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The “Racing Tips and Tactics” session conducted by Jim Voelz and well organized by Peggy during his absence the prior week was conducted as well as a professional conference.  Our name tags were pre-prepared and we were each handed a folder full of materials Jim would walk us through.  But the setting was better than any conference center as you can see from the picture below, as was the subject matter of course.

Jim Voelz with the undivided attention of sailors and volunteers

Jim began by reflecting on what makes sailboat racing such an engaging sport he has enjoyed for decades, since his Dad first took him out sailing.   He even met Peggy while sailing, and they have both been sailing (and winning at it) ever since.   It involves being outdoors, on the water, with lots of physical activity (ask anyone that raced that day and reached for the Aleve afterward).  That’s great fun, but then there are also all the strategies, tactics, and competitive aspects.

Jim explained that as you sail out to the course you have to notice everything around you in order to have a chance of winning.  You need to need to understand all about how the wind is behaving on different parts of the course and how it shifts. You have to know the exact layout of the course, the best approach to the starting line given the wind, and how to best approach each mark.  

 Jim went over the basic rules, with an emphasis on how those rules can be used strategically.  He also went over proper rigging of your boat for maximum advantage.  

 Jim pointed out that as you prepare for the start,  timing and positioning are everything and you have to be thinking through it right up to the starting horn since many races are ultimately won at the start.   Before and after the start as you maneuver around the other sailors you have to know the right-of-way rules cold,  and be always aware of the positions of the other boats so that you can use the rules and positioning to your advantage, or maneuver to turn things to your advantage.   

We learned that in setting your course you have to be aware of where you are relative to the “rumb line” and how far away from it you will or will not allow yourself to go.  You have to tack at the right times relative to wind behavior and relative to your competition.   And your sails need to be properly trimmed the entire time.  Jim then went into detail on each of these areas with good tips and rules of thumb for us to follow.  
 I could not help but think that for a relatively new sailor who has been in a few races and therefore is able to relate to all of these strategic aspects of racing, Jim’s presentation really drove home the depth and breadth of what this sport has to offer.  It really is a “lifetime” sport that engages you both mentally and physically (and of course, here at Grandview we also make it a social activity).   Think of it as a version of chess, conducted on boats, playing against many other players simultaneously with plenty of rules to follow, but no time between moves, while also competing with the wind to which rules do not apply. No wonder Grandview sailors remain so young!

The tips and tactics Jim shared triggered thoughts about recent racing circumstances faced by our sailors and how what was just learned would apply.  A well-adhered to schedule allowed time to share those thoughts and ask questions while enjoying a delicious lunch before leaving for the race.   

After class and lunch, John Auld diagrams a recent racing situation.  Peggy Voelz and Kevin Preuss conclude that the problem was he "zigged" when he should have "zagged".

The only thing Jim and Peggy neglected were the continuing professional education certificates (the year his half over and some of us have spent a lot of time sailing, and really need them).   Thanks Jim and Peggy for getting our competitive juices flowing!

 For Attendees:  Here are follow-up items from the session:

1.   Per Jim: “I recommend that sailors use "Air-flow Tels" which are wind of the sail indicators.  Also, if the sailboat has side stays, then I also recommend Newport Tell-Tale Wind Direction Indicators, also made by Davis Instruments.  They can be ordered from Jamestown Distributors in Bristol, RI over the internet or at 401-253-3840---DAV-222 (tell tales--size B) and DAV--950 (sail air-flow tales).  Total cost with shipping and handling is $33.47.”

And,  "STOP THE PRESSES" this just in from one of our sailors, Sasha Bouis, 
An alternative to spending $ on tel tales is to use a thin light piece of wool yarn or if you have any audio casette tapes lying around is to use some of that 1/8" magnetic tape...  tie a couple of strands to each shroud ...  works great and costs $0.  Can also tape them to your sail with a bit of sail repair tape.

2.  You will remember there was an uncertainty we needed to clarify:  When approaching a mark The “zone” within which it’s too late to establish overlap is 3 boat lengths, (not 2).

3. There is a great animated presentation of the racing rules at US sailing – complete with animated diagrams.  You will find the link in the “Sailing and Weather Related Links” section in the port column of the blog.  And there are a lot of other things in that links section as well, including the most basic sailing rules.