Boat Racing: Wind Shadow
In Boat Racing, the wind shadow of your sail is a very important part of the strategy in planning how to win your race.
Just today (4/03/09), I was in a race at school and we rounded the gybe mark and started towards the leeward mark.
I was currently in third place (but had started last after calling the line port biased when it wasn't - silly me!) and thought about how I could overtake these two boats.
Instead of just following them along (Hint: Following another boat will mean you can never win), I decided to sail much higher than them.
By doing this I took their wind and they entered by wind shadow. This meant that they slowed down whilst I sped up, because they now had no wind in their sails, because it was being taken by my sails.
I ended up going faster than both boats and winning the race.
This is the perfect example of the wind shadow technique.
You probably have heard of sailing veterans talking about 'dirty wind'. This is exactly the same.
Dirty wind is just another way of saying wind shadow. They both mean one boat taking the wind off another.
This strategy is used all throughout the race and is a very important concept to learn if you want to move up the fleet.
Here is an image of the concept, if you still haven't understood it yet:
The pink colour shows the wind shadow, where the wind will not hit. The leeward boat is in the wind shadow of the windward boat and so will slow down as the sails depower.
This will mean that the windward boat will overtake the leeward boat.
This image is shown as a beam reach, but it can be done on any Point of Sail in boat racing, with exactly the same concept and occurs in strong and light winds (although the effect is more visible in light winds).
If you get yourself into this position of being in dirty air (which is usually at the start of a race or the scrum at the windward mark), if you can try and tack off in another direction and then tack back so that you are in clear winds.
In the short term it will slow you down to tack twice, but in the long term, you will be in clear air and be windward of your original opponent and so might be able to get them in your wind shadow and so overtake them.
Boat racing is a very long term sport and you have to think about the race as a whole rather than have quick plans for each bit of the race or a "I'll take it as it comes" attitude.
Think ahead and try and get into a position where you are not being wind shadowed, but at the same time you are wind shadowing someone.
Then as the race progresses look for other boats around you who are slightly ahead and get out of their dirty wind if you seem to be slowing down compared to everyone else.
Always try and be the most windward boat, without sacrificing your goal of rounding marks.
At my boat racing club (BTYC), we sometimes have races in which there is an hourglass race (rather than a triangular one), in which there are two beam reaches, one run and one beat.
At each of the beam reaches, wind shadowing is something everyone will be doing.
As you round the mark, boats behind will start to head up to try and take your wind. The solution to this is to head up with them and stop them from doing it.
They will usually stop at a point, because they will sacrifice their main goal of getting round the mark and also you can't be so narrow minded as to only concentrate on just one boat.
Another boat may now try to overtake you on the leeward side on a beam reach as you two bitterly fight it out and in the end you have actually lost a place instead of keeping your place.
Of course if you are the boat behind use this technique to get in front of people and improve their boat racing as well as the results.
Alot of people on the beam reaches forget about wind shadowing and so the boats behind can easily overtake, because if you don't react fast enough, they will overtake you no matter what you do.
So key things to remember:
- Always be aware of your surroundings when you are sailing - Know where the boats around you are, where they are going and try and guess their tactics by putting yourself in their shoes
- Think of your long term goals as well as short term goals - Remember that the mark is the most important thing and that you must round it so, don't let short term things such as trying to overtake one boat by wind shadowing get in the way of that. If they react and push you up, then duck underneath them and try and get water on them!
- Always wind shadow when you can - It is the most simplest and yet most forgotten strategy in racing. Always try and wind shadow when you can by getting closer to the wind than your opponents and at the same time don't get wind shadowed by other boats and instead tack into 'clean air'
As I said above, wind shadowing is a simple technique, incredibly effective and yet very few people use it to its full potential.
Use it in conjunction with other strategic techniques and your boat racing will improve remarkably.
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