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

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…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Check Out the Course Geometry

By David Dellenbaugh

Check Out the Course Geometry

When I talk about racecourse geometry, I mean how the marks are positioned relative to each other and the wind direction. When you are strategizing before the start, you should be concerned primarily with the location of the first mark. For example, is it dead upwind from the starting line? Here are some other things to consider. Look for the first mark One of my basic rules of thumb is that before you get to a mark…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

FAQs About Rules Near the Finish

By David Dellenbaugh

FAQs About Rules Near the Finish

When boats converge at the finish line and you’re fighting for every inch of real estate, it definitely helps to have a good working knowledge of the racing rules. You need to know the basic right-of-way rules, of course, but there are also quite a few rules that apply uniquely when you are finishing. Here are some questions that are frequently asked about those rules.   © Rick Bannerot/OntheFlyPhoto.net   Once I finish the race, can I…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Avoid Bad Air from Other Boats

By David Dellenbaugh

Avoid Bad Air from Other Boats

When it comes to other boats, your biggest tactical problem is usually the wind shadows they create. While it’s true that you sometimes have to change your course to avoid hitting your competitors or to give them right of way, these problems are generally not as significant as the widespread effects of bad air. In a big fleet it’s not uncommon to sail in disturbed air for at least part of each upwind leg, especially the first…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Six Ways to Identify a Layline

By David Dellenbaugh

Six Ways to Identify a Layline

By David Dellenbaugh Before you round any mark you have to get to the layline, so it helps a lot to know where the layline is. To avoid overstanding or understanding (and losing time or distance), find a good method for making consistently accurate layline calls. Here are some tips: • Avoid long-range laylines. The easiest way to improve your layline calls is by getting closer to the mark before you have to make them. This isn’t…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Execute the Perfect Rounding

By David Dellenbaugh

Execute the Perfect Rounding

In order to get around the leeward mark as quickly as possible, you need to have good boathandling technique. If you turn the boat too quickly or trim your sails the wrong way, you will lose momentum through the turn, and that could be costly. Perhaps the most important speed variable in a leeward mark rounding is your course through the water. This includes the shape of your turning arc and the placement of your turn relative…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

Why and How to “Shoot” the Finish

By David Dellenbaugh

Why and How to “Shoot” the Finish

By David Dellenbaugh Your finishing strategy is a plan for how you will get to the finish line as quickly as possible in the absence of other boats. As you near the end of the race, you must make two major decisions: First, at which end of the line will you finish? Second, how will you maneuver your boat to cross the line? It is usually best to finish right at either end of the line. That’s…

Up to Speed & Smarts with Dells

How to Sail Fast Up the First Beat When You Have Oscillating Shifts

By David Dellenbaugh

How to Sail Fast Up the First Beat When You Have Oscillating Shifts

When the wind is shifting back and forth (as it often is), the key to a successful first beat is catching the first shift after the start and then staying “in phase” with the breeze until you reach the windward mark. Here are some ideas on how to do that: • Find the median. With an oscillating breeze, it’s important to figure out the median, or average, wind direction. This is usually the direction that’s midway between…

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…

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