Sticky situation at the bottom mark?


The first real question in our 'Ask Paul' feature comes from Paul Fox, who wanted a run-down on the leeward marks in asymmetric boats - Paul Brotherton provides it
Q: With asymmetric boats we often approach the leeward mark with a big difference in the angles. A recap of the rules and tactics for big fleets would be useful. A: There are many points in a sailboat race where mistakes can be made and you lose a few boat lengths, but the loss has minimal impact on your overall position. But there are a couple of moments where every centimetre is vital and tiny gains and losses are multiplied many times. The start is obviously one of those points and the windward mark is another - but the defining moment for most competitive races in asymmetric boats is the exit from the first leeward mark. If you are leading at this point, then it is likely that you will be able to extend from the majority of the pack. If you exit the leeward mark behind or with the pack, then you are left in a nasty situation - very confused sea and wind, nowhere to go and the sight of your competitors leaning on plenty of breeze and sailing fast. It hurts just thinking about it! Clearly there are many things that will contribute to this leeward mark exit. But it's the final approach that is the biggest factor. The plan should be to allow you to keep sailing the angles that promote the best VMG, with the ultimate aim of exiting the leeward mark with speed, on the inside, on a close-hauled course. If you don't make this happen, then you're tottering on the edge of the death zone - to leeward of the fleet in no wind, with very few options. On the approach, the worst mistake is to start bearing away and pointing at the mark too early. This makes the boat slow, hard to handle and

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