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There's more to sailing than windward-leeward courses
Team McLube


The Publisher

Aug 29, 2012, 11:00 AM

Post #1 of 4 (10445 views)
There's more to sailing than windward-leeward courses Log-In to Post/Reply

It's an occasional rant fueled by the editorial staff at Scuttlebutt that
our sport suffers from its pursuit of the perfect race course. This quest
has delivered us to the Windward-Leeward course where we now fear to leave.

While the sausage course does prove to provide a quality test of skill, it
does not leave much to the imagination. And without some variety, in our
humble opinion, our sport becomes stale.

So it was with excitement that we received this correspondence distributed
to college sailors and race managers by Ken Legler, long time sailing coach
at Tufts University and principle race officer extraordinaire. Read on...
After running this idea by a number of agreeable people, here is an idea
worth trying. At any event other than championships and intersectionals,
make one race per division a longer race with some interesting legs. Such
courses could include a long windward leg or long reach leg to create a
more interesting race. Here are some possible examples depending upon wind
direction and strength:

Maine Maritime: a long downwind leg around the rotation dock.
Bowdoin: a long beat out toward the ocean and back.
Vermont: a long leg out into the middle of Lake Champlain.
Tufts: zig-zag reaches in heavy air.
MIT or Harvard: a bridge to bridge leg.
Roger Williams: a course through the bridge at slack tide.
Salve Regina: lots of possibilities.
Yale: out into the Sound or up the shoreline and back.
Fordham: part way across to Long Island and back.
Navy: up to the Severn River bridge in a NW or SE wind.
St. Marys: going well up river or down river.
Old Dominion: a giant triangle.
Charleston: under the bridge at slack tide.

On a river: a really long W-L if winds parallel the river; a wide butterfly
course in cross winds with three shorts beats and two long reaches.
At any site: the usual W-L but then turning toward the rotation site and
going as far as a fair wind allows.

And so on, you get the idea. Yes, it should count. Reaching on a long leg
is a good test of sailing skill, not a parade. Most important, we should do
this because it is fun. It is also a challenge for the race committee to
pick a great course and diagram it in the morning so sailors can figure it
out without any confusion. It is also a challenge to pick a course that is
fair, challenging and about 20-30 minutes long instead of the exact same
standard W-L of 15-18 minutes every single race at every single regatta.

In short, setting and sailing long reaches is becoming a lost skill. Racing
on a long reach once in awhile can be really challenging and fun in any
wind speed. There is some reaching in the Olympics and plenty in distance

The Publisher

Aug 29, 2012, 11:05 AM

Post #2 of 4 (10417 views)
Re: [The Publisher] There's more to sailing than windward-leeward courses [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Bill Wheary:
Regarding Ken Legler’s, the Curmudgeon’s and others’ advocacy of including non-windward/leeward courses in the racing schedule, the Round the Lights Race in Southeastern Virginia is a wonderful example of a “different” race that has become very popular among big boat racers.

The race starts in a creek near the entrance into Hampton Roads from the Chesapeake Bay. Upon exiting the creek, approximately 5 miles to port in the Bay is Thimble Shoals Light and about the same distance to starboard in Hampton Roads is Middle Ground Light. The currents in the Bay and the Roads change at different times and in both of these wide bodies of water the currents flow in a variety of directions and strengths. Naturally, the wind 5 miles out in the Bay and nearer to the Atlantic are likely to differ considerably from winds in Hampton Roads in direction, strength and time of day.

The race is a pursuit start (spread out over more than an hour and a half) and the course takes the boats first around one lighthouse, then the other and back to the start/finish line. Now here’s the good part – the boats may sail the course in either direction (as well as leave either lighthouse to port or starboard). The conditions challenge even the best navigators and it is not unusual to see the fleet fairly evenly divided between those who first head out into the Bay and those who head in the opposite direction.

Being a pursuit start, the faster boats get to see where the competition goes on the first leg, but that knowledge can be of limited value as the currents and quite probably the winds will be different for faster boats that start substantially later than slower ones. Strategy sessions are intense right up to each boat’s start and more post-race analysis (second guessing?) probably occurs after this race than most other races in the area.

The race attracts both hard core racers and cruisers who rarely race. The cruisers are attracted by having only 2 mark roundings, few tactics are needed, they actually compete against the racing boats, and the pursuit start allows them to finish close to the faster boats that start behind them. The prime attractions for the hard core racers seem to be testing their skills with winds and currents (navigation) and the uniqueness of the race.


Aug 29, 2012, 7:35 PM

Post #3 of 4 (10323 views)
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Bill's course... [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Years ago a friend and I would take a couple of Sunfish out before work we were so addicted to sailing. We would randomly drop a few buoys making sure 2 were windward/leeward and have at it. We found the most enjoyment when the first boat to the mark was forced to circle it. Made for some very enjoyable match racing. Though it didn't happen that often there was a clear winner if one boat had to circle two or more marks in a row.
Check Six .......Mal


Aug 30, 2012, 5:59 AM

Post #4 of 4 (10261 views)
Re: [Mal] At the opposite end of the spectrum from Bill's course... [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

There's plenty of this kind of racing in San Francisco, including the Great Pumpkin and the Three Bridge Fiasco. These are consistently among the most popular races of the year.
Tony Johnson

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