Hints and Tips for the Dragonforce 65 & Affinity Small Yachts
by Alan Barnstable
The rules of racing can be very complicated, but the Small Yacht series at Sedgemoor Model Boat Club operates under much simplified rules to enable beginners to become introduced to racing, and for everyone to have fun.
These hints and tips are primarily for beginners and have been kept basic, brief, and free of jargon. They will help provide sufficient information for you to participate and enjoy the racing, and if you wish any more guidance don’t hesitate to ask other members who are racing.
1/ Boat build – the instructions provided in the kit for the construction of the boats are excellent. There is no need to deviate from them, follow them to the letter and you should end up with a reliable boat ready for racing.
2/ Rig set up – again the kit instructions are excellent, make sure that you fit the lines so you have adjustment to either loosen or tighten.
3/ Transmitter – most will have functionality to adjust extremes of travel and trimming the settings whilst the boat is on the water. Ask for help with this if needed as it’s difficult to describe here.
4/ Tuning rig for conditions – the rig should be adjusted for different wind conditions, i.e. very light, medium, or heavy. On more open lakes skippers would use smaller sails when it’s high winds, but the sheltered Apex lake means these aren’t necessary. The general rule is that sails should be flatter when it’s windy and fuller (more curved) for light winds. Ensure the sail isn’t pulled in towards the centre line, this will cause the boat to be blown over sideways rather than going forward.
5/ How to sail at different angles to wind –
When sailing towards the wind have the sails tight in and steer as close to the wind as you can, if the sails start to flap steer away.
When sailing with the wind from the side try to adjust the sails so that the wind will pass across them, if the boat starts to lean over let them out some more.
When sailing with the wind behind let the sails right out and try and steer the boat so the two sails are out on opposing sides (called goosewinging).
6/ Racing, starboard right of way rule and penalty – try to avoid colliding with other boats. If two boats are heading towards each other the boat on starboard tack (the wind is blowing onto the boat from the right hand side) has right of way, meaning the other boat has to steer away. If there is a collision the offending boat should get clear of the other boats and go round in a circle (360 degrees).
7/ Racing, how to make good starts – try and time your run towards the start line so that you cross it just as the timer finishes counting down. The starboard right of way rule means it’s a lot safer to go through the line on a starboard tack as you won’t have to give way to other boats. Before the race starts check how the wind is blowing through the start line and make a decision about which end of the line is best, and whether a port tack start is possible. What you’re looking for is the shortest distance to get to the first mark.
8/ Racing, course to take to first mark, and when to tack – the first leg should be against the wind so it’s likely you will have to tack several times. Don’t go too far on one tack, you’re trying to get to the mark by the shortest course and it’s very easy to stay on one tack too long. You should be thinking about trying to find the windier spots on the lake; where the direction of wind has changed giving you an improved angle to get to the mark; avoiding boats on a starboard tack; and making sure you approach the mark on starboard tack.
9/ Racing, rounding the marks – try and ensure you approach the mark on starboard tack, and try and be on the inside of other boats, e.g. if the mark is to be rounded on the left hand side try and be on the left hand side of other boats approaching the mark. The inside boats must be given room to round the mark, don’t deliberately collide with other boats.
10/ Racing, special conditions at Apex Lake and general hints and tips – sailing at Apex is very difficult because of the very variable wind conditions. These are caused by the water level being lower than the surrounding land, and all the trees around the lake. This means that the wind varies in both strength and direction, and will continuously change during races. You can see the strength of the wind by ripple on the water and how much the boats are heeling over. You can assess direction by how your boat is reacting, and by looking at the other boats.
If you’re nearer the back of the fleet look at the direction the boats in front of you are taking, perhaps they’re seeing where the better winds are and it might be worthwhile following them. In very light wind conditions the wind direction can continuously shift, it may be better to stay steering towards the mark rather than chasing every shift.