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A little mentioned problem
By Rooster Sailing
A few times I've come to the last race of a championship with only two of us in with a chance of winning.
This invariably leads to the fun that is a sailing down. The first thing to do is to congratulate yourself on getting to that position, you've done well, and then wonder how to go about it. I've never seen much written about it.
If you've ever done any match or team racing it would be a big bonus, but there's the added complication of a fleet around you that's just trying to get on with their own race. A bit like a penalty shoot out it's hard to practice and it may well be years between occasions when you need the skills.
You may also find that your rules knowledge, in the heat and stress of the chase may be lacking, taking into regard that before the start there is no proper course etc. Bluff and a loud voice, as always, may work as your opponent may not be any better! Good boat handling, particularly at slow speeds, can be practised and makes all the difference in the chase.
If you're the chaser the object is to either escort the victim away from the line preventing them from coming back, push them over or park them up head to wind with little possibility of tacking at the start time. The victim needs to try and prevent any of that happening. I've generally been the victim previously and most of the rest of this post is observations made during these experiences.
The fun starts at the preparatory signal so normally that's four minutes of mayhem and you need to have done your start line checks before then. Check the line bias etc, have an idea of which way you may want to go and have all the control settings ready for the start. Just a bit of tension on the kicker to allow easier manoeuvring.
Keeping track of where you are in relation to the start line during the last couple of minutes is a must particularly on a round the ends or black flag start. Start line penalties being a huge bonus to the chaser who will gladly see the two of you over. If the line is pretty unbiased it may pay to go for the committee boat end, as the victim, to enable more chance of a tack away for clear air if it all goes wrong. If your being chased don't get caught off either end of the line or you'll find yourself heading further off.
To reduce the stress, as the victim, you can opt to just sit there, on starboard, as only the last couple minutes really matter but the chaser will invariably come from behind and leeward and luff up head to wind to stop your resting. One way to stop that is to sit close to windward of another boat that's just minding it's own business, but be prepared for that boat to take one look and scuttling off not wanting to be any part of it.
As the victim you could also go on the offensive and try to cause the chaser to infringe a rule or to tack off with a luff up to head to wind.
One trick I saw the Danish Finn sailor use at the Olympics was to hide on the far side of the committee boat. As Ben Ainslie came round one end he went round the other and so couldn't be reached. I can confirm that it works well, until with about a minute to go you have to come round to the line side and take your punishment. It didn't end well for me either.
Depending on the timing, a rule infringement may not be as bad as it could be. While your doing your 720 the chaser can't deliberately obstruct you and could be a way of escape. Deliberate rule infringements, by either parties, could lead to questions as to whether it's against the sprit of the rules. Holes in boats will lead to questions of who really deserved to win the championship!
What about capsizing deliberately for 3 mins, just a thought?
I'd be glad to hear any useful tips or comments.