BY DAVE DELLENBAUGH
Think before you reach the mark. The technique you
use to round a mark depends a lot on the type of mark
you are rounding, plus the wind and water conditions.
If you’re rounding a small inflatable in big waves
and current, for example, you must approach it very
differently than if you are rounding a large
government bell buoy in light air. Here’s a
checklist of “mark factors.”
Inflatable (movable) marks
• Watch out because the windward mark may move
toward you when your sails blanket it.
• Since you’re never sure exactly where the RC
will put these marks, it’s important to get a visual
sighting of every mark (before you round the previous
mark if possible).
• Don’t get too close to these marks because they
bounce around with wind and waves.
• Beware of marks dragging anchors or being dragged
by other boats.
• Watch for long anchor lines to windward or
up-current (especially at the windward mark).
• Look for the stake boats, since these are usually
easier to see than the marks. If there are no stake
boats, watch the mark-set boat when it goes out to set
the windward mark.
• Know the procedure for what happens when marks are
moved, including what colour the new mark will be (see
rule 33 and your sailing instructions).
Fixed (permanent) marks
• Don’t worry about hooking the ground tackle
because it is usually chain and goes straight down.
Also, these marks will not be affected by your wind
shadow like inflatables.
• Fixed marks are shown on charts and (almost) never
move, so you can plug them into your GPS (or simply
plot the bearing of each leg) well before the start.
• Since the marks are fixed, try sailing the
offwind-leg angles before you start.
• With fixed marks, it is more difficult for the
race committee to set a true windward leg, so look
ahead and be sure you stay on the tack that’s closer
to the next mark.
• Government buoys often mark shoal water, so beware
of changes in current, running aground, and the fact
that the area inside the mark may be considered an
• These marks may be large enough to be considered
• Contact can be hazardous to your boat’s health,
so try to avoid getting too close.