Many sailors spend time sailing the windward leg as part of their pre-race routine. Bill Draheim has a different approach: stay in the starting area and observe the other boats. He shares this approach in a post on the Quantum Sails – North Texas page.
Don’t Sail – Observe Other Boats
Observing provides more data than sailing
The rationale is simple: since boats are sailing in different parts of the course before the race, you can collect more data by observing them, instead of sailing a single path (or two) up the leg on your own. Bill points out that you can get data for 20 minutes or more from multiple boats by doing this.
Observe Speed, Angles, and Shifts
As you observe, ask yourself the following about the wind on the course:
- Wind velocity: Are the boats on each side going fast? Is the crew hiking? Does this correlate with the wind you see on the water?
- Lifted tack: Which boats are lifted to relative to the mark or course rhumb line?
- Shifts: If boats are sailing in pairs, is the windward boat lifting or falling into the leeward boat? Either way, it indicates a shift.
Hone Your Observation Skills
Bill doesn’t use a compass on lakes. Because of this, he has developed his ability to evaluate sailing angles by sight, even on larger courses. You can do the same with practice.
Bonus points!!! If you begin your pre-race routine with observation, it just might carry into the actual race!
We wrote this post about the ideal pre-race routine a few years ago based on input from a number of articles by top sailors. You probably can’t do everything listed. Bill’s advice is to simplify. We’ve modified this earlier post to include his ideas.