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An Introduction to Racing Tactics

So, you want to learn to be a master tactician and beat the rest of the fleet by being more cunning than they are? This is an admirable goal and a sound grasp of sailing tactics will certainly stand you in good stead and give you the winning edge.

Before pursuing tactical gurudom it is worth taking stock of how well you and the rest of your crew sail the boat. If the boat is not sailed speedily and without frequent mishaps then focussing on those areas will help you to close the deltas. Afterall, there is little point in knowing where you should be positioned if you cannot get there swiftly. If you are trailing the bulk of the fleet by minutes then it is your boat handling that requires work. Remember that if you are sailing quarter of a knot slower than the other boats then you will be falling a quarter of a mile further back every hour.

If however, your yacht is running like a slickly oiled machine, you know the optimal settings your boat requires for the different conditions and you keep up with the fleet then strategy and tactics will help you push to the front of the pack. There are three main topics to consider when thinking about sailing tactics:

  • Preparation - collecting data and testing setup in order to formulate a strategy
  • Strategy - creating an overall plan of attack for the race
  • Tactics - the nitty gritty execution of your plan against your opposition