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Pro-Tips: Starts and Getting Up to Speed

Kerry Klingler, Quantum Sails’ J/Boat Coordinator, raced the 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week with Iris Vogel and team aboard Vogel’s J/88, Deviation. Klingler discusses the team’s highs and lows of the regatta and shares his pro-tips on starts and getting up to speed.

2016 Quantum Key West Race Week - Deviation sails to a 2nd place overall finish in the J/88 class. Photo by Sara Proctor.

For the 2016 Key West Race Week, I had the privilege of sailing with Iris Vogel on her J/88, Deviation. During this regatta, there were things we did very well and other areas that we could have improved upon. Understanding both the positives and negatives will help us going forward and sharing them with you will hopefully give you some ideas on how to improve at your next regatta.

What we did well:

We started each day strong and got out to the race course early. Most of the time we were the first boat out there.  We sailed full beats, had a good understanding of the wind shifts, and worked on boat setup and speed. This helped us make confident tactical decisions on the race course.

Practice also helps with boat handling. We had clean sets and take downs, worked out the dance in the middle of the boat and were able to get the crew work together.  


During our starts our initial placement was good, but our execution was poor. We did not practice starting enough. Practicing stop and go’s, getting the boat up to speed, and timed runs all could have improved our starts. I went back to a seminar I did a long time ago and looked at my cliff notes. Here are my notes from the seminar:

On the line Checks

  1. Head to wind check. Sight across the boat, which end is higher or favored?
  2. Where is the next mark?
  3. How strong is the fleet? Size/speed of competitors.
  4. What is the best course for the fastest first beat?
  5. Check laylines for the starting box – windward & leeward ends.
  6. Time the line – know how long it takes to run to each end.

The Practice Start

A practice start helps assure success. A dress rehearsal of our planned approach lets us:

  1. Confirm lines of sight and bearings on the line
  2. Check laylines
  3. Confirm wind direction and close hauled headings
  4. Approximate timing for the final approach
  5. Check sail trim for acceleration off the line
  6. Confirm crew organization and communications

Setting up

  1. Time & distance – you need to know time it takes to get up to full speed, and distance needed
  2. Set a timed run, away from the line. Turn, return back to the line
  3. Boat on boat:
    • Defending the leeward corner, preventing an overlap
      • Pushing a leader down the line, don’t get an overlap
      • Kill distance & keep speed – snak
      • Keeping speed, maneuvering capabilit
      • Know when to stop, avoiding an OC
      • Safe Starts: Away from traffic, maintain good speed
  4. Crew Help:
  • Bowman: Call distance to line
  • Velocitek: Distance to line
  • Line sights: One person set to call line, and boat line up. Keep bow even with the competition

Although these are only cliff notes, the general ideas are clear. We did do most of these things, but the main thing we could have done was practice runs to the starting line. Most of the time we were too slow to get the boat up to speed and suffered poor starts. In general, we were slower than our competition in getting the boat up to speed. A Velocitek would have been a great help with speed and distance to the line.

Getting the Boat Up to Speed

There is a key dynamic between the skipper and the mainsail trimmer. The mainsail trimmer has to be on the ball. They are key to getting the boat up to speed, and when to trim to get the boat to point. If the boat is going slow and you over trim the main for height you can suffer and never get the performance you are looking for. In short, you need boat speed first and pointing ability second. 

The other key is that the mainsail trimmer steers the boat as much if not more than the skipper. If the mainsail trimmer is slow on adjustments, then performance suffers. The mainsail trimmer needs to have a good handle on boat speed and angle. They have to know when to sheet harder to get the boat to point and when to ease and get the boat up to top speed. Also, the mainsail trimmer has to use all the tools in order to get the most out of the boat. Adjusting backstay, using the traveler, setting the vang and Cunningham are all important ingredients to proper main trim and performance.

Finally, the main trimmer needs to be proactive as opposed to reactive. By being proactive, they need to coach the skipper and the boat. They need to adjust quickly to changes and be able to get the best possible performance out of your sail plan and boat.

After each regatta, look back at the overall team performance and note what the team did well and any areas that need improvement. Keep practicing and your team will see the results.

Deviation finished 2nd in the J/88 class at the 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week.


Kerry Klingler
Quantum Sails
J Boat Coordinator

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