Four rules of thumb for strategy on runs
by David Dellenbaugh
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Not even the best sailors know which way to go on every downwind leg. When you’re in the “same boat” and you aren’t sure which side of the run is favored, it’s helpful to have a few basic strategic principles that you can fall back on to keep yourself in the race. Here are four good rules of thumb that will work in almost any situation. Some of these are very similar to the strategies we have discussed for upwind legs. Others, however, are mirror images of what you would do on a beat!
1. Sail the longer jibe first.
The “longer jibe” is the one on which you will have to spend more time during the run. By sailing this jibe first, you stay closer to the middle of the course, more upwind of the leeward mark and farther from the laylines. This strategy works especially well when you’re not sure what the wind will do. It gives you a better chance of playing future shifts and reduces your risk of overstanding the leeward mark.
Why it’s easy to overstand the
Second, changes in the wind velocity have a much greater effect on your jibing angle than on your tacking angle. In the example shown below, the boat was sailing within the laylines in six knots of wind. When the wind increased to eight knots, however, she was able to sail much lower and thus found herself overstanding the leeward mark.
2. Sail for velocity before shifts.
3. Sail away from the next shift.
4. Jibe on the lifts.
In the sequence shown here, the left boat jibes on the lifts while the right boat jibes on the headers. You can see that the left boat sails much more directly toward the leeward mark.