Be the Guard, Not the Prisoner

Published on November 30th, 2017

Dave Perry explains how a rule change in match racing impacts tactics when sailing downwind.


“Downwind Jail” is when one boat is to the right of their opponent (looking downwind) and they can’t gybe and cross, nor can they sail into the zone of the leeward mark/gate or Pin end of the finishing line.

With the deletion of rule 17 (proper course rule), it is much easier to not only find yourself in Downwind Jail, but to put your opponent in Downwind Jail as well.

From that position, on the first run it is likely the boat in Downwind Jail will round the leeward mark/gate at least three lengths behind the leader, and in phase with them making it harder to gain on them, and on the second run they will likely lose the race.

The reason the boat is in “jail” is that even if the boats are overlapped and the leeward boat has come from astern, rule 17 is now deleted in match racing (see rule C2.8) meaning there is no rule requiring the leeward boat to not sail above her proper course. Therefore the leeward boat can now sail past the port layline as far as she wants to, or luff towards the windward boat.

In Downwind Jail – Part 1, I explained what you should do if (a) your opponent was in Downwind Jail, and (b) you were in Downwind Jail. In this edition I will show how to put your opponent in Downwind Jail when you are trailing around the windward mark:

1) If there is a length or less of water between you and the leader, and you are on the first run:
While both boats are on port tack, try to be to the right of their centerline (looking downwind) after the rounding. If they gybe on or before the “first layline” (meaning the starboard tack layline to the leeward mark; or if a gate, to the right-hand gate mark looking downwind), you do not gybe! Crossover (sail across their centerline), sail for 2 -3 lengths (not an inch more!), and gybe.

If you are racing to a single leeward mark (which is unfortunate – all match racing should use a leeward gate!), then if they can sail into the zone of the mark, you will be faster coming into the rounding, especially if they have to soak at all, or do two gybes, to get to the mark. Plan on rounding right on their transom and rolling into an immediate tack around the mark, or overlap them to leeward and when their stern has passed the mark, luff them and force them to tack (again because there is no rule 17).

If you are racing to a gate, then you will get the left-hand mark, giving you the starboard advantage (“starboard card”) in the first meeting after the gate. If your opponent can *not* sail into the zone of the leeward mark/right-hand gate mark, then they are in Downwind Jail…and you own them!

If they gybe clearly *after* passing the first layline, you can consider simultaneously gybing (“simo gybe”), but you have to be 100% sure you can roll them AND sail into the zone of the leeward mark/right-hand gate mark; otherwise you will have just sailed YOURSELF into Downwind Jail!

Note: If you are the leader, gybe on the “first layline.” If the trailer crosses over, great. If the trailer simo gybes, then sail hot, push the game above the layline, and if they roll you, now THEY are in Downwind Jail…and you own them!

2) If there is a length or less of water between you and the leader, and you are on the second run:
Again, it is all about the “first layline”, but this time the first layline is the starboard tack layline to the Pin (starboard end of the finishing line looking downwind). If the leader gybes *before* the layline to the Pin, crossover, sail for 2-3 lengths, and gybe. Your opponent is now in Downwind Jail…and you own them!

If they gybe *on or after* the Pin layline, you have to simo gybe, cause them to sail high (getting them above the Pin layline), and then you will have to decide if you can roll them and get down in front of them and either sail into the zone of the Pin or gybe and cross them – this is a BIG ASK. Your better option, if you are not locked to windward of them, is to get to their left (looking downwind) by either soaking, or gybing and crossing over 2 lengths and then gybing back to starboard. Once to their left, THEY are in Downwind Jail…and you own them!

3) On either run, if there is more than a length of water between you:
Try to get to the right of their centerline (looking downwind) as much as possible without losing too much distance on them. When they gybe, you simo gybe…period. If they have gybed on or before the “first layline”, do NOT get locked to windward of them! They will be sailing hot to try to keep their wind in front of you. Just before you get locked to windward of them, get to their left (looking downwind) by either soaking, or gybing and crossing over 2 lengths and then gybing back to starboard. Once to their left, THEY are in Downwind Jail…and you own them!

If they gybed *after* the first layline, you can decide if you can roll them (pass them on their right) and safely get down to the zone of the leeward mark/gate/Pin. If you are not 100% sure you can, do NOT try it, because YOU will end up you know where!

In Downwind Jail – Part 3, I will explain how to put your opponent in Downwind Jail when you are leading around the windward mark.

Source: The Dial Up

Tags: , , , ,



Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your daily or weekly download by email.

Subscribe - In popup

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.