Crossing situations force you to evaluate options, sometimes rather quickly. Asking the right questions will help you make a better decision. For this post, we summarize questions the experts ask to help decide whether to cross, tack, or duck an oncoming boat. We illustrate these with five straightforward scenarios. We’ll cover more crossing scenarios in a future post.
For sources, we started with the ILYA Roble / Shea sailing webinars on Upwind Tactics for adults and youth. Watch the video excerpts on cross, tack, or duck below. We added insights from Dave Dellenbaugh, Andrew Campbell, Gary Jobson and Tom Whidden in the sources referenced.
If you anticipate situations, you’ll have time to make a better decision. See our post from Speed and Smarts on the preparation aspects of better decisions.
What would I do in the absence of the other boat?
- Where is the pressure?
- Am I sailing toward the next shift?
- Am I getting close to the layline?
- How good is my lane?
These questions are about your race strategy – how to get around the course in the shortest amount of time. A crossing situation is a good time to check your strategy, since only one of the two boats is usually going the right way, although it may not be obvious which one is right.
Do I need to worry about the other boat?
- Force or get forced to go the wrong way?
- Stay in contact?
- Gain advantage for the next cross?
These are tactical questions. Use tactics to allow you to carry out your strategy or to gain an advantage over a single boat or small group of boats.
Prioritize strategy or tactics?
- Strategy is paramount when it’s early in the leg/race and you’re racing the whole fleet. Strategy also takes priority when there are overriding factors, such as an advantaged side of the course, more pressure, or the need to stay on the lifted tack in an oscillating breeze.
- Tactics are more important when you’re racing only a few boats, such as near the end of the leg/race, or toward the end of a series in which you have only a few competitors near you in the standings. However, you still may need to use tactics to help carry out your strategy.
Here are five crossing scenarios. Note that we ask what both the starboard and port boats should do, since both boats have options. Too often, sailors on starboard just indiscriminately force boats on port to either tack or duck. This is often counter-productive, as we’ll see.
These scenarios are weighted toward the strategic factors, with some tactical cautions included. In a future post we’ll dig into situations where tactics are more important.