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

Heads-Up as You Approach the Mark

By David Dellenbaugh

Heads-Up as You Approach the Mark

The windward mark is a literal and figurative turning point in almost every race, so it’s important to approach the mark smartly and have a good rounding. As you get closer to the mark, there are many things you can do to help improve your chances of success. Here is a brainstorm list of some to consider. Of course, it won’t be possible to do all these things all the time. In fact, if you’re sailing a…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Figure Out the Favored Side First

By David Dellenbaugh

Figure Out the Favored Side First

Here’s one way to approach the beginning of a race: Sail around in the starting area long enough to get a good line sight and figure out which end of the line is farther upwind. Start near that end, right on the line with clear air. Then look around to see which side of the course is better, and head that way. I must admit I have started this way more than a few times, but I…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Tactical Moves for the Second Beat

By David Dellenbaugh

Tactical Moves for the Second Beat

By David Dellenbaugh Strategy is your plan for how to get around the race course as quickly as you can. One problem is that strategy does not consider the presence of other boats. Since your competitors are all trying to win the race, too, they make it harder for you to follow your own gameplan. To overcome this you need good tactics. Tactics are the boat-on-boat moves you make that help you stay in control of your…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Maintain Speed While Turning

By Chris Szepessy

Maintain Speed While Turning

By David Dellenbaugh Unless you need to slow down for tactical maneuvering, one of the most important things at any mark rounding is maintaining speed while you turn. Steering a curved course means you have to angle the rudder off centerline. This creates drag and slows the boat. So in most cases, turn the boat as little as possible. When you do have to make big turns, like when rounding marks, you need good technique to keep…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

When You are Converging On a Beat

By David Dellenbaugh

When You are Converging On a Beat

By David Dellenbaugh It’s blowing about 15 knots and you’re racing up the first beat of the first race at the J/24 Nationals. The wind has been oscillating all day, and you are now sailing a lift on port tack, crossing almost all the boats that were to your right. Your crew is focused on the wind and waves ahead, and everyone is hiking to keep the boat flat. “Puff coming in 10 seconds,” says your bow…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Evaluate the Current Flow

By David Dellenbaugh

Evaluate the Current Flow

Another important factor in any pre-start strategic plan is the current. First you must observe and get an accurate picture of how the current is flowing across the course area. Then you have to figure out how this affects your strategic plan. Collecting current information Just as you must gather wind data before the start, you have to collect information about the set (direction) and drift (speed) of the current. • Before you leave the dock, look…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Make a ‘Game Plan’ for the Windward Leg

By David Dellenbaugh

Make a ‘Game Plan’ for the Windward Leg

  It’s critical to have a good strategic plan for the windward leg because that is usually where the fleet gets farthest apart. When boats are on opposite sides of the beat, their separation can be huge, and even a small change in wind direction, pressure or current can have a huge impact on the fleet standings. Of course, if the conditions never change you don’t have to worry about strategy. In that case, the race will…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Stay Ahead by Covering

By David Dellenbaugh

Stay Ahead by Covering

By David Dellenbaugh “Why didn’t you cover?” is often the first question you hear when you were doing well in a race but got passed by one or more boats from behind. This is a great question, but it doesn’t always have a straightforward answer. “Covering” usually means staying between the next mark and one or more boats that are behind you. The goal of this tactic is simply to reduce your risk if the wind shifts…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Five Familiar Layline Dilemmas

By Chris Szepessy

Five Familiar Layline Dilemmas

By David Dellenbaugh There are certain scenarios that always seem to play out when you get near a layline. Somebody tacks on you, or you have the chance to tack on somebody. The wind shifts so you are no longer on the layline. You have to make a choice about whether to do two more tacks or sail straight, but slowly, toward the mark. In each of these situations, the decision you make usually has a significant…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Basic Principles for Rounding Marks

By David Dellenbaugh

Basic Principles for Rounding Marks

By David Dellenbaugh If you want your mark roundings to be quick and safe, there are certain strategies that work almost every time. For example, you should round each mark close enough that you could reach out and touch it. You should locate the next mark visually before you round this one. And you should definitely develop a strategic plan for the next leg before you round any mark. One reason why it’s important to follow rules…

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