June 02, 2015

When to Tack Revisited... Again

By Doug
A previous post looked at the relative importance of sailing the course, competition, and conditions. Several readers of this blog have told me about a fantastic new site that helps you actually practice when to tack.

You're red sailing in actual conditions against black which is "blindly following" the strategy at SailRacer.net. The conditions are real and not computer-generated. Here are two strategies for trying to beat black:
  • There's a dotted line between the port and starboard laylines, and it moves back and forth as the wind shifts. Tacking when you cross this line keeps you in the middle of the course, but it means that you're sometimes tacking on a knock to stay in the middle.
  • If you ignore these lines and simply tack on a knock, it works well but sometimes pushes you out to a layline too early so you miss playing the shifts later.
The second one has served me well over the years, and I've never tried the first that seems to work surprisingly well. I'll have to try that one too.

But watch out for those persistent shifts, especially at the top of the course! In this example, red got it right, while black is probably paying the price for using its compass too close to the mark:

This is great stuff!


  1. Are there people out there that can beat the computer? Seems like you need to match the black boat tack for tack until you get to the top of the course, then get to one side of it or the other and hope for a persistent shift that way...

  2. ...or get an early lead and then camp on the black boat the rest of the leg...

    1. If you tack when you cross the dotted line, it's usually before black tacks and the counter shows how much you gain. But I'm sure there are better ways... from Berlin in transit to Milan for training with Roberto before the Euromasters. Will send updates.

  3. I don't quite understand how to use this on the water -- there won't be a dotted line! How can I find out where it would be? So strategy 2 is easy, just look at your compass as you remain close-hauled, but strategy 1 seems impossible.

    1. My apologies, this was blocked as spam.

      What works in this game (strategy 1) may be good geometry but, as you say, it would be hard to judge the dotted lines in a race as they move around. But geometry doesn't lie, so there may be more to be gained than by our 'normal' compass use.


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