5 Tips on How to Dinghy Race Like a Pro
Posted by:GJW Direct | Jun 22, 2018
When you know what you’re doing, dinghy racing is a thrilling and challenging way to improve your sailing skills and have fun on the water. For competitive people, sailing is the ultimate sport, but there’s definitely a knack to it. Check out our expert top tips to get you racing like a pro...
- Start successfully
Seems obvious, but many people don’t realise just how important starting off right is to winning - some consider it to be worth 90% of the race. Think of the length of the line in terms of how long it would take to sail along it to improve judging time and distance.
Don’t start too far back from the line - if you’re new to dinghy sailing, the safest bet is at the right hand end on the starboard tack. Getting out early (ideally first) means you can check tidal influences and track the wind. If you’re starting mid-line, sit half a length ahead of the boats around you - most other boats will hang back. And definitely invest in a high-quality timer!
- Practice makes perfect
One of the best tips is simple - practice everything as much as you can. If you’re part of a crew, get together and go through the course. Focus on going over your weakest manoeuvre, even if it’s just for 15 minutes before the race day starts. Move onto your next weakness to continually improve. Sail around a short practice course and use actual markers to replicate race pressure.
A waterproof GoPro video camera is an ideal self-coaching tool; simply set it up to the rear of the boat to see where your strengths and weakness are. Go over key spinnaker work, including hoists, drops and gybes, until you (and your team) are fluid and smooth.
- Mark your controls
Making sure you know the fastest settings for various conditions will help lay the foundation for a good boat speed. Mark up everything from halyards, sheets, outhaul, and continue to refine these markings as you improve the sail trim and boat handling.
- Develop high and low upwind modes
One of the best kept secrets in sailing is to maintain VMG (Velocity made good - the speed of the sailboat in the direction of its destination) while pointing higher or lower than usual by about 3-5 degrees.
This helps keep clean air and gives you tactical control over boats around you; by using this tactic you may be able to gain enough space to squeeze above an overtaking boat or tack. Use this technique wisely and don’t overdo the directional degree!
- Nail the finish
Plan ahead for success. Your tactics will vary depending on your position in the fleet - if you’re ahead you need to defend, and the biggest tip is keep between the finish line and your competitors, even if it costs you distance.
As you head into the last mark of the course and beat back to the line leg, prepare for what you need to sort out in advance, for example put your centre board down and pull your outhaul back on. Don’t fall foul to going around the last mark too fast, especially in heavy wind.