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Communicating relative performance

Published on August 18th, 2023

Sailing World’s Morgan Trubovich explains how monitoring and communicating your relative performance in a sailboat race is essential intelligence for your skipper and the speed team.

The importance of comparing your performance to another competitor during a race is an underrated part of sailing a boat competitively. We hear a lot about having good onboard communication about what’s happening on the boat.

While that’s true, it’s also important to communicate what’s happening outside the boat and what’s happening relative to your nearest competitors. So, let’s cover some techniques to improve this aspect of your next race. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on calling upwind relatives.

It’s best to start calling ­relatives as soon as possible after the start. This first few minutes is a critical boatspeed part of the race, and the sooner your team can get locked in, the better. Oftentimes, the teams that get their performance going the soonest after the start are the teams that emerge from the fray in the best position.

Once you start calling relatives, do so with confidence, announce that you are calling relatives, and identify who or which boat you are calling relatives against. For example, “I have us with (name of boat).” Knowing who you are gauging performance against is important.

On a boat with true wind direction displayed somewhere, announce that number. For example, I might say, “Starting wind direction is one-eight-five.” If the wind direction changes during the lineup, this will be valuable information to provide accurate comparisons.

If there’s no TWD (true wind direction) displayed on your boat, or you don’t have instruments, you can use your compass heading instead and say something like, “Starting heading is one-four-six.” It’s not quite as accurate as TWD, but it’s better than nothing.

Always refer to your boat first. For example, I might say, “Higher, same speed.” To avoid any confusion, don’t refer to them first. If they are higher than you, state, “We are lower.” Be consistent and always use the same process, no mumbling. Remember, the goal is to let your teammates know how you’re doing. – Full story

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