Rules for sailing in high current venues

Published on April 14th, 2015

Sailing is on that short list of sports where everything varies except for the rules. Wherever you go, the field of play will vary as will the wind. Conquering the variables is the ticket toward success.

One of the variables with some statistical support is current. But matching the tide schedule to reality on the race course, and recognizing how the current reacts to geographic features, is easier said than done.

This will be the challenge for the 286 teams competing at Charleston Race Week in South Carolina on April 17-19. Coach and sailing professional Kevin Jewett, who happens to be based in Charleston, provides general advice for all current-influenced racing:

Current can be such a big factor that it will trump windshifts strategically. In general there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when sailing in any high current venue.

♦ Test your approach to the starting line so that you can adjust your timing and approach at your actual start. Also note that the current might create a clump of boats at one end or the other.
♦ If current on your course is pretty even but you are sailing across it on one tack and into it on the other, sail into it in lulls and across in a puff. Otherwise you will be pushed sideways in lulls and lose a lot of ground.
♦ Use transits as you approach marks and recognize shifts in laylines. Remember you might have to gybe much sooner than you think if the current is running across your course, it’s really easy to get swept away and miss your marks. Better to “under” then “over” stand your marks.
♦ Avoid clumps of boats at marks that have underestimated the current and are basically stuck, either pinching at the windward mark or kite down in a clump at the leeward mark.
♦ Keep your eyes out for tide lines and stay on the side that you think will be more beneficial or less detrimental…

Click here for complete list of local knowledge for Charleston

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