Want to improve your starting, strategy, and boat speed? At the George Washington Birthday Regatta (GWBR) in February 2022, David Ames and PJ Buhler led a clinic on Friday, sponsored by MAD Sails and Luxe Realty. On the racecourse, they gave another “clinic,” winning the regatta.
Here are the key insights on starting, boat speed, and strategy from the clinic. We confirmed the wisdom of these insights with examples from the on-water clinic and the regatta. David also shared written notes on tuning and boat speed. Links to the notes are provided below.
David Ames and PJ Buhler have been sailing together since their early teens. In 1994, they won the Laser 2 world championships. In 1995, they won the U.S. double-handed youth sailing championship and were second in the Laser 2 world championships. They started sailing the Flying Scot about five years ago and have placed consistently well, winning the 2021 NACs.
Watch the clinic video or read the summary below with added notes in italics.
Starting (00:00 in the video)
- Win the race from the beginning
- Favored end
- Clear air
- Get to the first shift first
- Do your homework.
- Get out ½ hour before the start; slightly longer if you’re new to doing this. Conserve energy – don’t go out too early.
- Don’t reach up and down line unless there’s a purpose. Stay in center and look upwind frequently.
- Check favored end frequently.
- With a long line, you can be ahead by boat lengths at the start.
- On a lake with a long line, check wind from each end of the line, either alone or with a buddy
- Where is the wind pressure? Look for hints to the next pressure and shift. If wind is in one phase, look for clues that the other phase is coming in.
- Position in middle until ~two minutes, then choose a side.
- Find layline to desired start position.
- Get on the layline at ~one minute and protect your position.
- Don’t be complacent between races. Take a fresh approach to each race.
- Re-do observations.
- Discuss what you can do better in the next race.
Regatta Note on Starting
David and PJ demonstrated their starting skills in the regatta with fairly consistent good starts. In the first race, they started at the favored port end of the line and punched out enough to tack and cross boats. They then tacked back to starboard on a slight header and consolidated their position.
Strategy (11:50 in the video)
There was a brief discussion about strategy. David gave his approach to lake sailing.
- Sail the lifts; don’t chase pressure over the lake.
- It’s Ok to take a short hitch from a lift to get to pressure.
Clinic and Regatta Notes on Strategy
We saw a good example of strategy on the last beat of Race 5. Jeff and Amy Linton rounded the leeward mark in 1st place. David/PJ rounded in 6th. For the first half of the beat, everyone sailed on the lifted tack (starboard) in decent pressure. Then David tacked and sailed a long port to the right side of the course. Jeff sailed further on starboard but then also tacked and sailed a long port to the right. The remaining boats in the lead group stayed on starboard, which appeared to be lifted most of the way up the beat.
For a while, it looked like both Jeff and David would lose ground on the others. However, they finished 1st and 3rd respectively. After the race, we asked why they took the long port. They both said they saw more wind on the right and that they were able to sail a decent heading on port to get there. Jeff added that he uses his best heading on each tack as a reference. If he’s at the best heading, he almost never tacks away. If he’s below the best heading but still lifted, he will look for pressure and oncoming shifts and then decide whether tacking is the best option.
Boat Speed (12:40 in the video)
- Setting halyard tension based on luff wrinkles.
- Sail in different modes. Height mode when you’re powered up and moving. Build mode when you’re not.
- Height mode – powered up and fast
- Let windward jib tales flutter slightly to take height
- Trim the main and jib harder to stall the leech ribbons 20% of time
- Build mode – need to accelerate
- Lock jib telltales streaming back
- Ease main and jib slightly to get flow off the leech
- Height mode – powered up and fast
- Use the vang to control twist when you ease the mainsheet
- Don’t cleat the mainsheet – work it constantly
- When unsure check leech ribbons and luff tales
- Angle of heel
- Big factor in helm balance. You want a little weather helm to keep the boat tracking, especially in lighter air.
- 5-7 degree angle of heel seems to be best for the Flying Scot.
- Play with this and find sweet spot.
Clinic and Regatta Notes on Boat Speed
During the on-water clinic, the wind was light. It was easy to see the boat speed improvements when David and PJ reminded sailors about angle of heel and properly trimming the main sail. In the regatta, David and PJ clearly had good boat speed, both upwind and down. From our observations, one difference was in the transitions. You could see them creep up on other boats when the wind changed.
Flying Scot Tuning and Boat Speed Notes from David Ames
Starting: ILYA Fast Forward Seminar (with Roble/Shea Sailing)
Do You Have the Right Touch? Thoughts from Bruce Goldsmith – reinforces the two modes (build and take height)