been a windward-leeward course (tack on headers, my friends!)

Points of sail, reviewed

The instructors reviewed points of sail so as to better communicate with the students on the water.  Also refreshed were terms “heading up” (turning towards the wind), and “bearing off” (turning away from the wind). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_of_sail

Rock & Rollin’

Let’s talk roll tacks.  First, I’ll write a wee bit about how the instructors’ described roll tacks.  I assume this is the “CANSail” way of teaching roll tacks.  Then we’ll talk briefly about how other resources talk about roll tacks.

The CANSail way to think about roll tacks

Roll tacks were described in terms of using heel to facilitate steering through the tack, reducing the use of rudder (and therefore losing less speed through the tack).  The description was given in 3 steps:

  1. Initiate the tack.  Heel the boat to leeward by moving towards the windward side.  This causes the boat to head up towards irons.  You can use the rudder a bit, but the goal is to start the tack with little to no rudder use.
  2. When the sail starts to luff, roll the boat hard to windward.  The boom will eventually cross the boat and fill on the other side.
  3. Cross the boat and hike the boat flat on the new tack (note to self — I was consistently moving across the boat too early, before the sail filled on the new tack.  Remember this for next time…)

Once the basic motions are nailed, here’s a bit more to think about:

  • The heel to windward (step 2) is a big roll.  You’ll roll it farther than you did in step 1.  Your butt might be in the water, and the dagger board may start to come out of the water.  The side of the boat may become submerged.
  • Keep the sail sheeted in tight (close-hauled position) during the whole tack.

The Non-CANSail Way to think about roll tacks

When you’re watching YouTube, reading books, or checking out blogs, roll tacks are spoken about less from a “steering” perspective, and more from a “wind” perspective.  The idea is that the rolling motion (steps 2 and 3, as the instructors described) will move the sail through the air as the boat heels, keeping pressure in the sail and driving the boat forward.  The faster and harder you roll the boat, the more air is forced into the sail, and the faster you move.

Particularly in light wind, the pressure generated by a fast roll can be greater than the wind normally exerts on a close reach.  You can actually move the boat faster by repeatedly roll tacking than by sailing straight (when racing, this is against the rules — you’re allowed to roll tack, but you are not allowed to exit the tack with speed “greater than it would have been in the absence of a tack”.  Rule 42.3b)

I mention this because lots of resources on the Internet (and in print) talk about roll tacks purely from a “keep wind in your sails” perspective.  Some resources also mention helping you steer, but in the more in the context of as added bonus to the main goal of keeping your sails full.  The CANSail instruction is the only one I’ve seen that has spoken about it purely from a steering perspective, but the instructors know what they’re doing better than I, so listen to them.

To show the different perspectives on roll tacks, here are some resources showing excellent sailors demoing the tacks each with their own emphasis:

  • Steve Cockerell (Former Laser Masters’ world champion and owner of Rooster Sailing) demonstrates roll tacking in light wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRLVHIuMFFo.  He doesn’t seem to use much leeward heal to start the tack, and instead uses a fair amount of rudder.  Note how far he rolls the boat to windward (looks like it’s getting close to 45 degrees)
  • Jon Emmett (who’s coached a couple of Olympic teams) demonstrates some ridiculously smooth tacks.  You can see him move in slightly to roll the boat to leeward before his big windward roll, although he doesn’t mention it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR6ec_nPWbw
  • Olympic Gold medallist Shirley Robertson doesn’t roll the boat through the tack as much as the above videos, and instead emphasizes body position (positioning of hands and feet through the manoeuvre).  The number of steps she uses is a bit daunting for me.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF2eK6sCOrI
  • Fred Strammer (US collegiate sailor) does a ridiculously strong roll to flatten the boat when coming out of the tack.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3hQG63J508&t=1m43s

All this is to illustrate that different top sailors seem to think that different aspects of the tack are worth focusing on.  I’m going to listen to the instructors and focus on the steering via heel throughout the tack, but be aware that the resources you find online may highlight other aspects of the technique.

One final video, if you’ll allow me.  This is from the 2015 Laser World Championship (in Kingston, Ontario that year) where Australian Tom Burton (who went on to win Olympic Gold in 2016) was in the lead over American Chris Bernard.  Tom knew Chris could not pass him as long as they were on the same tack.  Chris knew he couldn’t catch Tom as long as they were on the same tack.  Tom would roll tack to be on the same tack as Chris (and in front of him) to “cover” Chris.  Chris would immediately roll tack to be on the opposite tack to try to pass Tom.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOHySbcp5gs&t=5m40s

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 better than the 15 points awarded to 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)