When racing at Gosport the other day, our start line had a port bias with the right hand side of the beat favoured (more breeze and away from trees) but how to get there.
There were a couple of options.
1. Start at the pin end of the line and hope you can tack early
2. Start towards the middle of the line so you can tack early.
In each race I favoured the percentage option 2 and started in the middle or towards the windward side of the fleet. As soon as I could tack my goal was to get to the right hand side as fast as possible, so once onto port, I eased the sheet 1 click on the transmitter which eases the sheet about 4mm and sailed as free as I could, never letting the windward tell tale stall out. It was surprising how much extra speed this generated and how it enabled me to get a nose in front of the fleet which left me tactically to sail my own race. Bear in mind we were sailing on flat water in about 3-8 knots of breeze. Note the lighter the wind, the more it paid to sail free and maintain speed. I Remember from my yachting days, that in light weather you did everything to maintain apparent wind. If the yacht stopped, it took forever to get moving again. IOM's have similar characteristics to yachts but on a tiny scale but the apparent wind principle still holds true. Whatever you do in light weather, keep your boat moving. Speed can be just as important as going in the right direction.
Once ahead of the pack it was a case of keeping an eye on the smart boats and playing the shifts. The latter being more important than worrying about the other boats.
To be fast upwind you need to consider the following:
1 Your boat must be balanced so it sails on its own.
2 Concentrate like crazy on your tell tales so you can respond to any shifts immediately.
3 Know your transmitter so when you ease the sheets by a few mm you know exactly how far and how fast that will make you go. A transmitter with a ratchet sheet control stick helps enormously. On mine 1 click equals 4mm of ease.
4 Watch to windward for any change in the wind. Look for puffs, potential holes and shifts in the wind and react accordingly.
Put all this together on your start and early part of the first beat and you will have control of the fleet.