Trouble Starting?

Paul Brotherton looks at big fleet starting techniques
Q: Starting causes myself and my skipper huge problems, best described as frantic, good starts are definitely a hit and miss affair. We’re pretty sound on the rest of the race track, and our speed seems good, but at the bigger dinghy events we struggle for results because of poor starting, how can we improve? A: Many highly committed teams fail to become regular performers on the national or international scene, and a lack of good consistent starting is often the reason. It plays a huge part in one-design racing - if you start behind you have to sail better than everyone else just to draw level! The watch word for starting has to be control. Let’s start with a list of the minimum number of elements that need to be considered during the period up to the gun: 1. Which tack you would like to be on after the start 2. Line bias 3. Wind shifts 4. Current 5. Acceleration technique for the conditions 6. Distance covered while accelerating 7. Time elapsed while accelerating 8. Position of the other boats 9. Countdown - time to the start 10. Transits to both ends of the line - you need both a line-up transit (to mark the position you want to begin your run into the line) and a safety transit (safe position behind the line from where you can accelerate) 11. Fleet 'cover' at both ends - can you be spotted by the race officers? 12. Speed of boats to windward and leeward compared to your speed 13. Other boats attacking your gap to leeward 14. Controlling your boat at slow speed There are 14 basic points, if we went into more detail there would quickly be 20. I would bet that 90% of active racing sailors in the UK only consider countdown and line bias. But I have a feeling that your next question would be