By Airwaves Contributor Ken Legler
“See that guy? Not only does he never foul, he never gets fouled,” said my Dad when I was 15.
“That’s impossible,” I thought, not with so many tight races in these 9’ Dyer Dhow dinghies in racing we called Frostbiting. That guy, my dad was pointing to, was Roger Wilcox, a wily veteran that sailed a thousand races on the Charles and elsewhere as a member of the Harvard Sailing Team, class of ‘42.
Okay, so my Dad exaggerates I thought but, the point was not lost on me. In my own racing whenever I get fouled I try to imagine how Roger Wilcox would have played it. I’ve been fouled pretty hard too but almost without exception, I could have avoided being fouled, or at least hit, and been better off for it.
Learning to not foul is a combination of knowing the rules, having great boat handling, and accumulating experience. Learning to not get fouled takes even more experience or savvy for short. Here are some examples of how to avoid getting fouled.
There are 20 seconds to go before the start as you wait to accelerate; a boat comes barreling down the line headed toward your bow. You can 1. Yell: “You’re barging, don’t go in there.” And when he doesn’t respond you trim in a bit to show he will not fit in under the line and over your bow. Then the inevitable happens, you get fouled hard and get a last place start. How about 2: You see that this boat cannot stop and you back up momentarily. The errant boat crosses your bow, plows into the boat to leeward of you; you trim in and go on time in a clear lane. Or you could simply start where the others are not.
Here’s a simple one. You are on starboard in the middle of a beat and you do not want to tack. A port tacker is almost crossing on their own. You could yell “No” or “Go” but they sound alike and can easily be confused. Instead yell “Cross Ahead” with a wave of your hand if you want them to cross or yell “Starboard” if you want them to tack.
The windward mark is a likely place to get fouled badly. One way to avoid getting fouled is to over stand the mark a little. That way when a boat tacks inside you can continue going fast. Yes, you could lose that boat but the alternative could be losing every other boat if you get fouled right on the layline and can longer make the mark. It’s called “Target Overstand,” and your target is guesstimated by the expected traffic density at the mark when you arrive.
How about that out-of-control boat trying to get their spinnaker down inside of you at the leeward mark? It could be they forced an overlap or perhaps they were entitled to room. If they can’t get the spinnaker down they might foul you hard as windward boat upon rounding. Let them go ahead as you cut closer to the mark on their windward hip.
This limerick appeared in today’s Boston Globe opinion inbox:
Here lies the body of William Jay
Who dies while maintaining his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But’s he’s just as dead, as though he’d been wrong.
Don’t be William Jay. Instead be like Roger Wilcox. Roger raced his Dyer Dhow with the Mamaroneck Frostbiting Association for 50 years well into his 90’s. His boat was named “Peace.”
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By Airwaves Contributor Ken Legler