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

Develop a Good Gameplan

By David Dellenbaugh

Develop a Good Gameplan

One of my favorite things about sailing is that no two races are exactly alike. Every time you sail out to the starting line you find a unique set of wind and weather conditions. If you want to be successful in this environment, you must be smart and well prepared. One of the best ways to get ready for a race is to develop a strategy. This is your plan for how to get around the racecourse…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Know Your Windward Mark!

By David Dellenbaugh

Know Your Windward Mark!

When you get near the top of the first beat, think ahead about the mark you are just about to round. Is it a temporary, inflatable tetrahedron or a permanent, bulletproof government buoy? Each type of mark has its own particular characteristics that you must consider in order to have a fast, efficient rounding. Here are some things to think about for the two most common types of marks.   Inflatable marks • There is often a…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

How to Pick the ‘Favored’ End of the Finish Line

By David Dellenbaugh

How to Pick the ‘Favored’ End of the Finish Line

Race committees usually try to set their finish lines square to the wind direction, but windshifts and other factors often skew the line and favor one end. It’s not uncommon for this favored end to be two or more boatlengths closer, and when you’re trying to gain every inch to beat your competition, this can make a huge difference. Theoretically, a good way to understand the orientation of any finish line is by visualizing “ladder rungs,” or…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Smart Moves Near the Laylines

By David Dellenbaugh

Smart Moves Near the Laylines

The layline is a critical part of any windward leg because every boat has to get there eventually and, once they do, it’s a tactical dead-end. The closer you come to a layline, the fewer options you have, so you need smart tactics whenever you are approaching (or avoiding) it. When you’re behind Going to the layline when there are boats ahead of you is like running into a dead-end alley while you are being chased: there…

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,…

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