Starboard End Start on a Starboard Biased Line

The Committee Boat end is almost always a busy place, so getting a good starboard end start can be a tricky balancing act

What the Experts Say

Paul Goodison – Laser Handbook

‘when trying to win the starboard end you have to be there early, otherwise you can get forced to the wrong side of the committee boat, or even end up starting on the second or third row

Jon Emmett – Be Your Own Sailing Coach

You will need to choose early how close to the end you wish to start. (If you have to go right you may even consider making a second row start if it guarantees you will be among the first to tack!)

Videos for Starboard End Starts

This video is from the Beijing Olympics Laser Radials. Note the difficulty had winning the pin, and also the slight mid-line sag further down the line (if the Olympic guys do it then we definitely do it too!).

This video illustrates the difficulty in winning the committee boat end of the line in a quality fleet. The last boat to cross the line right at the committee boat does so nearly 15 seconds after the gun - quite a headstart to hand to your opponents

Books with information on Starboard End Starts

Websites and online articles for starboard end starts

Paul Goodison writes about the key considerations when executing a starboard end start in this excellent article on starting

A useful article on winning your chosen end of the line, with specific advice for the starboard end here.

In this piece about winning your chosen end, Jon Emmett describes how to own the starboard end

This article also has good advice for starboard end starts

The Center of Effort blog on using laylines at the start, with specific advice for a starboard end start

This comprehensive article on starting well has a good description of a typical starboard end start (see the end of the article)

Another comprehensive article on starting with a good description of how to approach a starboard end start

What We Learned...

Starboard End Start on a Starboard Biased Line

The committee boat end is commonly a busy area at start time, even when the bias is to the port end. This means you should have several considerations when considering how you will approach your start:

How good is the fleet I am racing with?

This tends to be an important consideration when planning any start. If the fleet is high quality compared with your ability level then it can be more difficult to get close to the starboard end. High quality fleets tend to line up early, and tend to be good at holding position on the line. They also tend to be good at nicking well placed leeward gaps, and are fairly hot on rules (which can be intimidating if you aren’t used to the mayhem that surrounds big, high quality starts). Figure out how close you think you can get to the favoured end and line up as early as possible in these cases.

A lower quality fleet can make things easier, as you can be more confident of lining up earlier than others. Be aware, though, of the kamikaze pilot that comes flying in over everyone, trying desperately to stay behind the line. If possible avoid any direct involvement, even if you have the rights, because it is no good being in the right if you are rafted in a collision.

How biased is the line?

A heavily biased line puts more onus on you to get close to the favoured end.

How big is the committee boat?

Big committee boats leave big wind shadows making acceleration off the line even more difficult. Make sure you don’t get too close to them.

Which way do I want to go up the beat?

This is a crucial consideration. If you want to go left then it tends to be easier as, unless there is a big shift favouring port tack at or just after the start, you are in no major rush to tack off. Once you have a good lane and clean air you should be reasonably happy to just concentrate on getting your nose out in front.

If you want to go right then it tends to get a bit more tricky. Winning the starboard end means you can tack off at your leisure, but it is fraught with risk. Not winning the starboard end can mean relying on other boats to tack off, or tacking and ducking a number of transoms to get across to your favoured side. Neither of these is necessarily a bad thing, but you should consider them when planning where you are going to aim for at the start.

How much drift do I get when holding station?

This is an interesting thing to consider, and it is also worth thinking about how you might compare with the other boats likely to be in your vicinity. When lining up for the start, you may be out to the right of the back of committee boat, knowing that your natural drift will take you across the back of the committee boat. However, if you drift faster than other boats around you then you may have rules implications to deal with.

It can be very useful to take a transit of you sailing on a close hauled course which takes you just past the back corner of the committee boat. You can then use this transit to tell you when you have reached the perfect holding station position – any further drift will mean you will have space between you and the committee boat (assuming you don’t sail above close hauled)


Always remember that your approach will be quicker the more starboard bias there is on the line. The angle of the wind to the line means that you can approach the line very quickly, and any forward momentum you generate to gain use of your rudder for controlling your position will tend to move you closer and closer to the line. Good approach transits are very useful in these circumstances, but so is having a strong understanding of your boat-handling in these situations.

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