Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

David Dellenbaugh, a world champion and America’s Cup tactician and helmsman, shares his wealth of knowledge to help sailors achieve success on the racecourse by sailing faster and smarter.

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Take Control of Your Race!

By David Dellenbaugh

Take Control of Your Race!

Sailboat racing would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many boats getting in your way all the time. Even when you have fast boatspeed and a sound strategic game plan, you won’t get to the windward mark very quickly if you let other boats push you around the racecourse. That’s why you need good upwind tactics. Tactics are the boat-on-boat moves you make when you are fighting for position with other boats. The purpose of…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Work On Your Starting Position

By David Dellenbaugh

Work On Your Starting Position

By David Dellenbaugh The goal of your starting tactics is simple – it’s to get yourself into a good position when the race starts. A ‘good position’ is one that allows you to do two main things: 1) Come off the starting line in the front row with speed and clear air; 2) Follow your strategy for the first windward leg. Tactically, your position at the start must consider two factors – the location of the fleet…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Turning Around the Windward Mark

By David Dellenbaugh

Turning Around the Windward Mark

There are few places on the racecourse where the ability to turn your boat efficiently is more critical than when you are bearing off around the windward mark. Of course, from a safety standpoint, ducking another boat in lots of breeze is probably number one. But if you want top performance, you must be able to steer smoothly and quickly around the first mark. When you bear off onto a reach or run, you must employ all…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Anticipate Your Next Move

By David Dellenbaugh

Anticipate Your Next Move

Most sports require a certain amount of thinking ahead. If you’re racing a Formula 1 car, for example, you wouldn’t want to come out of a curve and wonder which way the track will turn next. When you’re skiing a slalom race, you always need to know where the next few gates are so you can set up properly for each turn. The same is true with sailing. The more you are able to anticipate the future,…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Don’t Lurk in Wind Shadows

By David Dellenbaugh

Don’t Lurk in Wind Shadows

One of the most important parts of tactical planning is avoiding the bad air of other boats. The effects of sailing in wind shadows, even for short periods of time, can be devastating. This is especially true on the first beat, where everyone starts out so close together and losing even one boatlength can put you back in the pack. Here’s another way to think of it: Many sailors work very hard on boatspeed (and that’s a…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Tips and Tricks for Laylines

By David Dellenbaugh

Tips and Tricks for Laylines

If you want to get around the windward mark quickly, you have to know something about laylines. Laylines are those imaginary dotted pathways on the water that show the course a boat would sail to fetch the mark on either tack. Though laylines are generally good places to avoid, you have to reach one sooner or later in order to round the mark. So it’s important to know where they are. Of course, laylines are never etched…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Practice Drills for Better Starts

By David Dellenbaugh

Practice Drills for Better Starts

At most starts, there are lots of boats maneuvering in tight quarters. If you want to emerge at the front of the pack, you need excellent boathandling skills. Fortunately, there are many ways to simulate and practice the moves you need to make at the starting line. Here are several drills to increase your chances of success. Time and distance Knowing how long it will take you to move from one place to another is critical for…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

When It Pays to Overstand the Mark

By David Dellenbaugh

When It Pays to Overstand the Mark

It’s not usually a good idea to overstand the windward or leeward marks. Whenever you sail past the layline you are simply giving away free boatlengths to every other boat in the fleet. There are some times, however, when intentionally overstanding the mark can be a smart, or at least a smartly conservative, move. Here are a few examples: Current flowing with wind – One of the hardest times to call a good layline is when there’s…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Wind Direction: Oscillating or Persistent?

By David Dellenbaugh

Wind Direction: Oscillating or Persistent?

In many races, changes in wind direction are the most common and significant strategic factor. The wind is almost always shifting, and even small changes in direction can lead to huge gains and losses in the race. Therefore, if you want to get to the first mark in good shape, you must be skilled at recognizing and playing the shifts. In most races, the windshift pattern is either oscillating (i.e. shifting back and forth around a fairly…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Approaching the Leeward Mark

By David Dellenbaugh

Approaching the Leeward Mark

A successful leeward mark rounding begins well before you get to the two-length zone. In fact, there are many things you can do before you reach the mark to prepare for your rounding and the next leg. The more you can work on these before the leeward-mark fire drill, the better off you’ll be. Strategize for the next beat You can (and probably should) start thinking about your strategy for the next beat soon after you begin…

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