Risk Management at the Start

Good risk management at the start of a dinghy race is important so you know how hard to push for your favoured position at the gun

What the Experts Say

Paul Goodison – Laser Handbook

If the conditions are stable meaning there are fewer overtaking opportunities and the line is heavily biased, then a higher risk should be taken at the start than in conditions that are shifty and allow more overtaking opportunities with a level start line

Books with information on Risk Management at the Start

Laser Handbook - Paul Goodison, page 121

Websites and Online Articles on Risk Management at the Start

Robert Scheidt writes briefly about how acceptable levels of risk change depending on the regatta situation, and also about how to reduce risk at the start

This useful guide for beginners and less confident racers has some useful tips on managing risk at the start

This article on planning has some material on considering risk at the start

What We Learned...

Risk Management at the Start

A big part of your starting strategy is determining what level of risk you should take at the start. It is not always easy to determine, but it is worth considering the key factors when making a decision about how hard you want to push the line, and how much you should fight to be right at your favoured position.

The key questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What are the race conditions?
    Shifty, changeable conditions often allow scope for making significant gains or losses, and therefore lessen the importance of the start in terms of determining the final outcome of the race. Stable, steady conditions make it more difficult to make big gains during the race, so may require a more ambitious approach to getting a really good start
  • How good are you in these conditions?
    If you are good in the conditions (compared to the rest of the fleet) then a conservative start might be the better option, rather than risking an OCS or other trouble. If you struggle to be really competitive in the prevailing race conditions then it will probably be beneficial to try and get a really good start in order to be in a position of strength from the word go.
  • What stage is the competition at?
    Early in the series, conservatism tends to be the better option. Get results on the board and adapt your strategy as the competition develops. Late in a series tends to mean you know what you need to do – protect an overall lead with solid, conservative sailing or go all out to get great results to boost your overall placing
  • Is there a specific result that you need to attain?
    If you have a specific position you need to get then your plan should reflect this. Need to win the race – you’ve got to go for it. Need to finish in the top 20 – sail conservatively and ensure your result.
  • How important is this race to you?
    The importance (and the manner of the importance) of the race will affect your strategy. Important to win? Push the start. Important to complete? Sail conservatively.
  • Is there scope for big overall gains in this race?
    Do you have the potential to pick up a lot of places in the regatta through one really good result? Is there little to be gained, but much to be lost depending on your position in this race? Plan appropriately.

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