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How starting skill requires technology

Published on September 23rd, 2019

Crossing the start line at the right time and maximum speed can be the key to winning a race. Mike Broughton explains how it’s done in this Yachting World report:

Starting a yacht at the right end of the line at target speed is very much a team game. On boats longer than 40ft, vital input comes from the bow person, trimmers, helmsman, tactician and navigator.

The role of the navigator has evolved in recent years to assist the tactician and helmsman by utilizing navigation software to help the timed run into the start. Before the start of any competitive race fleet we now see over 90% of the fleet ‘pinging the ends’ of the line – GPS positioning helps us work out where the start line is and how far away we are at any moment.

We can now do the same with a modern sports watch with a GPS interface. However, to start a boat like a TP52, there is a little more to it than just GPS positioning then using course and speed over the ground; but even this information can be very useful – particularly with long start lines.

I’ve been using software to help start races since I first discovered Deckman in 1989. It was developed to aid America’s Cup starting, but in those days many crew were pretty skeptical about its merits.

To work out our sailing time to the start line, the software needs to know our boat’s polars (how fast we will sail compared to true wind speed and true wind angle). One factor we need to refine is that normally we are not able to sail at 100% polar speed in the run into the start line as we have other yachts in close proximity and more ‘dirty air’ to deal with. – Full report

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