I recently came across an article on the sailing Zing website Link Here when researching for a future dinghy sailing web site
I particularly like the focus on 3 questions you should constantly ask yourself when on the race course.
Where are you on the race course and where should you be heading?
This question is about how you are in relation to to your tactical plan
Imaging it is just after the start and you are in a reasonable position. Ask yourself if you are heading to the favoured side of the course and if not how do you get there. If you are blocked heading in the wrong direction, how do you bail out to get to the right side.
When approaching the windward mark, make sure you tack on the lay line and do not waste distance by overstanding.
On the run, be decisive when you round the spreader mark so you head into clear wind and not the dead zone behind the fleet.
Where are you in relation to the fleet?
There are many answers to this question, so here are some scenarios to think about.
If you are tacking up a shoreline, is it worth staying to the right side of the fleet so you have control when you come in on starboard. Being on the shoreline could see you trapped by a never ending stream of starboard boats.
When you near the windward mark, will you make your approach so you tack onto starboard well outside the zone, keeping right of way.
In a recent meeting we had a bias first beat so you could almost lay the first mark from the port end of the start line. Instead of starting at the favoured port end, I started in the middle of the line, which gave me freedom to tack first and then sail fast across the middle of the course. This got me in front of the fleet and then I had freedom to tack at will with the advantage of being starboard boat. All I had to focus on then was the lay line for the mark.
The boats at the port end of the line had to wait for other boats to tack and many overstood the mark. The line was so biased I did not have to worry about tacking ahead of the boats behind me.
Where are you in relation to the wind?
Off the start line your tactical plan will determine where you go to take advantage of any wind bends or local shore effects, trees, bushes etc. Immediately well in fact before the start you should be looking up the course for the 1st significant puff and assess if it is going to lift or back you. You need to take action to account for this but bear in mind the answers to the questions above.
If you limit your thought processes to the above, you will have a significant advantage over others who wing their way round the race course.