Two of your SailZing editors battled it out in positions 1-2 for most of a recent Wednesday night MC race. The race analysis shows two keys to success: 1) start in a position to get to the first shift and 2) watch boats behind you downwind to plan your next upwind leg.
The breeze was light-medium (6-9 mph). The pre-race routine showed the wind oscillating about 30 degrees, with an apparent tendency to favor the right, at least at first.
With lighter air and oscillations, my strategic priorities were to start in a position to get the most breeze, especially the first shift, and sail the lifted tack as much as possible.
First and Second Beat
Right before the start, C-Scows practicing near the windward mark were getting major right-hand shifts. The two SZ editors started on the right, with Rob getting the best start. I got in a little bit of a crowd at the committee boat, but managed to get clear air after 20-30 seconds. After a minute or two, the righty came down the course and gave those of us on the right the lead. When the righty faded, we tacked onto port, and took that to the starboard layline, rounding the mark in 1st and 2nd. It seemed easy, but the key was to see that righty coming before the start.
Downwind, we tried to stay in the pressure, watching boats behind us to see where to go. The second upwind, Rob went to the left gate and worked the right, taking advantage of the righties coming down the course. This worked OK, as he maintained his lead at the next mark. I took the right gate, which was further upwind, and sailed a lifted starboard to the left until it faded, and rounded 2nd again, perhaps a little further behind.
Last Downwind and Beat
On the downwind, I made up some ground by sailing a lower port tack in a couple of early puffs, while Rob went higher on port to catch anticipated puffs, which never really materialized. Looking back upwind as we approached the gate, I saw several C-Scows getting a good lefty as they came downwind. That was enough to convince me to go left upwind again. So I sailed a lifted starboard from the right gate and got the hoped-for lefty. This was all it took take the lead from Rob, who worked the right again and ended up losing a few boats to others that worked the left.
I’ve been in too many situations where I didn’t look hard enough at the boats coming downwind behind me and didn’t make the best choice. This time I did, and it worked great.