via Richard vonEhrenkrook, Can O’Whoopass, 624

This is how we make it work on the Can.
Know that this doesn’t even scratch the surface.


1.) Read the entire Sailing Instructions. Everyone on board should have read them at least once. Know where all the Course Marks are, before your Course is given. Know where the Restricted areas are, especially whether the S/F line is restricted, and if there will be a secondary Finish Line.

2.) Check Currents, and also know when high and low tides are with respect to those, as that plays into when eddies, current rips, and relief areas develop.

3.) Tune in early to the RC Com frequency. You can learn lots about how they are thinking by listening to them set up the course. Also monitor VHF 16 at all times, and monitor VHF 14 (San Francisco Bay Vessel Traffic Service) if you are going to be racing across shipping lanes. If you are going offshore, monitor VHF 12 once you leave the Golden Gate, as they update at xx:15 and xx:45 all approaching and departing commercial traffic. It sounds like a lot of input, but with a little practice, you’ll learn how to filter out the chatter, and gather the nuggets of gold.

4.) Confirm ALL assumptions and decisions with the crew. Listen to dissent, and get everyone on the same page.

5.) Know how to read flags.


  • We generally start near the end of all divisions, so we have the opportunity to watch and learn from how the other fleets approach the course. Watch Hank Easom on Yucca, Glenn Isaacson on Q, Gordie Nash on Arcadia, or the Express 27 fleet, especially Motorcycle Irene. It’s okay to benefit from seeing another’s mistakes, or gains, in this game.
  • At 20 mins, right after the starters clear the line, go on in and see what the wind is doing on the line. We usually approach from the RC end, and get up parallel to the line. We take a bearing, then, when in the middle take a bearing on the wind direction. If the angle is greater than 90°, the Committee end is to weather. If it is less than 90°, the pin end is up. The windward end is usually advantageous to start at.
  • Plan to leave the start line on the lifted tack to the 1st If you must start on the other tack, plan to be the first boat on the lifted tack.
  • Finalize your start spot by integrating current and pressure differential across the line. Choose your spot, and plan to hit it.


  • Stay on the line inside 5 mins. The wind can drop, the current can build, and you can be left out to dry. We patrol the line, on the line, inside the ends.
  • Stay out of phase. Many boats tend to parade and cluster before the start. That only locks you into group-think, and limits your options. If there is another boat in your area, be prepared to drive them out. If necessary.
  • As the start approaches, approach the starboard cluster (RC end favored) from leeward on port. Pick your spot, keep your speed up, and plant it. Be on the line at the gun.
  • If the port end is favored or even, and you want to leave the line on port to the first mark, a port approach is best, unless you are the lucky one to nail the starboard approach, and have room to tack. If the pin is upwind, you must consider a port start. There are two categories:
  • The Killer. On the line, at the pin, full speed, on port. Have a good eye, and a calm demeanor. Crossing the fleet on port is as much fun as sex, and, if you nail it, you’re seriously in the lead.
  • Dip and Thread. This often happens when starboard boats are down the line. If the port tack is favored to the weather mark, pick a hole and blast through it. You’re probably also still in the lead, when it sorts out. Have crew prepared for a quick tack, but make sure you can clear the pin if you do.
  • If you are doing a port approach, and the fleet is clustered, tack onto starboard to leeward of the first boat, and drive them up to the line. This clogging of the cluster will create havoc behind you, and give you the option of when to drive down the line for speed at the gun.


  • Eyes Out Of The Boat. I can’t say this enough. The crew must spend their efforts in providing what the driver cannot gather without taking her eyes off the sails. The driver can, however, create a picture of the course, (the relative position of competitors, where the pressure bubbles and holes are, where the tide lines are, where the commercial traffic and the cruisers are), IF the crew looks around, processes the visual, and communicates. This is the most important matter in this write-up. It can allow you to leave the fleet behind, or catch up and pass boats you thought were uncatchable.
  • Execute your plan. Avoid “Flyers”. If you’re not in the position you want to be in, but are going the correct direction, taking anything other than a short clearing tack will, 90% of the time, consolidate you in last for good. Focus on clear air, boat speed, and ahead on your competition, looking to leverage any mistake they make.
  • If you are in the lead, don’t try to get too smart. Stay between the fleet and the next mark, no matter what they do.


  • Defend Your Position. If you are in the lead, leave the mark on the favored tack to the finish line. Half-way between the time you round, and the boat behind you rounds, tack. If your opponent continues on the favored tack, you tack, and control from windward. Always stay between your competition and the finish line. You can thus defend, even against a faster boat.
  • If there are two challengers, and they split, defend against the boat sailing the favored course (Lifted Tack) to the finish.
  • Finish on the tack that is closest to 90° to the finish line. In a close race, the oblique angle just eats up time.


  • When working upwind, always maintain a 10°-12° angle of heel. Shift weight to maintain this in light wind. The keel plate lifts with dihedral, and doesn’t stall as often.
  • When tacking, do not initiate the tack by pushing the tiller. Simply let it go, and let the keel tack the boat without stalling. Catch the tiller about 5° before you reach the optimum angle for the new tack, and gently settle in. This will cause you to maintain maximum boat speed through the tack.
  • When working downwind, heel the boat 6°-8° to weather. The slight negative dihedral on the keel plate will cause the boat to sink to leeward, which is good. The higher the wind, the less this applies.
  • As the wind increases, weight on the rail becomes crucial in developing power. At wind speeds over 15 kts, any crew weight not on the rail becomes a detriment.
  • Never, ever, pin your outhaul. Camber in the mainsail is power. In higher winds, feather the top of the sail plan (backstay, vang, and mainsheet), but maintain power down low. At very high winds (>20 kts), slightly easing the outhaul frees the upper leech, and maintains power vector forward. This sounds strange, but it works.
  • In high winds, open up the slot as much as possible, put the main to sleep (full backstay, hard vang, mainsheet eased). Work off the jib, and the aft 50% of the main. Do not try to point, or over feather. Keep the boat moving forward.
  • Drivers: Get cuddly with your crew. Fore/Aft weight distribution is go-fast when right over the keel.
  • Always let the boat walk, and trim to avoid the need for big tiller action. The rudder is the major source of induced drag on the wetted surface, and should be used sparingly.
  • The largest number of racing adjustments to the sail plan happens as the wind goes from 10-15 kts. Learn how to do that transition smoothly.