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

Look for Changes in Wind Direction

By David Dellenbaugh

Look for Changes in Wind Direction

One thing you can say for sure about the wind direction is that it’s always changing. Even when it seems like a nice steady day, the wind is constantly wriggling back and forth at least a little bit. And whenever the wind shifts, it creates a large opportunity to gain distance on the other boats in your fleet. Wind shifts are generally the most significant strategic factor of all. Each time the wind changes direction it re-shuffles…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

How to Carve a ‘Perfect’ Turn

By David Dellenbaugh

How to Carve a ‘Perfect’ Turn

Once you get good at using crew weight and sail trim for turning your boat, you can think much more about the shape of the course that you steer around marks. When it comes to carving turns, I imagine that sailing is a lot like racing a car. Both sailors and race car drivers want to travel the shortest distance possible, but they can’t cut any corner too sharply or they’ll lose a lot of speed. Therefore,…

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…

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