Practice Time and Distance

With the Spring Series about to start, the racing season is upon us! With that in mind, one really good drill to practice is time and distance at the starts, that is determining how long it takes to get to the line at full speed in a variety of conditions.

What we are trying to avoid in the early season is either getting up to the starting line too early and having to luff and stop or being too far away and late. We are looking for that sweet spot distance that is in between those too so we can get consistent starts with full speed and placed where we want to be on the line.  

When you get out on the lake, pick a marker on the Olympic Circle and time how long it takes to pass the mark at full speed from bow to stern. That will tell you how long it will take sail a boat length.

Let’s say that boat length took 2.5 seconds. When you are on the final approach to the start, estimate how many boat lengths you are off the line. For instance six boat lengths will take approximately 15 seconds to sail at full speed. Add in a few seconds for an error factor, sheet in, and go and see how you do.

Remember this does not take into account wind driven current, a wind shift or bad air from other boats, so factor those in accordingly.

If there is a postponement of the race, try a few runs at the line and get a feel for the time-distance equation.

Try verbalizing how your time-distance equation looks. "Thirty seconds to the line (at full speed), we have 10 seconds to burn.” This will help the team get a sense of how far they are from the line. Be sure to include weather that factors in a tack or jibe: “Forty seconds to the line plus a tack."

If you are going to err one way or the other on time allowance, then go with more time to burn on the final approach. You can always slow down if a bit early but there is not much you can do if you are late.

Here is a speed and distance chart so that you can factor in your own size boat. Enjoy the spring racing!