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How many tacks?

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Sep 1, 2014
83
Beneteau 37DK Alameda
We raced last weekend. Out the Golden Gate to Bonita point and back to Oakland,about 20 miles. We had good winds, 16to 21K. we ended up sailing about 40 miles to finish. We sail a B37 and are a crew of 2. We have a constant debate as to the distance between Tacks! Many of the boats seem to like short tacks heading to the mark into the wind. We try to go as far as possible and then tack, thinking more tacks slow you down. So, many times we leave the fleet and the return. The course is wide so we tacked 5 times from the GG to the mark while some of the other boats tacked at least 8 to ten times. There were 67 boats with many different ratings, Spin and non spin classes. Hear is the question, WHICH WAY IS FASTER?

We had only 3 boats in our non spin class, over all we came in 49th, but squeaked out #1 in class.
 
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Jul 19, 2013
309
Pearson 31-2 Boston
We raced last weekend. Out the Golden Gate to Bonita point and back to Oakland,about 20 miles. We had good winds, 16to 21K. we ended up sailing about 40 miles to finish. We sail a B37 and are a crew of 2. We have a constant debate as to the distance between Tacks! Many of the boats seem to like short tacks heading to the mark into the wind. We try to go as far as possible and then tack, thinking more tacks slow you down. So, many times we leave the fleet and the return. The course is wide so we tacked 5 times from the GG to the mark while some of the other boats tacked at least 8 to ten times. There were 67 boats with many different ratings, Spin and non spin classes. Hear is the question, WHICH WAY IS FASTER?

We had only 3 boats in our non spin class, over all we came in 49th, but squeaked out #1 in class.
Depends entirely on whether there are wind shifts, or differences in wind strength or currents affecting the areas you sail through. If these are not present, then the fewer the tacks, the better, although its never a good idea to come to the windward mark on port tack.

If you have wind shifts, or differences in wind strength or currents, you want to spend as much time on the tack which will benefit from any of these the most. So if one side of the course has more wind or more favorable current, favor that side. If the wind is shifty, try to always be sailing on the lifted tack.
 
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Jan 1, 2006
5,986
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
If you squeaked out a win you must have done it about right.
Don't tack because you are tired of going one way, which I see often. In general in cruising boats less tacking is better. But long tacks run the risk of getting away from the fleet. Another general rule is to cover the fleet because if a wind shift favors the fleet and you aren't in it you are screwed. More later.
 
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May 17, 2004
3,423
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
Like sailfanatic said it’s all tactics. Geometrically it’s basically the same distance how ever you work within the laylines, all other things being equal. A tack costs a few boat lengths, but in a distance race that’s not too big of a deal. Where it makes a difference is when the wind shifts or if there is more current on one side than the other. Staying right up the middle, or wherever the rest of the fleet is, is a pretty good conservative way to hedge your bets against a shift. The less tacks you make and further you get to a side the more you have to win or lose when the wind shifts.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,608
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
All other things being equal, the long tack should be the winner. A boat will always lose a bit of speed during the tack as it goes through the wind where there is no power, and there is a lag trimming the sails in on opposite tack. The fewer tacks you make, the faster you should be in theory. Every maneuver you save is also one less opportunity to make a mess of your boat handling, which can really cost you. Your tacking strategy clearly paid off!!

I was on a beam reach crossing the slot on Saturday and enjoyed watching your race. What a site!!
 
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Jan 1, 2006
5,986
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
In light wind tacks can be deadly (If your sail hangs up on the backstay it's like a dagger in the heart). With a decent breeze not too bad. When it's windy enough for waves tacking again becomes painful.
So to summarize, tack the least you can, but cover the fleet, except if there's no wind when you want clean air, but if you have waves try not to tack unless you can get into less waves but don't go too far to one side in case the wind shifts ... Got it? That's what makes racing so endlessly interesting.
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,898
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
All good advice, except I doubt any (except sail sfbay) of the good intentioned skippers have ever raced on SF Bay. I did from 1999 to 2016.

Good winds - check.

Only question is what the currents were doing.

Only question, really.

Answer that one and the courses become obvious.

If you haven't yet buy Kimball Livingston's excellent Sailing The Bay. Valuable information you won't get from fellow racers who want to beat you. :) Not unexpected. I'd be glad to help 'cuz I moved here in 2016! :)

Between that and Don Guillette's Sail Trim Guide, only two books ya need.
 
Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Between that and Don Guillette's Sail Trim Guide, only two books ya need.
Spot on.

But books are useless if you don’t take the info out on the bay and practice. It is one thing to read about currents, it is another thing entirely to understand them and know when and when not to apply that knowledge.

One thing you can do is practice and time your tacks. The best sailor tries to limit the penalty of tacking. Making your tack smooth, keeping your speed up. Coming out of the tack and getting in the groove, takes both skill and an understanding of the art involved.

You are training your crew to be smooth and efficient. At the same time you are training the person at the helm how to make it easy for the crew to be good.

Practice this and you will discover how to gain time.
 
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May 17, 2004
3,423
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
Stu makes a very good point - There is always a balance between looking for strong wind, a favorable wind shift, favorable current, clear air, and minimizing maneuvers. Lots of things go into how heavily each of those factors should be weighted, and prevailing climate for a region is a big part of that.

The leg from the Golden Gate to Bonita Point looks to be about 2.2 miles. The biggest split you could ever possibly get from the centerline (if the leg were perfectly upwind) is about 1.1 miles. If you take it all the way to the layline and have a 5 degree unfavorable wind shift at just the wrong time you lose about 500 feet, or 13 boat lengths, to the fleet in the middle. Depending on wind strength that’s probably about the same loss as a few tacks to stay in the middle.

So, what are the odds you get that unfavorable shift, or a bigger one, at just the wrong time? What are the odds you get a favorable 5 degree shift instead and win 500 feet plus all the saved tacks? What are the odds of the wind or the current being better out there on that split? Those things only come from the local knowledge Stu is talking about and preparation on the race course, both over time to observe the climatology and that day to see its trends. Mastering the collection and use of all that knowledge is what sailboat racing tactics are all about, and the debate amongst your crew are part of the learning process to get there. :beer:
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,898
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
unfavorable wind shift
Those things only come from the local knowledge Stu is talking about
Again, good points, which, unfortunately, are simply not applicable to SF Bay in most cases. The Bay wind is usually at 242 M during the summer, and could be considered to be constant, although, as Kimball notes in his book, there is a persistent lift around Pt. Blount, the SE corner of Angel Island. Starting in Berkeley going upwind from TI north end, we always used it.

Outside The Gate, and through it, consider it a funnel. Look at the charts. The north shore bends away, the south to Baker Beach even more so. When it blows, there are no lifts or headers, just a wall of wind. There may be a few tips & tricks that ocean racers use to get out of the Gate to Point Bonita (NOT Bonita point), but here we'd be talking serious hardcore racers, not us weekend warriors.

It's the current. Everybody is on the same playing field. You have to learn to use the little current book and then go out and see it for yourself. That book is amazing. I used to print out the hour-by-hour chartlets and then compare 'em to what was happening in real life. A 6 knot spring current builds different stuff than a neap. The Cityfront has its own backwaters and peculiarities. On a heavy wind day, you choose to go IN or OUT tacking up the Cityfront because of the currents, 'cuz the wind IS there. Read Kimball's book. That's why they write books. Good stuff at the Bay Model in Sausalito, too. And while there are now computer models and underwater videos of what's down there, that little (and free!!!) book is a great start.

Then, like John says, go out and practice before the race, during the week with little traffic.

That's what'll "learn ya." My friend and I sailed EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY for almost 6 years, come hell or high water, all seasons, sailed The Bay, anchored out, did it again on Saturdays if there wasn't a race, and learned The Bay. We raced once a month, all 12 months. Like John said.

Everything all the others have said are absolutely true, but in my 18 years of racing The Bay, heavy wind days DURING THE SUMMER are more prevalent, and all the lifts and header stuff is for light air days like what we'd call Winter Race Days. :) I know they are well intentioned and helpful, but so many don't apply to sailing SF Bay in the type of races the OP is asking about. Even in winter, the topography of The Bay just doesn't induce shore affected Bay wind patterns. Read Kimball. And even if he wants to get to the "next level" he's gotta go through this learning process first. All the best, it's all fun.
 

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Sep 1, 2014
83
Beneteau 37DK Alameda
Thanks every one! The answer seems to be, Keep sailing, have fun, and continue the debate on my boat. Also, read the book, the currents can stop you or make you fly!
 
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Feb 26, 2004
21,898
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
Thanks every one! The answer seems to be, Keep sailing, have fun, and continue the debate on my boat. Also, read the book, the currents can stop you or make you fly!
Thanks for coming back on this one. Bingo! You "got it!" And the fun part, too! Good luck. pm me if you want more.