• The race committee (RC) does
not have to designate the course until the warning
signal (five minutes before your start), and they may
not even have the first mark in place at this time.
Therefore, you should first make a strategy using just
your wind and current info. Then add in the course
geometry when that becomes available.
• Under the new rules, you have only five minutes
from the time the course is displayed until your stat.
So try to be around the committee boat at your warning
signal. This way you will be sure to see what the RC
displays for your course as well as the bearing and
distance to the first mark.
• Unless you have no other choice, don’t rely on
the compass bearing that the race committee posts for
the first mark. Just because they post it doesn’t
mean that’s where the mark will be. If at all
possible, aim your bow at the mark before the start
and get your own compass bearing. This is a good way
to double-check the numbers and will give you a
first-mark bearing on the same compass you use for
your wind readings.
• Look at not only the bearing
to the first mark, but the distance as well. The
shorter the first leg, the sooner you will get to the
sides of the course and hit a layline.
• Consider future windshifts. If the first mark is
not the windward, maybe the RC thinks the wind will
shift. If the mark is to windward but the wind shifts
before or while you are on the first leg, then that
will affect geometry.
• Don’t forget the current. Even if the first mark
appears to be set directly upwind, a cross-current may
make one tack longer.
• Once you’ve found the first mark, update your
strategy so you follow these basic principles: Sail
the longer tack first,. Avoid laylines and corners as
long as possible. When in doubt, stay closer to the
middle of the course.
The Starting Line
The angle of the starting line is one of your
most important geometric considerations. However, I
recommend that you first figure out a strategic plan
based on all other factors; then add in the starting
line last. One reason for this is that the line is
usually set quite late, and the RC can change it until
the prep signal.
Also, many sailors put way too much importance on the
bias of the line and not enough on where they want to
go on the first leg.