Dip Starts

Dip Starts are rarely used and highly risky but, particularly for club dinghy racing, they can be a useful manoeuvre to have in your arsenal

What the Experts Say

Ben Tan – The Complete Introduction to Laser Racing

When the wind is light and there is a strong adverse current for the upwind leg, the fleet may have difficulty sailing up to the starting line…Dip starts can be used for such situations.

Books with information on Dip Starts

Complete Introduction to Laser Racing - Ben Tan, page 123

What We Learned...

Dip Starts

Dip Starts are rarely used, and can be a risky approach. However, they can be a useful way to approach certain starts, and are worth considering if the conditions allow them.

The first thing to say about dip starts is that you must have checked the sailing instructions, and you must know the type of start that is being employed. Several clubs write into their Sailing Instructions that you should assume the ‘round-the-ends’ rule is in play regardless of the preparatory flag, thus ruling out dip starts. Also, Black Flag starts, I flag starts and Z flag starts all rule out the possibility of using this type of start, so make sure you are certain that it is legal before going for it.

It is also worth being aware of the quality of the fleet, as a good fleet will be on the line, with few spaces to duck into, making it a very risky strategy indeed. At club level you will be more likely to pull it off.

A dip start is where you position yourself above (to windward of) the start line, and duck back down below the line just before the gun before pointing up and beating towards the windward mark. The benefits are obvious:

a)      You are pretty certain of a front row start

b)      You are pretty certain to be moving with good speed

c)       You tend to have a good view of the line for finding the kind of gap that you need, and the pace to be able to move into the gap quickly

A few things you need to consider when going for a dip start:

  • Do you have good, reliable transits, so that you can be confident of clearing the line before turning upwind?
  • Have you done this kind of start before? Have you done it a lot? It is quite a cheeky manoeuvre, and the surprise element helps it to work well. If the fleet is expecting it then they can block it, which can be a bit costly. Especially as, while doing it once can be amusing and may even earn you a drink at the bar later for your brass neck, doing it often can get peoples hackles up, meaning they may go out of their way to stop you succeeding with the manoeuvre.
  • Will the Race Officer be as certain of the rules as you are? This shouldn’t really come into your thinking as he should know all the rules under which you are racing, but at club level this isn’t always the case. Do you really want the hassle of having to protest the Race Committee (never popular) to have your result stand? Maybe you do, in which case, go for it.
  • Have you thought about the start conditions?
    • Is there a current?
      If the current is pushing the fleet towards the line then there may be less room to slot into. Likewise, a current pushing the fleet back from the line should work nicely in favour of a dip start.
    • Is it very breezy?
      Strong winds mean that gaps can close very quickly, and the fleet can accelerate to the line quickly, meaning that the space you need may disappear before you can make it through the manoeuvre. On the other hand light airs tend to give you more time, and, if coupled with current pushing the fleet back from the line, should guarantee you a spot to dip into.

Bear in mind, too, that this type of start can work well for a port tack start as well as the more conventional starboard tack start because of the ability it gives you to pick your spot. You are unlikely to win the pin, but in a moderate or weak fleet you should get a spot close to the pin from which you can port tack most of the fleet. Twice as cheeky.

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