Racing & Tactics 

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Q1. I was participating in a race and was on starboard tack, and another boat was on port tack. At this point know I have right of way over the port boat, however the boat decided to tack onto starboard then, arguing there was no right of way, I had to tack, which ruined my course. Does this boat have any rights if they tack onto starboard or should they still have to move out of my way?

Mark Rushall (STGBR coach) - Initially, as you correctly say, the port boat was subject to rule 10: port/starboard. Once he passed head to wind he remained the keep clear boat until on his starboard tack course (rule 13: tacking). Once both boats are on the same tack, if overlapped, the windward boat becomes keep clear boat (rule 11). If not overlapped, the one clear astern is the keep clear boat (rule 12). So the other boat has not infringed unless you had to start to alter course before he was on his close hauled course. A good racing tactic if you are on starboard tack and want to keep going is to call the port tack boat past;  keep going and duck his transom. He is not obliged to stay on port tack but there is a good chance he will carry on and leave you a clear lane. You can find all the racing rules, plus call books, questions and answers and interpretations, on the ISAF website - - or you could buy a rulebook from the RYA’s website.

Q2: Roughly how much speed is lost on an average cruising keelboat that it is not set-up to race competitively? For example poorly tuned rig costs about 0.3 knots, dirty undersides costs 0.5 knots, non-folding prop costs 0.3 knots, excess weight inside costs up to one knot, lazyjacks cost 0.1 knots etc?

Bas Edmonds (RYA Technical Manager) - There is no real easy addition or adjustment for all of the different factors to a boat’s speed as it varies from hull shape. However if I were to personally prioritise what I would do to a boat it would be as follows:

• In the water - make sure everything under the water is as smooth as can be - don’t worry about folding propeller as this is taken into account in handicap ratings.  

• Above the water - make sure you are using sails that fit the boat. Cruising boats, if sold with sails from the dealer, can be poor in cut or fit. I’d recommend either a new headsail, depending on the type of boat, or have a sailmaker see if the sail can be re-cut. If it’s an older boat, like a Contessa or Westerly etc, where a small mainsail with a large over-lapping genoa is the setup, an older headsail, which is too full, will increase the amount of heel and reduce the amount of forward motion produced, altogether a very slow combination. Dacron sails can be easily re-cut to reduce the fullness without compromising the structure of the sail.

Mark Rushall (STGBR coach) - Are you trying to cruise faster or race your cruising boat? If it were my cruising boat I’d prioritise cleaning the bottom and changing to a folding prop, though the prop would have a handicap implication. Then I’d clean up the aerodynamics - get rid of lazyjacks, excess halyards, etc. Most weight in a cruising boat is there for a reason, there is no point carrying a kedge which will not hold or losing sleep through having no bunk cushions.

Q3: I love sailing but am fairly new to it. Racing at my club is fairly low-key and hugely enjoyable however, I'm just not very good at it! If there's one tactic or tip you could offer me in order that I can start coming less last what would it be?

Mark Rushall (STGBR coach) - Most days you can narrow your tactical priorities down to one or two key factors - concentrating on these factors makes your tactical decision making much simpler, and encourages you to think about the ‘big picture’ rather than getting hung up on specific boats or minor distractions. Here is a link to a chapter from my book on ‘Sorting the priorities’ - good luck!

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