Heading North Fast

Andrew Wills

Common sense nearly always prevails when it comes to succeeding at longer races. From glow in the dark trim stripes, to homework and research, here are a few tried and true ways to get on top of your opponents in New Zealand's biggest yacht race, the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club's Coastal Classic:

Better sail trim in the dark –

•    Mark all the sheets and control lines clearly so you can repeat settings in the dark.  Examples of these are marks on halyards, vang, genoa cars with calibrations and backstays.  Have a medium setting on sheets, and spreader marks for non overlapping sails.
•    A good idea concerning sails is to apply glow in the dark trim stripes.

Boat and sail preparation -

•    Check over all of your sails a few weeks prior to the race (if you need help ring Bushy in service).  Make sure your hull is clean and smooth.  Remove anything superfluous to requirements; you would be surprised how it all adds up! (see logistics section)
•    Make sure your boat maintenance is up to the race and have the crew or a specialist inspect all halyards and rigging and replace worn gear as needed.
•    Wool all kites before the race, especially the heavy airs or tight reaching sails as when you need these its either windy or tight reaching. Being able to hoist and set quickly can make a big difference.

Crew -

•    Try and sail together as much as possible, beforehand.  Assign areas of responsibility so everyone shares the workload (ie, safety, sails, food, accommodation etc). 
•    It is important to maintain enthusiasm and concentration in these longer races.  Good nutrition will help concentration.  We have used a crew rotation policy every 2 hours to good effect.  For manoeuvres and sail changes make sure everyone is competent and knows their job role or go back to specialist positions.

Tactics and Strategy: know what’s coming up -

•    Research the expected winds and tides on websites such as, predictwind, windguru, metvuw and metservice.  The current should be flooding in and holding you back off the start line for this year’s race start.  Balance up the current and wind for the first few hours out of the starting blocks, trying to avoid the deeper water and stronger adverse current where possible. 
•    If you are lucky enough to have a computer system like Expedition or a starting computer like a Rockbox then you can ping the ends of the line in the days leading up to the race.  Leave someone on shore at one end of the start, sail past (as close as possible to the shore) each end of the line and ping the ends when the onshore person signals. 
•    Think through your positioning before the start.  If you are in a small boat try to make sure you have no large boats setting up just to windward of you, which will roll you shortly after the start gun. It is a long race track and strategy depends on wind forecasts on the day.
•    Remember, the Hen and Chicks are not a mark of the course and some boats have done well in this race going east of this island group.  

•    Make sure you know what the tides and current are as you enter the Bay of Islands and closer to Russell as you approach the finish.

Logistics -

•    Where possible have someone take up any crew gear that is not needed for the race. Tell the crew to bring two bags to the boat, one for the race and one for after the finish which goes up in the car. If you have 10 crew that saves 10kgs in gear/crewmember or 100kg total. The same principle applies for delivery sails and cruising gear for the trip home, if it’s not needed for the race then get it off the boat. If there is no car available to take gear up then put all the spare gear in a big sail bag or similar so it can be stored low down and central in the boat as well as keeping the boat tidy.