Starting fast: Finding the favored end

Published on October 5th, 2020

Determining the favored end of the start line is among the most necessary items on the pre-race checklist, and as there are several methods to do it, knowing them all assures you will be able to execute one of them to get the information. Professional coach Chris Snow talks us through the options:


The start is a very important part of any race and in order to develop your plan for starting you must know which end of the line is favored and by how much. The favored end of the line is the line that is more upwind. A boat that starts at the favored end will start the race more upwind than those that don’t. There are many factors that contribute to where exactly to start. Things like current on the course, density of the fleet, anticipated windshifts after the start, etcetera, but regardless of those you must know which end is favored to the wind direction. The following short article will give you 5 mostly solid ways you can determine which end is favored.

Please note all these methods are totally analog. No instruments (except for a compass which need not be digital) required. I highly recommend that you master these methods first before using the instruments (aka “pinging” using Expedition etc.)

The five methods are:
1. Head to wind, middle of line, on the line.
2. Head to wind, middle of line, below the line.
3. Head to wind, at end of the line, on the line.
4. Taking a compass bearing of line, compared to head to wind.
5. Sheet and cleat.

All five of these methods will work for determining the favored end for both an upwind and a downwind start. The end that is more upwind will be favored for upwind starts and the end more downwind will be favored for downwind starts. The methods can also be used to figure out which gate mark is more upwind. Pro tip: if the gates are set above the line before your start check them prior to starting.

For each method a few pros and cons of using it are included. Also included is a diagram to help you understand how each one works: click here

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