Started Sailing

How To Do A Gate Start - GP14 Nationals 2009

by Alex Dotsch
(London, UK)

An impressive video of a gate start in a race. A gate start is where you have a rabbit that starts off on a port tack and the rest of the fleet is on a starboard tack and starts when they pass the back of the rabbit boat.

As you can see in the video, the rabbit (this time a motor boat) is on a port tack relative to the wind and the fleet (since it is a motor boat, not a sailing boat!) and the rest of the fleet passes it on port.

The great thing about this type of start is that it does not require a committee boat, flags, hooters and Outer Distance Markers. Just a rabbit and a few other boats to sail with. It is an especially good start for a few boats to use if just having a quick race.

Gate Start Tactics

First whatever you do, do not tack immediately after crossing the rabbit, because then you will be on port and any starboard boats crossing the rabbit will crash into you and you will be in the wrong. There is an exception to this rule. If you think you can go faster than the rabbit, then by all means tack and you will be ahead of the fleet and in clear air.

Second, you want to almost hit the back of the rabbit to get the best start. The further away you are from the back, means a worse start for you and so a good aim is to try and hit the back of the boat. Of course you won't actually hit the boat, because of sideways motion due to the wind, but it is a good aim.

Third, as you can see in the video, some people start lower than others. Where should you start? Well it is the same as where you would start on a normal race line. It depends on the wind direction, bias, tidal direction and strength as well as the location of the windward mark.

The start is the most difficult part of the race to get right, but if you can get it right, you have the advantage! So gate starts are a great way to learn how to start in a normal race and it only requires 2 boats.

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