Racing to Win – Starting

Starting is crucial to success in dinghy sailing, so you should develop a routine that enables you to start well as regularly as possible

What the Experts Say

Ben Ainslie – The Laser Campaign Manual

‘The key to staring well in any boat is to be that split second ahead of the boats around you so that you are the first boat up to full speed and pop out ahead after the gun has gone.’

Dick Tillman – The Complete Book of Laser Sailing

Know the favoured end, the length of the line, the transit, the current. Start at full speed on the line with clear air.

Paige Railey as quoted in Dick Tillman – The Complete Book of Laser Sailing

‘I think one of the most important things about starting is to be confident and believe in yourself.’

Mark Mendelblatt as quoted in Dick Tillman – The Complete Book of Laser Sailing

‘assess the size of the fleet, the orientation of the starting line and its relationship to where the weather mark lies, and, finally, the conditions under which the race will be sailed’

John Bertrand as quoted in Dick Tillman – The Complete Book of Laser Sailing

‘what is important about starts is that, from the middle and back of the fleet, you have more obstacles to overcome than if you’re in front. If you win the start, everything becomes much simpler.’

Videos for Starting

Ben Ainslie: 'At the end of the day you still have to get off the start line well and get the first shift. Generally that's the key to most races'

Books with information for Starting

The Laser Campaign Manual - Ben Ainslie, page 89

Laser Handbook - Paul Goodison, page 62 and 120

Complete Introduction to Laser Racing - Ben Tan, page 119

Complete Book of Laser Sailing - Dick Tillman, page 59, 117, 121 and 138

Be Your Own Sailing Coach - Jon Emmett, page 54

Websites and online articles for Starting

really good article on starting

Paul Goodison writes about his common rules and practices that help him execute a great start as often as possible. And at the bottom of this page he mentions some of the common problems that occur at the start, and what to do to avoid them.

From the Centre of Effort blog, a really good post on what it takes to have a good start

This is a comprehensive article on the tactics of starting well

A good article on getting into position for a good start

This piece has advice from a number of successful sailors on starting

This photo workshop has some good information on things that go right and wrong at the start

Terry Hutchinson offers five steps to a good start...

...while Jon Emmett has six steps to starting faster

Finally, this author sums up what he learned when he decided to research getting better starts


Other tips include:

This article covers a number of things, but has some useful material on starting

How to take a competitor head-to-wind before the start

This article covers the basics of starting

A Laser sailor goes over some important lessons from regatta sailing, including some for starting well

Tip number one is useful for starting well

Here the author talks about the benefits of being able to spot windshifts in the last minutes before the start...

...and here you get an explanation as to how to spot them

What We Learned...

Racing to Win: The Start

Ok, so we all agree that the start is pretty important. The best thing to do is to develop your own checklist that you will eventually know by heart and do automatically. Adjust, delete and add to the one we have provided until you are happy with the order and the processes, and then stick to it. Religously.

Also, make sure you regularly practice the skills needed to make a good start. If you aren’t improving these skills then they are probably getting worse, and anyone else that is working on these skills will improve, making it harder and harder for you to get the perfect start.

Finally, have confidence in your ability. And, at club level certainly, push yourself at the start. You won’t improve unless you start mixing it with the big guns. It will also help you figure out which skills are holding you back. Maybe you were in a good position but everyone just out-accelerated you. Or perhaps you held back because you were afraid that your lack of boathandling skills at slow speeds would get you into trouble. Whatever the issue, make a note of it and PRACTICE.

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