We have all been there before, going up the beat and things are just not going well. You have missed some shifts and are staring to fall behind. The trick is how to get back into making gains and sailing smart. This scenario happened to us quite a few times at MWE and how we rebounded was the key to our success. When this happens, the best thing to do is to get back to the basics. When I say this, I ask myself 4 simple questions, not necessarily in any order, to get myself back on track.
1. Where is there more pressure?
2. Which tack aims us closer to the mark?
3. Are we in a clean lane?
4. Is the boat going fast?
While these seem too simplistic, this is the beauty of it and will get you back on track. Let’s take a look at each one.
Where is there more pressure?
While you may have analyzed this and made a determination at the start, things may have changed, or they are exactly the same, but this needs to be reinforced. This is something to think about often and keep tabs of. One thing I always try to remind our team of, is to make sure we are looking from our present location towards the mark and at locations along the way. It is futile and frustrating to look at areas on the course that you can no longer sail in or get to!
Which tack is closer to the mark?
I know you are reading this now and saying “no kidding, I already know this!” but the reality is, this will also help in sailing the shortest distance until you get your “feeling” back. Keep it simple. If you look at the boat and the bow is closer to the mark, then you are on the right tack, conversely, if the thwart is aiming towards the mark, you probably should tack as you are aiming almost 90 degrees away from the mark. Note, this has nothing to do with your compass heading or being lifted or headed. One prime example is being off in a corner and being on a “lift” but actually sailing away from the mark because you are getting off the course.
Are we in a clean lane?
While this also seems basic, you have to have clear air to do well. Even if you are in the most pressure, and going towards the mark, if you are in bad air, you have to clear yourself. The difference in boat speed will take your team out of it. Look for the shortest clearing tack or the quickest way to clear air.
Is the boat going fast?
Sometimes we get bogged down in tactics and the best thing to do to get back on track is to focus on speed. Speed can bail you out of a lot of tough spots. When things are going rough for me and I get frustrated, sometimes I just need to take 30 seconds to look at trim and focus on steering. This helps get us going well and sometimes is just a good way to “clear my head” and get back into the shifts. It’s amazing how many times you see teams looking around the course and the main and jib are not trimmed right because they are consumed with the next shift.
My last word of advice is something that a friend of mine told me one time while he was crewing for me, which really helped me out on those confusing days. He told me to remember, “Sail from where you are, not from where you think you should be!” This is great advice and something to always keep in mind. It is very easy to chase shifts and puffs and just keep getting burned. Let go of past decisions and keep moving forward from where you are!
Next time you are out racing and things are going tough, I urge you to “get back to the basics”. While it seems simplistic, generally it will help get you on the right track again and jump start your upwind strategy. Happy Thistling!
Contact Allan Terhune for specific questions you may have on making your Thistle fast!