Thoughts on the Orlando Webb MC Scow Regatta at Lake Lotawana
With 44 boats on a narrow 1/4 mile wide lake, getting a good start was critical. Maybe I should say that getting an excellent start was imperative. With the lake only 1300 feet wide and the starting line only 700 feet long (44 boats @16ft) using the 5,4,1 go start sequence, there wasn't much time or room to maneuver for a good line position. Normally I like to be at the pin end on port tack sailing against the grain. This allows me to pick a good spot and then tack into it. If the fleet is setting up early, I will go behind them for my position. If the fleet is setting up late, I will tack in front of them. I usually try to avoid the ends of the line even if they are favored because of the jam ups. Only one boat will get the ideal start. My start somewhat farther down the line is "safe" but still puts me in with the lead group that gets away clean. So, here is what I did. I've read about others using this technique but I never tried it myself.
I positioned myself near the center of the line and about 50 yards ahead of it. I was then free to look up the lake for puffs and back at the line to see how the fleet was setting up. Paula Martin, the race chairman, always sets up true starting lines so I didn't have to worry about line bias, just where I wanted to be after the starting gun. Paula also had the 1 minute rule in effect, so if you were on the course side of the start after 1 minute to go you had to round the ends, greatly ruining any chance for a good start. At about 2 minutes to go, I would judge where I wanted to start and how the fleet was setting up. Then crossing the line in reverse with about 1:30 remaining, I would tack into my hole and position myself for the gun.
Another thing I like to do is to sight from the committee boat flag across the pin flag and get a transit sight on shore. That way, when I'm nearing the start line I can sight across the pin to the shore transit to see if I'm over the start line. Couldn't do this with so many boats and such a long line. Here is what I did. Point your bow at the pin. Standing in the center of your boat facing forward, look between your legs over the rudder. If your rudder is behind the committee flag, you are not over the line. Feels stupid but it works.
Regatta results: Danny Ziegler was fast (1st), Jeff Surles was smart (2nd) and good starts kept me in the game (3rd).
BTW: for some interesting aerial views, google Jim Martin Lake Lotawana on you tube. Neat videos taken from his drone camera. Look for me on 1068.