5 tips: the port and starboard cross – the simplest rule?

With the wind slowly clocking right your original decision that the pin end was the best place to start may be in doubt, so if a half decent result is to be salvaged from this race now may be the time to act. But the route to the right will be a minefield of starboard tack boats many of which are pressing on, hoping that the wind will shift back. Your view up the course suggests otherwise so having made the decision that it’s time to bite the bullet and make the move. After your tack onto port a few others are being encouraged to follow and, while some are now risking close crosses with starboard tack boats, your preference is to suffer the loss of taking stern after stern to ensure you get across to the right without incident. Even so keeping a clear lane of air is getting tougher to maintain as other boats further to windward join the exodus. However, fortune favours the bold and, though either strategy could scupper the recovery you are hoping for, playing it safe could turn out to be the costliest option. Should you have accepted the risk of getting forced back to the left and possibly picking up a penalty for a late lee-bow tack rather than sticking with your safety first approach? It’s never over until the finish line, but having a clear strategy for tackling port and starboard crosses will improve your chances of coming out smiling on the other side of each encounter. 1. Port tack boat options It is important for both boats to know what the port tack boat’s potential options are as in any cross the situation can change extremely quickly. I look to grade the relative position of the boats as follows: easy cross, marginal cross, strong lee-bow, weak lee-bow, no lee-bow. Combined with the assessments in Tip 2 this frames what options you have and provides you with the tools to get the best possible outcome. 2. Plan ahead Before you have to make the fine judgement calls of whether you have a cross, lee-bow, or opt to duck make sure you have assessed the racecourse and know what you want to do. Try to understand what the boat on the opposite tack might want and the likely outcome and position your own boat accordingly. A starboard tack boat may wave you across if they want to continue, but equally could lee-bow you when you go to duck if they want to protect the right. It is hard to read their mind regarding windshifts or pressure, but if you are close to a layline you know they are likely to want to come away on the long tack. 3. Judging the cross From the back of your boat, if you are gaining bearing on another boat’s bow then you are crossing. You can judge this by taking a transit through their bow to the land behind. If the other boat is moving forward … Continue reading 5 tips: the port and starboard cross – the simplest rule?