The first two minutes of a race is arguably the most important. Those first two minutes will define where you start on the line, and how much space is around you to accelerate. This makes starting one of the hardest skills to master in sailboat racing. Good news is there are a few tricks that can make starting much easier. These tricks focus on executing a start that is low-risk and has a high-reward.
A low-risk start isn’t going to mean that you are leading at every windward mark, but it will keep your options open on the first beat so you can go where you want without being forced which will give you a better chance of rounding the top mark in the front of the pack. Once you are in the front, it is easier to hang in there.
In the video below, North Sails expert Mike Marshall talks us through a ten-boat start where one boat, in particular, had the opportunity to contain the fleet and have a low-risk start with just one small decision change. Instead, because they were too early, they had to sail down the line which then forced them into a high-risk starting situation that gave them no control of the race, or their competition.
Mike Marshall won the 2016 J/22 Worlds, which led to a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year nomination. He has also won the J/22 North Americans and finished top ten at multiple J/24 Worlds, North Americans, and Nationals. He graduated with a degree in Geophysics from Connecticut.