5 Steps to a Better Start

Terry Hutchinson boils down his good starts to five easy-to-remember tips. “From the Experts” in the September 2008 issue of Sailing World.
by Terry Hutchinson

Going for the line

As a tactician for the past eight years I’ve been fortunate to sail alongside some of the best helmsmen, and from each of them I’ve learned many different starting styles. When the time came this summer for me to fire up the starting instincts for the TP52 Breitling MedCup Circuit there was plenty of nervous anticipation. But there was also the reminder from my college coach K.C. Fullmer to always keep it simple. This means different things at different times on the starting line because there’s no one predictable situation, but I’ve categorized the top-five priorities that help keep me focused. Each priority may carry more or less importance in any given situation, but being able to balance and understand the cause and effect of each will help lead you to consistent starts.

#1 Time and distance: Each race day before the first start we will spend 10 minutes doing a 2-minute rolling sequence to calibrate the helmsman, trimmers, and bowman to the boat’s time and distance for the day’s conditions. With each 2-minute sequence you will pick up a bit of information that will allow for better understanding of how quickly you approach the line. In the age of computer pings and extremely accurate GPS, a good measure of time and distance is crossing the line 1 to 2 seconds after the start. On the TP52 at full pace, that’s roughly a quarter of a boatlength off the line. That’s not a lot of margin of error, but having the key components to the time and distance dialed in amongst the bowman, helmsman, and trimmers allows you to hit the line at pace and on time.

story continues with the next four steps …

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