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Ralph Kelley made some comments about the Dallas Blowout IOM regatta that I thought were very useful indeed to any sailor intent on improving their performance.  I've added some comment of my own in various places, enclosed in "[ ]".

10 March 2003

Hello to all our Blowout competitors.

As the Race Director for the Blowout, Iíll make a couple of observations.

1.  I did not observe any boat design having a significant advantage. Unlike some regattas in the past, there was no domination of any particular boat. A wide variety of designs -- wide or narrow hulls, flattish bottom or deep U shape sections, narrow or wide keels, shorter and wider rudders on some and deep, narrow rudders on others they all performed well if they were sailed well. My conclusion is that one cannot buy a regatta championship by getting the latest hot hull, keel, or ballast shape. One must sail well, stay out of trouble, and watch for shifts.  [As I mention on my Doing well page, there seem to be two things needed.  Ralph has one of them exactly right, sailing competence.  But while the latest hot boat certainly won't win for you, for sure your sailing competence will struggle to bring results if you have a dog of a boat.]

2.  Likewise, a wide variety of sails were used and again, there did not appear to be any dominant sail-maker.

3.  Boats that finished in the front, almost without exception, had a start on the front row. They may not have been in the very best position on the line for the particular wind shift of the moment, but they were in clear air compared with the boats in the second or third tier at the start.  [An excellent point.  It has taken me a while to realise that clear air is better than almost anything else at the start.]

4.  I was surprised that even after a large number of dip starts by the very visible hot pink craft, nobody followed Don Martinís lead to do the same. Don repeatedly found some space in the front row by dipping below the line within the last 10 seconds. This would not be possible under the I flag rule, but until this around the ends rule is put in place, it can be an effective starting technique. [Ralph has identified an important point for students of race craft. Not just the dip start, but any method of starting which gives an advantage not detected or not believed by the rest of the fleet. I've done spectacularly well in the past by electing to start late but at the highly favoured end of the line. I've seen Mark Dennis win handsomely by electing to start at the severely unfavoured end of the line -- but it was the place where the next shift always came in with stronger winds.]

5.  As in all past regattas in which the initial weather leg was fairly short and there is not a lot of distance to get some separation in the fleet, some first mark lessons were clear for all to see. A skipper who tried to sneak inside at the initial weather mark, or who did not stay well clear of the gang-up that always occurred at this mark, almost always lost a lot of places compared to those who took a more conservative approach and simply sailed around the gang bumping together with themselves and the mark.

6.  Independent of other aspects of boats fouling each other, I saw a lot of boats doing what they perceived to be a 360 degree penalty turn. Most were actually taking 270 degree turns. As an example a boat on port going to weather fouls a starboard tacker. He peels off and jibes, then heads upwind on starboard. This is not a complete 360 just a 270. He needed to go back to port via another distance-consuming tack to complete a full circle.

7.  I was pleased to see that most of those over early did not foul those who started properly as they got back over the line and started properly.

8.  Sunday, with its variable wind velocity did show that the skippers who have outfitted their boats for rapid rig change did have an advantage. This should not be as big a problem where there are more than two heats, but at our normal two heat events, this can be quite important. As an example, Rob seems to be able to change rigs in well under 5 minutes and as a result, was able to do it without being in a crisis mode.  [If you want to take this seriously -- and you do, don't you? -- you need to be able to change your IOM rig and launch in two minutes.  That is the time from the start of the music to the one-minute prep signal, and you can't launch within the final one-minute count-down in an international event.]

9.  We were able to hold 27 races, or 54 heats. Now that is a lot of races. No, thatís a LOT of races. And many of you sailed many more than 27 heats, particularly if you were on the A-B bubble and sailed a B, then an A, then a B, then an A and so forth. At a minimum you sailed 27 starts, around 54 weather marks, around 54 leeward gates and 27 finishes. Make contact with your keelboat racer buddies and compare this one weekend to their entire season last year. Clearly the model world is a great way to play at the sailboat racing game.

Ralph Kelley

Nice list, Ralph.  Thanks.


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