tactics at the start

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   CATAPULT TACTICS AT GRAFHAM: starting in a mixed fleet in fresh winds. The line is well-laid at right angles to the wind, so there are different starboard-start options  for the Catapults.

catamaran sailing uk    Paul and Alastair (503 and 513) are using conventional tactics, easing along slowly to pass close to the Committee boat.

This keeps the advantage of a safe position (with starboard rights over the fleet) and they will be close to the line on the gun.

 Disadvantages: they may be barged by boats not behaving, and in a larger fleet this can throw the whole start out, with boats coming through to windward (see Race 5 at Rutland 2010)

Moving slowly in the disturbed air of larger fleet risks stalling (and this happened to them both in Race 2 at Grafham) and accelerating away may be slowed.

Gareth (91) is using a high-speed start, staying a long way back, and above the close-hauled line, coming down fast to the gun. The advantage is starting at speed, and usually having a clear run in. Boats trying a slow-speed start (503 and 513) may sag down enough to leave a gap at the Committee boat, but in any case Gareth should be able to follow them and then use speed to climb a bit to windward over them.

 Disadvantage: a high-speed start is harder to time, and one or two boats at least will usually start ahead. In a bigger fleet (20-odd) there may be
no gap to fly through, in a procession at the Committee boat

Cliff (17) is electing to go down to the middle of the line, where he is safely free of other boats and able to come near the line and then approach at speed, below close-hauled. He points lower for speed a short time after the start, to clear his air of any boats to windward. The advantage is sailing his own race confident of boat speed. Disadvantages: it is essential to time the start accurately, and in a mixed fleet somewhat faster boats may still come past to windward (e.g. the Shearwaters at Grafham). Eventually he may have to cross the fleet on port (unless he goes on out to the far left side of the course, and waits until everyone else has tacked across.)

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  A big Catapult start in light winds (at the 25th Anniversary Bala Gala in 2008) The shore-based start has a slight starboard bias, so the shore end gives some distance advantage, and everyone is starting on starboard.

1: Before the start.

  Around 30 seconds from the start 271 (white hulls) seems to have the best place, heading to pass just inside the mark.

513 and 17 have contested the starboard end, but have finished up in poor positions blanketed by 271 and an obscured boat. As there are clearly some seconds to go, they may be best bearing away (if they can avoid boats below them) to cross at speed further down the line.

 Several boats have been content to approach the line further down, and Nigel in 522 looks settled and concentrating on his own race.

Further away, Alex in the distant yellow-hulled Catapult 1 on the right is hovering near the line, pointing further up into the wind.

  Yellow hulls coming in from the left (518, obscured) appears to have left it too late, but also has the problem (if he gets there in time) that 271 will not need to give him any room at the mark. Following 271 across going quickly may be a good option still.

2: The start

522 has got away well and Alex in 1 is turning and hauling in to accelerate away. They each have space, so can concentrate on boat speed.

   271 is no longer in control, as boats below him have tightened up to the line, and Paul in 307 has had enough clear breeze to come up to the line on a close-hauled course to take the pole position, so that 271 has had to hang back.

This demonstrates that at the start, boats below you are more of a threat to your plans than boats to windward (if all are obeying the rules, see "The Start: barging")
13 and 17 (orange hulls, now obscured) have made little progress, showing that in light winds, being stuck in a pack will take a long time to disentangle, so that contesting the obvious favourite spot has to succeed, or be replaced by a cautious alternative.

  As predicted, 518 is late, and again in light winds this costs, whereas the same position in fresher breeze would be still useful,  able to speed to the line. He is well above the close-hauled course, so can run down to follow 271 across, probably able to ride over 513 and 17 (but he has no right to room at the mark, as he is coming in heading below the "Proper Course", so he must think ahead, and avoid rushing down fast and crashing into the sterns of the boats going more slowly over the line. )

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