Rough guide to the IDRA 14

Author, Frank Miller

Author, Frank Miller

This short guide aims to help sort out priorities for anyone trying to find their pace in an IDRA 14. The ideas are offered to help people new to the class to get their boats up to speed and also to help "silver fleet" sailors get into the "gold" fleet, therefore making racing closer and more exciting for everyone. The guide is a personal one cannot be definitive and if you see errors or have suggestions please point them out so that I can fine tune it. The aim is to develop this guide with the help of other IDRA 14 sailors into a more comprehensive manual of IDRA 14 maintenance, tuning and sailing. 

One of the greatest problems racing is sorting out priorities. There appear to be so many but surely some are more important than others ??? Yes and yes ! Winning crews get the main things right but get the little things right too. If you get the big decisions right and even some of the little things you should end up at least in the front third of any race. 

To win a race your boat must be in good condition, with at least reasonable sails, and with all the main controls working properly. You must arrive well before the start of the race and make correct decisions about your race strategy. You must get a good start, sail in clear air, keep up optimum boat speed and concentration and use whatever tactics are necessary to follow through or modify your strategy. If you do all this to perfection you will win the race. It's that simple, and that difficult. 

Lets break it down 

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You can make every race more enjoyable by eliminating as many problems as possible with your boat before you ever go afloat. The IDRA 14 fleet is sometimes criticised as being casual to the point of sloppiness, boats with things that are just dying to break or fall apart. If this description matches your boat start to change it now, spend a little time and money getting it into shape so that everything works. Just having a boat in good condition almost guarantees that you won't be last in any windy race because you'll find that someone else has retired due to gear failure. 

The IDRA 14 is a classic sailing dinghy. It's relatively heavy weight (325lbs hull) is offset once afloat by a healthy sail area (Main & Jib 110 sq. ft, spinnaker 140 sq. ft.). While the boat will plane off the wind in a decent breeze (force 3ish upwards) it will never plane upwind. Upwind the boat works in displacement mode, ie it displaces the water ahead and around it and should be sailed flat to maximise it's waterline length and reduce drag. 

There is very little difference in performance between timber and glass fibre boats. Well set up boats compete head to head on very equal terms. Let's look at how to optimise the boat 's performance while staying within the class rules;

A. Weight. The lighter the boat the sooner it will plane and the faster it will go offwind. Class rules dictate that the hull (with all normal fixed fittings but without floorboards, centreboard, rudder, mast, sails) must weigh at least 325 lbs. It is highly probable that most boats are at least a little overweigh with timber and glass fibre absorbing water over the years. Short of major rebuilding work there is very little that can be done here. Weight of the fitted-out boat can however be reduced a little by;

1. Lighter floorboards, replacing heavy floorboards with much lighter ones from 4mm plywood supported by lightweight bearers epoxy resined onto the floor of the hull. It's very important that the floorboards are well sealed with resin or paint to stop absorption of water (& thus weight).Make sure your floorboards have a really good non slip surface, for example by adding clean sand to the final coat. If your existing boards are heavy you can lighten your boat by as much as a stone by replacing them. 

2. Foils - The centreboard and rudder can be made by butt-jointing hard and soft woods together for minimum weight while keeping strength once they are kept properly sealed. Worth replacing if your existing foils are bad. Alternatively you can work on your existing foils if you have more time than money. You are looking for good shape and a good finish and both take time to achieve. The centreboard wants a fine, but not too fine entry, with a curvature a little like that of your index finger. too sharp and the foil can stall out and too blunt and you won't point as well as you might. The entry point gently widens as it goes back to the maximum point about one third back, then if thins out evenly as it goes back to the trailing edge which should be very fine, but not sharp, ideally one millimetre but not more than two ! The board should be stiff and some people use woven glass to help achieve this - I'm not sure if it's worth the extra work. The board should be coated in at least two coats of West or similar epoxy, sanded completely smooth and any imperfections filled with marine filler, then sanded again . Then coated with at least one, probably two coats of marine undercoat paint. Sanded very lightly then coated with at least one and up to three top coats of gloss. The gloss should be let harden completely - this takes at least a week, often three or more in warm conditions. Then wet sand with wet or dry paper, starting with 120 grade and ending up with 600 grade when the board is completely smooth. You could use gelcoat instead of paint if you wished. As you'll have gathered all this takes time, and lots of it but the finish is really important to top performance.

Another thing to check is that your board is vertical in the boat. Tilt your boat over on tyres and check it. Mark the board inside the boat so that you know where vertical is. Alistair Duffin in Belfast (tel 0801 232 457381) makes light foils for IDRA 14'S at a very fair price but you have to coat them with resin or paint yourself. Alistair also makes rudder stocks which weigh far less than some older versions you see around and Seasure make good strong, light alloy rudder fittings. All this helps keep weight away from the back of the boat, avoiding drag. Generally you want to concentrate all unavoidable weight in the centre of the boat and as low as possible. Thus the anchor for example is best kept on the floor under the mast rather than up the bow. 

3. String. Ropes, control lines can be heavy, especially when they've absorbed water. Use the thinnest ones that are reasonably comfortable for the crew to handle and that work properly in your cleats. 

4. Water. The heaviest unnecessary addition to your boat. David O'Brien performed an interesting experiment at one National Championships. Before going afloat he poured rainwater from a barrel into his IDRA to see how much fitted in below the floorboards, out of sight. Almost the entire barrel !! It's faster not to carry this kind of weight around the course. The moral here is to make sure you have two good self-bailers in the boat and use them. On a windy wavy day when water is sloshing into the boat it's well worth the extra drag of open bailers rather than the additional weight of the water, even on the beat. In a timber boat it's probably worth adding extra buoyancy under the bow to displace as much water as possible in the event of a capsize. At least one boat has had the gap under the floorboards filled with expanded polystyrene to displace water there - not a bad idea but polystyrene should be sealed in some way to prevent absorption, and there's also the question of letting the floorboards and bilge breath and dry out properly. Buoyancy tanks in glass fibre boats have a tendency to crack around the seams - repair them with fibreglass tape and resin for reduced weight as well as safety. Generally keep your boat dry out of the water, garaged if possible in winter, well covered and tilted back to drain otherwise. Remember that wood and glass fibre absorbs water over time if pools of water are allowed build up. Glass fibre boats are reinforced with plywood in certain internal parts and these tend to get soggy - try to keep them sound by filling any flaws or cracks with an appropriate sealant - resin and varnish for wood, resin and gelcoat for glass fibre. Use silicone sealant for screw holes and fittings. 

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IDRA's can be seen with various types of mast. In terms of age they vary from timber masts (all but gone), to the heavy Holt mast, to the Proctor mast to the Superspar mast, the latest to be allowed under class rules. In all cases the mast should be raked back a little rather than straight upright in the boat. The ideal amount of mast rake is the subject of debate within the class. One very rough guide is that with kicker on if you sheet in the main very hard the two blocks should come quite close together but not quite touch. By raking back your mast you do several things; you move the centre of effort of the sailplan back behind the centre of lateral resistance (the centreboard mainly) giving you weather helm. This means that even sailing the boat dead flat (as you should) there is a little pressure on your rudder telling you that the boat wants to luff towards the wind. A little weather helm is considered a good thing - it gives a bit of "feel" to the rudder and if you both fell overboard the boat would automatically go head to wind & stop. Too much however will force you to use the rudder constantly to bear away while you counteract this tendency to luff. This gives you constant drag on the rudder and you'll be sailing slowly. The other disadvantage of raking back your mast is that you're lowering the height of the entire sailplan & missing out on some nice wind high up! This may however be worth doing in very windy conditions - yet you don't often see IDRA sailors playing around with their rigs.

On the other hand the mast rake affects the exact shape of the "slot", the all-important gap between the mainsail and jib. The faster boats have a good bit of mast rake and it's probably this slot shape that gives some of the speed. On balance the best thing is probably to copy the exact rake of a fast boat of similar type with (ideally) similar sails and to use this as a starting point. The bottom line; do rake your mast back but don't go so far that you introduce terrible weather helm and give the crew a hernia trying to get under the boom every time you tack. And if the mainsheet blocks can touch easily you've gone too far!!! Of the masts now available the Superspar probably has a very slight edge on the Proctor only because it's a little lighter. Both have an edge over the older heavier Holt mast but since boats with the Holt mast still can and do beat boats with the lighter masts it's not worth getting paranoid about. 

Spreaders. Not all boats have spreaders on their masts. If yours is one get them - spreaders stop the mast from bending sideways and giving a poor sailshape. Spreaders also control mast bend fore and aft, sometimes known as pre-bend. As far as I can see IDRA's are generally sailed with a stiff mast, people don't generally go for a lot of pre-bend and the sails tend to be cut to suit this. The available masts are all stiff type masts by modern standards. Spreader height is too high to adjust on the water and nobody appears to change their spreader settings for different wind strengths- again probably because the masts are quite stiff and there isn't that much to gain. If you're fitting spreaders set them up the same as on a similar fast boat that already has them. Roughly speaking you want the spreaders to intersect the shrouds (side-stays) at 90 degrees and you don't want them much longer than the distance between the mast and the shroud, but certainly not shorter. Fix the spreader (seizing wire) where it joins the shroud and tape it up to stop things (like the spinnaker halyard) catching there. 

It's important to check too that your mast keeps straight when rig tension is applied, ie when you hoist and tighten the jib. To do this set up your jib for medium conditions and then look up the luff track for the mainsail from the bottom to the top of the mast. Any bend should be slight and even, fore and aft and the bend should not go off to one side. If it does you can correct it by adjusting your spreaders and possibly the point where the shrouds are attached to the boat at the chainplates below the side decks. In theory the clevis pins should fit the same (eg four holes from bottom) on each side but that's not always the case. When you get it right write the settings with waterproof marker beside the clevis pins. 

Rudder setting. It's very important that the leading edge of the rudder remains fully vertical at 90 degrees in the water. Very many boats have rudders that are raked back a bit, probably because of the way the stock is set up, perhaps never allowing the blade reach 90 degrees. Many others have a bad arrangement where a bit of cord is supposed to keep the rudder vertical. As soon as any speed builds up the cord stretches and the rudder rakes back a bit giving you weather helm and loss of control. This effect is at it's worst on windy days, exactly when you most need the rudder vertical, especially dead downwind where a raked rudder guarantees a swim. The solution is a rudder stock set up to allow the rudder stay at 90 degrees, use non stretch string (kevlar or spectra) or use a pin system to keep the rudder at 90 degrees. While on the subject it's worth mentioning that the tiller should fit absolutely snugly in the stock and there should be no amount of play whatsoever. The tiller extension should be long enough to allow the helm play it from the maximum hiked and forward position you think you'll ever need, and in light winds this is important 

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Having had a decent start you are sailing off the line in clear wind on the favoured tack, ie on a lift or on a tack taking you to the preferred side of the course. Protect your clear wind throughout the beat, accept dirty wind from competitors only when there really is no choice, such as immediately after a crowded start when you've no room to tack, or on a crowded layline in the final approach to the windward mark. Keep your boat sailing as fast as you can get it pointing as high as possible (but without pinching). This take concentration and teamwork from helm and crew. Usually the helm concentrates on boat speed and steering, making sure not to miss any lifts by constantly watching the jib telltales, and steering for speed by smoothly bearing away in any headers before deciding if a tack is called for. The crew keeps the boat flat by constantly moving up and down, in (hunkers) and out on the trapeze if the wind is sufficient. The crew also does a lot of the looking around feeding useful information to the helm on wind patterns and on the other boats positions and relative progress. Useful information would be for example; " 38, ahead of us at 11 O'clock have just got a gust which is lifting them and giving them better speed, but don't worry, we'll catch that gust in twenty seconds or so..". Useless, demoralising information would be; "....God, Wow...15 is sailing much faster and pointing much higher, look at them go...we'll never catch them..." It's important for helm and crew to be positive and motivate each other, sailing is a team sport and a lot of people forget this. The main aim on the first beat is to arrive first, or at least in the first group at the weather mark. You achieve this by maximising your boat speed and pointing, following your prepared strategy, but modifying it if necessary to deal with other boats and changing conditions. Concentration is a key factor on beats. It's worth breaking down the beats into different wind strengths-

1. Medium winds force 2-3, small or no waves. In medium winds you are obviously not overpowered so you want to extract as much power and pointing ability as possible from your boat. Typical settings would be; Rig tension tight, Jib cleated in hard. Hard means sheeted in until the foot of the sail just begins to fold up in a crease. Sail by the jib telltales gently testing the wind to make sure that you are actually close hauled and not close reaching - the jib telltales should be streaming either parallel or with the inner (windward) one slightly breaking, or angled up at 45 degrees. The idea here is that you're continually testing the wind to make sure that you don't miss any lifts. The fine line however is that you don't want to pinch, with the inner telltale broken continually. Also keep an eye on the outer telltale - if it flies up you're too far off the wind and have missed a lift. Steer up immediately and smoothly until both telltales stream again. 

Outhaul on 80% or so flattening the foot of the main a bit but not completely, ie leaving a little belly. The mainsheet traveller should be centred and the mainsail should be sheeted in on or very near the centreline. The main luff tension should be normal or a tiny bit "soft". You should not be using cunningham at all. You should have some kicker on and be watching your top mainsail telltale (on leech, behind top batten) - you want it streaming 50%-80% of the time. In gusts you'll want to ease the mainsheet for a second before pulling it in again or else pinch for a second to keep the boat flat, or else a combination of these two techniques. The balance between the two techniques is quite a personal one - I prefer to play the main almost exclusively but in strong gusts on flat water you can sometimes gain a few feet to weather by "squirting" the boat to windward for a second, the key being to bear away again to close hauled before you lose momentum and speed. In waves it's a bad idea to pinch, you'll lose your momentum and get increased leeway and lose out overall. Crew weight should be close together around the centre of the boat, it's quite common for helms especially to sit too far back during the beat. A clue is the tiller extension, generally in medium winds you should be far enough forward to be holding the tip of the extension, if you're holding it in the middle you're probably too far back in the boat and dragging your stern. The helm should have his/her feet hooked into the toe straps and be hiking whenever necessary, such as in gusts.

Beating in Light Winds; Recommended settings - Very little or no kicker. Luff tension normal, outhaul same as for medium air, no cunningham obviously. Rig tension a bit lighter than normal to allow the front edge of the jib take up more camber and power. Jib cars can be move back a little to open slot. The really important thing is to keep the boat moving and not worry about pointing at all. Crew positions and movement is critical. You should both be well forward in the boat to prevent the stern from dragging - it's difficult to be too far forward especially in really light winds. The crew should either be right forward and to leeward or sitting right out to leeward - but out of the slot, ie not interfering with the airflow between the main and jib. Crew and helm movements should be very gentle All tacks should be roll tacks. Jib should not be sheeted too hard and pinching should be avoided at all costs - sail with both jib telltales flowing parallel. Mainsheet should be sheeted gently, rarely right into the centreline as it closes the leech too much. The traveller should be centred or even up to weather a little - this allows you to sheet the main in a bit closer to the centreline without closing the leech. In very light air when there isn't even enough breeze to make the sails take up their proper shape you should heel the boat to leeward. This does two things; it reduces the underwater wetted area and therefore drag and the gravity helps the sails adopt a decent shape. The big thing though is to keep cool and keep the boat moving all the time. Avoid sailing into a hole, areas with less or no wind, by looking ahead, especially at the progress of boats in front of you. If you do sail into a hole don't tack !!!, it's usually better to free off and get through it than the pain of tacking in no wind. Tack as little as possible in light airs, even the best roll tacks lose out. 

3 Beating in windy conditions (force 4-5). In windier conditions the emphasis changes from getting more power out of your boat to depowering your boat to the point where it and you are in control of the elements. The main depower controls are the kicker ,cunningham, outhaul, and rig tension. Plenty of kicker helps bend the mast which flattens the mainsail, it also makes playing the main much easier and more controlled. Cunningham flattens the main and drags the camber or draft forward to it's correct position, you can use maximum outhaul to completely flatten off the foot of the main. Your rig tension should be at it's maximum, helping to bend the mast and making sure that the jib luff doesn't sag. The crew will be flat out on trapeze, using the adjuster to get parallel with the water, just above any waves. Helm will of course give the crew plenty of notice for tacking to allow the crew to raise themselves on the trapeze before coming in. Both helm and crew will look for and call the gusts. Helm will be flat out on toe straps as much as fitness allows, but especially for critical periods such as starts and overtaking situations. In heavier winds good boat handling is the big winner and good communication and understanding between helm and crew is vital. 

In gusts the helm eases the main just enough to keep the boat flat and driving and sheets in again the second the gust is past. In severe gusts which can capsize the boat the helm calls a clear signal to the crew (eg DUMP !) and the crew does the same with the jib, ie eases it out, then in again after the gust, always keeping the boat flat and driving, never losing forward driving force. The crew may need to keep the jib in hard but uncleated in heavy winds because it can be virtually impossible to release a cleated jib in a severed gust.

The tacking sequence we use in heavy winds is - helm gives advance notice ( except in emergency or crash tacks !!!) for tack, crew raises him/herself on wire, uncleats the jib but keeps tension on using arm, crew calls for the exact moment of the tack and comes into boat, helped by helm who eases main just enough to keep boat flat, crew has kept tension on jib so the boat still has enough momentum to complete the tack. Helm puts tiller across as soon as crew has unhooked from trapeze wire, both cross boat, crew pulls in new jib sheet to 80% ASAP to at least get speed up, helm has sheeted in, crew goes out on wire as fast as possible & gets remaining 20% of jib sheeted in, helm steers new close hauled course. 

Try to keep tacks to a minimum in heavy winds. Keep the boat flat all the time by easing the main as much as necessary. If you're really overpowered let the traveller down to leeward and bring the jib cars, if any, back to keep the slot well open. If you're really overpowered raise the centreboard a little (10%-20%). 

4. Strong winds and waves. Settings as above but the jib cars could come back a little and the jib set sheeted a little less hard to produce a fuller jib and drive the boat through the waves. The knack is to keep full speed on while luffing into the waves, bearing away down the back of them to build up full power and luffing into the next, keeping the boat flat as always. Watch for big waves which can stop you dead. Usually you'll find that one tack is much more difficult than the other, ie one is almost with the waves but the other is slamming straight into the waves. You need to practice your steering for these conditions, there is an ideal steering technique for even the worst conditions, usually a damage limitation exercise. The big thing all the time is keep the boat moving at top speed. We usually leave the bailers open all the time in these conditions so that water doesn't become a big problem in the boat. You may want to move your weight (helm and crew) back a little to ensure that the bow doesn't dig in to the waves. Total concentration is needed for big waves and big gusts !


It is vital that all the key controls in your boat are easily adjustable on each tack while racing so that you can match your sail shape to the changing wind conditions. The must-have key control lines are obviously main and jib sheets but also kicking strap, cunningham, outhaul. Well worth having are adjustable jib fairleads, mainsheet traveller, twinning lines for spinnaker. Some boats have a muscle- box type system for the jib tension (instead of highfield lever) and can thus adjust rig tension while sailing. Since these boats tend to be at the front of the fleet adjustable rig tension must be at least worth considering.

1. Mainsheet. The mainsheet should be long enough for all conditions (so that you never need to let it go), not thicker than 10mm, and should run freely through all it's blocks without twisting or kinking. Sailors usually put a figure-of-eight stopper knot so that it won't run further out than allowing the boom to touch the shrouds or sidestays. A good ratchet block is very important on the main - without a ratchet you'll find yourself easing the sail out too much in medium or windy conditions - loosing power and speed, just so that your arm can have a rest.

2. Jibsheet. No thicker than 8mm, must run freely through fairlead or blocks. Must be long enough for all conditions, many jib sheets are too short. Must be long enough for the crew to be able to play the jib from the wire, towards the back of the boat on a windy reach. Very important that the jib cleats don't slip - this will drive your crew insane and insanity slow s your boat 

3. Kicker. The kicking strap, which along with the mainsheet controls the leech (back edge) of you mainsail and a lot of your boat's power and pointing ability, is the first priority among control lines. To sail efficiently you must have a reasonably powerful kicker (8:1 absolute minimum, ideally 16;1) led back to the helm on each tack. The helm must be able to adjust the kicker easily while hiking out in the most extreme conditions - that's exactly when you need it most and also when the crew least needs to be in the centre of the boat fiddling with an inefficient kicker cleat. The best way to go about setting up your kicker properly, or any control line is to look at a similar boat which is well set up. You'll find the owner only too happy to give you advice. Generally sailors tend to use small ball bearing blocks to divide the control lines back to both port and starboard sides of the boat and through cleats under the thwart One good kicker system is called a cascade system, which you can make up yourself quite easily with spectra rope and small ball bearing blocks. The distances must be measured carefully to suit the boom height in your boat - again look at a similar boat and ask for advice. You should be able to set up a decent kicker for £50-£60 and it's worth every penny.

4. Cunningham. The cunningham is a funny word for a piece of string which controls the shape of your mainsail by dragging down on the luff (front) area. At it's simplest it's a piece of string looped through the cunningham hole on the mainsail and tied off near the gooseneck. It's worth leading back however with dual control lines to the thwart so that it can be quickly applied when you're overpowered without the crew going into the boat. Essentially the cunningham drags the camber (curve) of the sail forward to where it should be in heavier winds. 

5. Outhaul. The outhaul controls the foot of the mainsail by dragging it outwards along the boom. It affects the sailshape in the lower quarter or so of the mainsail, outhaul on hard flattens the camber of that part of the sail. The worst outhaul controls cleat off at the outer end of the boom where, unless they are able to fly, neither helm nor crew can adjust it.. There are two good possibilities, both involve a block inside the boom to make it easily adjustable, then led back, either to a block and cleat on the underside of the boom near the gooseneck or led back like the kicker and cunningham to port and starboard sides of the thwart.

6. Main halyard. Often not recognised as a control line but worth mentioning because it affects the luff (front edge) tension of the mainsail which is important for power. If it's too tight you'll have a vertical crease running down and flattening the luff of the sail, hurting your sailshape and speed, especially in light to medium airs. If it's too loose you'll have a baggy luff which is also slow. Adjustment points are different on different boats. Some have adjustable gooseneck height, some have spectra halyards which can be cleated at any height, some have worked out the ideal tension for average conditions and everything is fixed. In the latter case you can still adjust luff tension by using different length shackles where the halyard joins the head of the sail - obviously a longer shackle (or two) gives a "softer" luff shape. Not worth getting paranoid about but this is an important speed control - when on the water keep an eye on the luff tension of faster boats.

7. Mainsheet traveller. The use of the mainsheet traveller is often misunderstood in an IDRA. Essentially it controls the point along the top of the transom where the mainsheet pulls from. Because an IDRA mainsail sheets from the back it directly pulls down on the leech (back edge) of the mainsail and has a very marked and immediate effect on the leech shape. On the beat you obviously want both good speed and pointing ability - both are affected by leech shape. Broadly speaking an open leech is good for speed but bad for pointing, a closed leech is good for pointing but bad for speed. Thus in light airs on the beat (ie close hauled) if you sheet in hard to get the boom close in to the centreline you are pulling down sharply on the leech and closing it, hurting your speed. If you ease off dramatically on the mainsheet, opening the leech, your speed will improve greatly but pointing will suffer because your boom in now well off the centreline. One solution is to use your mainsail traveller, pulling it up to windward of the centreline, allowing you to set an open leech but with the boom close to the centreline, thus retaining decent pointing ability. In very heavy air when you are really overpowered some sailors like to allow the traveller down to leeward to spill air easily. This will help your speed and control but hurt your pointing. If you have a boat without a working traveller and don't have the time, money or inclination to set one up you'd be best advised to fix the mainsheet bottom block on the centreline of the transom, rather than allow it run off down the existing older type traveller on timber boats.

Jib/rig tension. On an IDRA 14 the jib tension controls the rig tension of the boat, ie the amount of tension in the shrouds (side-stays), the downward pressure on the mast (affecting mast bend, sometimes called pre-bend), and the tension of the luff (leading edge) of the jib. The amount of tension is usually set with either a highfield lever or with a muscle box. The highfield lever is cheaper and simpler (you set the tension before sailing and live with it) but with a muscle box the rig tension can be adjusted while sailing. Rig tension is important and is usually adjusted for different wind strengths. Too little in good wind will make it harder for the boat to point well because the jib luff (leading edge) is "soft" or falling off the wind, not presenting a good shape. Too much tension in light winds induces a vertical crease into the jib luff which is bad for speed. Opinions differ quite a bit between IDRA sailors about ideal luff/rig tension but the main principle is more wind - more tension. Feel the rig tension of a well sailed similar boat (by pulling on the shroud) to get a rough idea or invest in a tension meter if you're fussy ! If you have a timber boat be especially careful not to overdo the rig tension - it's been known to pull the planks apart a bit & allow water in. Other classes like the Fireball adjust rig and shroud tension while sailing but in the IDRA it's debatable whether there is much extra speed to be gained from what are expensive and fiddly controls. Those with muscle boxes sometimes like to ease the rig tension off the wind, allowing the rig (no longer compressed down) to go more upright or even slightly forward. If you want to hold onto your current mast this is not advisable in strong winds. For those who like extra adventure it's worth mentioning that you can adjust the highfield lever on the water between races - the strongest member of crew leans forward and pulls the forestay towards them (using the painter) , taking up most of the tension while, simultaneously (very simultaneously !) the other person quickly moves the lever to the new setting. Note that it's easier to reduce the tension than tighten it and remember that fingers are very useful and worth keeping attached to your hand.

Transom Flaps. A very worthwhile addition to a fibreglass boat, transom flaps allow you to quickly flush the water out of the boat after a windy capsize, speeding up your recovery and allowing you back into the race more quickly. The best flaps are made of thin (1mm) polystyrene (available in large sheets from graphic design shops such as O'Sullivans for just a couple of pounds) or perspex sheeting because they are light and flexible enough not to need hinges. The flaps cover holes which you (carefully) cut in the transom. Thin shock cord keeps them closed against a seal you create with stick on rubber draft sealers (made for house windows) or silicone. Examine carefully and measure good flaps before wielding the electric jigsaw, making sure the transom holes are just above the normal waterline, otherwise you'll always have water trickling into the boat. Note that this material is not UV stable and will get brittle and crack after a while - make a few at a time & drill them out for the screw holes and shock cord so that you always have a spare ready.

Using Transom Flaps; There is a bit of a knack to using the flaps & it's this; after a windy capsize scramble back into the righted boat, open the flaps, get control of the main and jib and move your combined weight right to the back of the boat. Sail off at whatever angle gets the boat planing as fast as possible, The speed flushes the water to the back of the boat and out the flaps. In good wind you should be able to clear most of the water in less than a minute, then resume your normal course and allow the self-bailers to clear any remaining water. Be very careful in strong windy and wavy conditions to get the weight well back quickly, it's easy to submarine the boat if the water aboard is allowed to rush forwards. To date nobody appears to have set up flaps which work well in a timber boat because a huge amount of extra water lodges under the deck creating that submarine effect not conducive to planing. A greatly increased amount of extra buoyancy under the deck should solve this but it would have to be really well fixed in place to displace the water from the front.

Self-bailer. The self-bailer is a small one-way valve placed to flush small amounts of water from the bilge under your floorboards. To create the suction to get the bailers to work the boat needs to be going at a reasonable speed (not necessarily planing). In lighter winds remember that the reaches will be the fastest point of sailing and present the best opportunity to get rid of water which has splashed or seeped in. Self bailers are a virtual must for any racing IDRA and most boats have two or even more.

Spinnaker Halyard. The spinnaker halyard must be set up to get the sail all the way up very quickly and without snagging or sticking and also so that the sail comes down just as smoothly. This means as little friction as possible so it's worth giving quite a bit of thought to the best layout to suit your boat and spinnaker chute or bag system. Examine your existing set-up carefully on the hard and work out what is causing friction or snagging - then eliminate it. You may well want to drill a small hole (careful!) at the side of the mast to avoid the halyard having to go around the sheave at the mast foot. Many of the older halyard layouts are very poor. I believe that the best position to pull is from the floor of the boat - this allows you to hoist in about two or at most three pulls because you pull (from floor to the sky !) the combined distance of your height plus arm length. Setting it up this way involves a couple of good small ball-bearing blocks, the main pulling point being anchored onto a solid floor bearer so your efforts don't just pull up the floorboards. The halyard should self-cleat and you might need to set the cleat on a raised wedge to achieve this. Another good system has the halyard on the centre line of the boat, say on the back of the centre board case. The big advantage here is that the helm or crew can get to it easily in a severe gust to dump the kite. Have a good look at the solutions on other boats and copy the one that you think will be best on your boat. There's nothing more painful that a jammed spinnaker during a race - it's really worth sorting out your halyard.

Spinnaker Chute; A fancy hole in your deck with smooth edges from which the spinnaker is hoisted and recovered. Ideally the chute should be on the port side of the boat since most races are left handed, ie you leave the windward mark to port (left side) as you bear away onto the first reach and set your spinnaker. On very many boats however it's on the starboard side. A spinnaker chute makes hoisting and (especially) recovery of the spinnaker very easy once it is well set up. Essentially the smooth mouth of the chute gives way under the deck to a softer sock, ideally made of some type of netting to allow water through. The spinnaker has a downhaul point, a reinforced patch to which the downhaul line is attached, the downhaul being simply the other end of the halyard. When you (helm) want to take the kite (spinnaker) down you release the halyard from the cleat and pull in the opposite direction, pulling the spinnaker through the chute and into the sock, unsnagged, untwisted and ready for the next hoist. While you are starting to pull it down the crew is simultaneously taking the pole off the mast, the uphaul/downhaul, and lastly the guy. The key to success is again to eliminate friction and make sure all blocks are working well. 

Spinnaker Twinning Lines. Twining lines (sometimes called barber haulers) are strongly recommended for fast, controlled, spinnaker hoists and gybes. They are relatively cheap and easy to set up. Essentially what happens is that each spinnaker sheet/guy runs through a very small, light block, controlled by a line on the side-deck, near the shroud. A small "runner" on the guy stops it going any further forward than you want. This is set up (trial and error on land) so that the pole always stops just short of the jib luff, allowing the spinnaker to set immediately after the hoist - the crew (or helm) simply pulls on the sheet and the sail sets. The crew can then adjust the exact (fore/aft) pole position to suit the wind angle. It also prevents the sheet/guy from getting wrapped around the end of the boom. Before the gybe the crew (or helm) pulls in the twinning line for the new guy and the sail is under complete control during the gybe, again preventing the sheet/guy from wrapping itself around the boom and discouraging the pole from "skying" up in the air making it very difficult to remove from the mast for the gybe.

Spinnaker pole uphaul/downhaul. At it's most simple a short length of heavy shock cord acts as the uphaul while an attached line leading to the deck or (much better) to the side of the centreboard case acts as the downhaul. Remember that a stopper knot in the right place will help discourage the pole from skying. Work out the highest point you'll ever need the pole and position your stopper knot so that it stops at a fairlead at this exact point. Other systems use a length of shock cord running along the floor of the boat while the uphaul is a cord exiting from small sheave on the mast. 

Mainsheet. Worth mentioning that as well as pulling the main in towards the centreline it pulls down on the leech of the sail, affecting your sailshape, pointing and speed. See also mainsheet traveller and kicker. Make sure that you have a good ratchet block on the mainsheet, otherwise you'll keep easing the sheet to give your arms a rest and will be dumping power in medium/heavy winds. The maximum diameter for the mainsheet is 10mm, anything thicker will not run smoothly through your blocks in lighter winds. Make sure it's long enough to allow you play the sail while hiking from far back in the boat during windy broad reaches.

Jibsheet. Maximum diameter 8mm, worth marking with waterproof marker at normal close hauled position (on each side) for a quick visual reference. This allows helm & crew to see at a quick glance if jib should be sheeted further in. A loosely sheeted jib hurts pointing, and over sheeted jib hurts speed in light air especially. Also helps judge favoured end of start line (see starts).

Jib cars/Barber hauler. These control the jib leech (trailing edge) shape by adjusting the take up point of the jib sheets. There are two types; a "car" type which runs on a track or a block on a line which controls the sheeting angle. The latter is probably easier to set up in a timber boat and the car type is probably easier to set up in a fibre-glass boat, because there aren't many places to run powered up blocks from, unless you reinforce the buoyancy tanks. This is an important control worth having because finding the ideal jib sheeting angle for different wind conditions will help you point better on the beat, and help prevent being overpowered on really windy days. With cars you can move the fairlead position forward (closing the leech somewhat) on light/medium air, flat water days, and back in very strong winds. In waves you want to move the jib into power rather than pointing mode and you might move them back a bit to open the leech and keep the air flowing free and fast through the slot., ie the all-important gap between jib and main. If you don't have jib cars you can still control the jib leech somewhat by sheeting in hard on the lazy jib sheet to help pull down on the leech. 

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After the skill of the helm & crew decent sails are the key to good boatspeed. The sails are the engine driving the boat and it's well worth getting good ones and looking after them. Signs of tiredness in sails to look for are lack of "crinkle", increased bagginess in the mainsail with the main camber (or "belly") shifting back from the aerodynamic ideal of about one third back from the edge. The power created in a bagged out mainsail no longer gives proper lift to help drive you forwards on the beat, instead there is a significant side drag force. The leech too stretches with age and flaps merrily, which is not good for lift or pointing. In an older jib it's the leech again which tires and flaps but the camber also shifts back and the foot and clew area gets "marbled" and soft. A new spinnaker is crisp and has good shape, an old one is soft and baggy, less inclined to fill and the distorted bagged-out shape less able to keep air exhausting freely through the sail, which is the general idea. If sails are really shot no amount of adjustment will coax them into race wining shape. New sails are crisp and smooth and are exactly the shape the sailmaker intended. More importantly sails in good condition can be made, via mast bend and control lines, adopt a near optimum shape for the variety of wind conditions we encounter while racing.

Judging by race results the most successful IDRA sails are made by Mike Mountifield (0044 1705 463720) (main and jib), followed by Richard Estaugh at Speed Sails, then McWilliams, Watson and Jameson, and Sterling Sails. Harry Sterling in Bray (01 2863401) also does good fast repairs and makes IDRA 14 covers and great spinnaker socks. Batt Sails (0044 1494 441422) seem to make the most successful spinnakers. Since the spinnaker is the same as that of a Fireball sailmaker Tim Rush (0044 1159 790684) is another good bet for spinnakers. The bottom line is that if you want to get to the top of the fleet you need sails as good as the opposition, in top condition. IDRA mainsails can be changed only once every three years, a good rule since it helps keep sailing affordable. Many people keep a number two set for club racing and take out the newer set for regattas and major events. For serious competition you might want to change you jib annually, or keep the new jib for the big events. A spinnaker used only for major events could last about four or five years but one used regularly will quickly tire so consider a second-hand fireball spinnaker for club racing. Tim Rush sometimes has good second-hand spinnakers for sale. If you're not especially interested in racing use second-hand sails or check out Sterling who make budget sails.

When ordering a mainsail your chosen sailmaker will want to know your combined crew weights and your type of mast. The heavier your all-up weight the more powerful the mainsail can be. The sail will be cut to suit your mast - essentially a stiff mast needs less curve cut in the luff and a bendier mast can cope with more curve because some of it will be cancelled out when you put on rig tension, inducing some prebend into the mast. Don't worry about this - trust your sailmaker to get it right - the successful ones obviously do. Since sails from the UK arrive folded in a box you should use them a couple of times on a medium wind day to iron out the creases, not to mention getting a feel for the sails. Don't take new sails out in a near gale the first day. After sailing roll the sails, the jib using the wire luff and the mainsail around a length of cardboard roll, the type used for carpets, or else a Wavin Pipe. This greatly prolongs the useful life of the main especially. Take the spinnaker home, wash out the salt and dry in by hanging, never in a breeze. Never dry a spinnaker by letting it flog in the breeze from atop the mast - you're shortening the life enormously. Approximate prices at time of writing are Mainsail £450, Jib £180, Spinnaker £300+. Good sails are expensive - look after them and they'll look after you during the race.

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Time is limited so you must prioritise, use your time to sort out the things which will have the greatest effect on your sailing. More than any other factor the skills and judgement of the helm and crew is the key to winning races. This means that time spent improving the ability of the helm and crew team is a priority over tweaking the boat. To improve your skill you must go out and practice, spend more time on the water than the competitors you hope to beat. To win the world Fireball championships John Lavery and David O'Brien sailed every morning for the year leading up to their victory. You can imagine the kind of seamless helm/crew skills this leads to - a team that thinks and acts as one with totally co-ordinated and fluid movements. It's that kind of confident, automatic teamwork, combined with a well set up boat, which has kept Terry Harvey and Scorie Walls at the front of the IDRA fleet for so long. If you want to catch up with the leaders in the fleet you need to practice - increase your time on the water and use it constructively. This should be fun, it's not meant to be drudgery. 

Going out early before a race is one way to increase time on the water. Check wind direction regularly on the way out & spend the extra time setting your boat up for maximum speed for the prevailing conditions. Sailing in the expected race area check the wind & tide patterns on the beat & try to figure out the best route to windward - ie left, middle or right side. Practice roll tacking (up to force 3), spinnaker hoists, lots of gybes, and drops. A word of warning though - don't wear yourselves out mentally or physically before the start, especially if it's windy!

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There is no end of things which are worth practising, again the trick is to concentrate on the important things that you don't do well and eliminate your weak points one by one. Key things include starts, mark roundings, tacking, roll tacking, gybing, (including gybing in heavy wind, gybing with spinnaker), sailing in waves, sail settings (preferably with another similar boat), spinnaker hoists, spinnaker pole settings, spinnaker drops, boat balance (fore/aft, athwarthships, sailing rudderless, sailing backwards, trapeze tacking techniques, dealing with gusts, dealing with very windy conditions and wavy conditions.

Since the start and first few minutes of the beat are probably the most important part of a race it's vital to learn effective start techniques. The key to a good start is to hit the line at the favoured end at full speed, ideally both close hauled and on starboard. The challenge is that all the other boats will be trying to do the same thing. Most of the time you'll want to be on starboard since you have almost no rights on port. You'll want to bone up a bit on the rules about the start, being clear that port gives way to starboard and that windward keeps clear of leeward. Be very clear that you can't just reach in above the other boats with full speed on - you are windward boat and must keep clear of leeward - this practice is known as "barging".

Starts are best practised during organised training sessions with other boats on a fairly crowded line. On your own find a buoy and practice speed control and holding the boat in one position. Letting the jib flog is the traditional way of slowing down, coupled with playing out the main so that only a part of it is drawing. Don't forget that if you've any kicker on the leech of the sail is powered up even if you've let the mainsail out fully. Pinching close to windward is another way to slow but it assumes space to windward, something you won't always have. Holding the boat in a fixed position just behind the line and sheeting in the sails during the final seconds before to the start takes a bit of practice to get right but is a very worthwhile exercise. Essentially you let off any kicker, let the jib flap, heel the boat a bit to windward, let out the mainsail. To counteract the sideways/backward drift you sheet it in a bit to move forward or to windward together with some rudder movement. The position you're trying to hold should be behind the line with enough distance to reach full speed by the time the gun goes.

Traditional IDRA starts have been likened to a herd of elephants - people tend to reach up and down the line swooping in at full speed at the exact moment. This often works because the numbers tend to be smallish and everyone finds a space to start. If you're standing still just off the line there's a real danger of being completely overrun by a wall of sails and not having the wind to start. The ideal is probably to keep a little speed on so that you can extract yourself from a situation where it's looking like you are going to be overrun. If you're "standing still" just off head-to-wind and need to get moving first get the crew to sheet in the jib to get the boat to bear away a little, then sheet in the main and get going.

After crossing the start line you need to be clear about several issues - are you in clear wind, are you on a lift or a header, are you sailing towards the side of the course that you planned before the start as part of your race strategy ? If you're sailing in dirty wind tack out of it as soon as space allows - however don't then take off miles away from the rest of the fleet - tack back to keep in contact unless you're really certain of a major advantage to going out to one or other side of the beat. Even if you're sure that (say) the right side of the beat is favoured (for example more wind, more favourable tide, less waves) the trick is to sail a bit further to that side than the rest of the fleet to get the anticipated gain, but not so far that if you turn out to be wrong you're down the tubes. 

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It's really important to know whether you're sailing in clear or dirty wind. Ideally you never ever want to sail in dirt, in reality you'll probably have to suffer dirt before and after the start and at various stages during the race, especially going around the marks when boats converge. Do everything in your power to sail in clear air for the maximum possible time during the race. There are two main types of dirty wind, wind shadow and lee-bow wind. Wind shadow is the disturbed air from a boat to windward. Study the diagram to see how wind shadow is deflected onto you and remember on a light day wind shadow can slow you down at ten boat lengths away. Lee bow wind is actually more damaging than wind shadow and harder to imagine because the perpetrator appears to be downwind from you and it's hard to imagine them damaging your progress, but they will! The wind is actually deflected to windward (upwind) a little and is more disturbed and therefore more damaging. The worst-case scenario is to have a boat on your leebow, that is ahead and just to leeward. You'll immediately loose speed and fall down to leeward and into their wind shadow, where you'll lose more speed. The solution obviously is to tack away for clear air but tack back soon if that's the direction you want to go. 

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Covering is a defensive way of sailing where you aim to stay in clear wind while keeping the boat or boats behind in your dirty wind. It is most used when under pressure from a near competitor that you must beat, for instance when a single point wins the race or the series. It is used most on the last beat to retain your position all the way to the finish line. Tight cover means positioning yourself to windward and ahead of the competitor to deflect maximum bad wind onto them. Loose cover means ahead and to windward but only giving them a little bad wind, ie not so much that they'll want to tack immediately. Very lose cover is generally used on the final beat of a race where the leader try to place themselves between the boats behind and the finish line, ensuring that the followers don't gain more than them in any wind shifts. Covering requires very good boat handling and excellent tacking because close cover often creates a tacking duel with the covered boat trying to break free. The great danger of covering is that other boats break through while you concentrate on a single rival. 


I should mention the art of capsizing, or perhaps that should be the art of recovering from a capsize. For anyone new to racing it's important to know that while capsizing is a minor drama and irritant, it's not a crises and while you should avoid capsizing you shouldn't sail in permanent fear of it. Remember that IDRA 14's have plenty of buoyancy and won't sink, nor will you since you'll always be wearing your buoyancy aid. 

Capsizes happen because the primary forces driving the boat become unbalanced, and that happens because of lapses in concentration by helm and/or crew. The most common areas for capsize are on the beat in windy conditions, at the gybe mark in windy or gusty conditions or while setting or lowering the spinnaker in windy or gusty conditions. On the beat the problem tends to be a sudden gust or lull. Gusts are very easy to see, dark patches on the water, coming your way ! Helm and crew should both be on the lookout for them, and call "gust coming", or "gust in ten (seconds)". This allows both to be prepared, the helm is prepared to hike harder, steer up into the gust to keep the boat flat, and ease the mainsheet, the crew is ready to trapeze lower, or in extreme cases to dump the jib for a second. If you've become used to the pattern of gusts and are confident that the gust will be a lift rather than a header you can heel the boat to weather a bit so that the gust will lift it straight and shoot it forward, rather than sideways. This is a great way of gaining a few yards on the competition. In the case of sudden lulls the helm must be able to come out of the toe straps and into the centre of the boat, while steering to keep the sails full, the crew must be ready to come in off trapeze, initially on "hunkers", then slide into boat. If the boat heels right over to weather it's sometimes possible, if everyone keeps their heads, for the helm to steer for the new close hauled course and wait for the next gust to pick the boat and "teabagged" crew out of the water. 

The gybe mark is where many boats capsize on windy days. The key things for a dry windy two sail gybe are - keep the boat going at full speed before the gybe, the crew cleats the new jib before the gybe (and uncleats the old one) , the helm gets the timing of the gybe right, both move their weight back a little and to the new side during the gybe, the helm quickly reverses the tiller during the gybe to help the boat onto the new course, helm and crew get the boat going fast on it's new course without delay. If there are gusts around the boat should be gybed immediately after a gust, never just before one ! If flying a spinnaker the sequence has added fun - the crew pulls in the twinning lines before the gybe and sets the new guy and pole after the gybe, the helm in this instance keeping the boat downwind until the new kite is organised. The most controlled gybes are from run to run and in heavy conditions it's best to steer to ensure that you're never forced to gybe from close reach to close reach.

When a spinnaker is up and pulling and properly set the boat is well balanced and in no danger of capsizing, even in strong wind. In fact it is more stable in strong winds to have a kite balancing the mainsail. It's in the setting and retrieval that things can get wet. The key really lies in the helm's steering and the crew's balanced efficiency, and the two working together. The helm must keep the boat downwind until the pole and guy are set and the kite is filling and balanced. The faster this happens the better, you don't want the kite flapping wildly, this is when it's most dangerous. The windier it is the more downwind the boat needs to be. As soon as the crew is clipped on and ready to go out on trapeze the helm can luff to the optimum course, the crew going out on the wire sheeting in the kite as they go. In gusts the helm bears away smoothly and the crew eases the kite until the gust passes, then the helm steers up again while the crew sheets in. Again it's really important to see the gusts before they hit you because you need to be ready to bear away with the gust . When taking down the kite the helm has to bear away and allow the crew into the boat. With a chute the helm usually pulls the kite in quickly while simultaneously the crew takes off the pole, with the kite filling till the last moment. Without a chute the crew must be allowed more time to pull the kite into the boat using the guy on the windward side, stow the kite and then the pole. 

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In most situations when a capsize is imminent simply letting go of everything and throwing your weight over the stern windward quarter (or as close as you can get) will prevent the capsize. You'll probably take on quite a bit of water but at least will remain upright. 

If you do capsize you should try to dry capsize, ie get onto the centreboard as the boat is going over. This is not so that you'll be cosy, it's so that you can right the boat immediately, by leaning in and pulling the boat up using your body weight standing on the board and pulling in reverse on the jib sheets - that is pulling on the sheet so that the stop knot rests against the fairlead. Obviously you uncleat the jib before you do this and if you had a spinnaker up you almost always need to get it at least partly stowed before you right the boat. With a chute you may well be able to pull it into the chute while the boat is in the water, by leaning in to the retrieval line. If you try to right the boat with the kite set chances are that either it'll capsize you again immediately or, worse, get wrapped around the shrouds and end your race for good. 

A big consideration when you capsize is to be aware of how the boat is lying to the wind. If the mast is pointing straight into the wind you'll be flipped over again by the wind as soon as you get it up. Ideally you want the boat lying mast away from the wind, so that it comes up into the wind and stays up. In fact with practice you can "skid" the boat around in the capsized position by lifting a foot of sail off the water and leaning to one side or the other until it's blown away from the wind, then pull and right it fully. 

If the boat turtles (mast straight down towards bottom of sea !) it usually means that the helm and crew have been too slow to get to the centreboard and preventing it from turtling by grabbing the board and holding on or pulling weight up. In a capsize quick decisive action is called for, not philosophy ! In very heavy conditions as soon as the boat is righted and the first person scrambles aboard they should raise the board by a third to reduce the heeling force and risk of a further capsize. The best place to get the second person aboard is usually at the windward shroud, eg helm in boat leans out and helps pull crew in at this point, they have shroud to hold onto. Some sailors have a strop, a length of rope with loops for a foothold, to help someone in over the stern. The problem there is that the weight at the back of the boat causes the boat to sail away downwind, also the risk of damage to rudder.

Fitness is a factor in capsizes, if you can pull your body weight over the side of the boat it helps. Swimming is an ideal exercise !!! The IDRA is however a safe boat in a capsize, it floats low in the water and is relatively easy to get into. 

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You don't have to be very fit at all to sail an IDRA 14. Having said that a reasonable degree of fitness will help your sailing and make you more confident and relaxed on the water. Fitness helps especially in heavy weather, not just because you can move your weight around more efficiently but because you won't tire as quickly as the opposition and therefore your concentration will be better. People who are tired make more mistakes. Strangely enough fitness also helps on light air days when you may have to adopt very cramped positions to keep the boat at optimum heel. Generally the crew needs to be fitter than the helm, but the helm does need to be fit enough to hike and move their weight about quickly as required. Many IDRA 14 sailors take exercise through the winter when not sailing, typically walking, hill-walking, swimming, hockey, rugby.

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On the beat you'll want to sail the boat flat (in all but the very lightest conditions), you'll want to concentrate on keeping the boat close-hauled and driving on the edge of the wind, watching your tell-tales for signs of lifts or headers. Your telltales on the jib when close hauled tell you what the wind is doing - if the windward (inside) telltale flutters and falls you're steering too close to the wind or you've just experienced a header, if the leeward (outside) telltale lifts up you've just experienced a lift or else you've lost concentration and you're steering off the wind, ie on a close reach rather than close hauled. Steer (luff) up immediately with every lift; bear away smoothly, without loosing speed, with every header. If a header stays for more than a few seconds consider tacking, because on the other side of every header is a lift ! Whatever the wind strength take up positions where the helm can easily read the telltales and the crew can move about (gently!) to keep the boat flat. A common mistake when people start racing is for the helm to be too far back in the boat on the beat. If you're not holding the tiller extension at it's tip you're almost certainly too far back. 

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For those new to racing concentration is the big first skill for helms to learn on the beat. The helm sails the beat concentrating on sailing fast and pointing well, which means watching the telltales like a hawk , and watching your heading for lifts and headers! The helm doesn't need to look around because the crew is feeding them all necessary information about other boats and gusts ahead. When a helm looks around they almost always bear away because they automatically pull the tiller with them as they look. 

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The jib should be sheeted in fully on the beat. If it's even a little short of fully in you'll loose pointing ability and will lose out on the beat to the boats around you. On a windy day the crew may not have the arm strength to get the jib fully in with one arm in one go. The trick here for the crew is to sheet it in as much as possible after the tack, get out on the wire, then sheet in the last few inches with two hands or else the helm may be able to get it in. On a light air day if you sheet the jib in hard you may get a horizontal crease along the foot - you don't want this, so ease the sail a tiny bit (half an inch may be enough) to get rid of the crease. It might be an idea to mark the jibsheet where it goes through the fairlead at what you reckon is the ideal position for medium winds - then you can both see at a glance if it's a bit loose.

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The hardest bit of sailing is probably figuring out what the wind is doing, and even more important, what it's going to do next. For simplicity let's look at some of the common wind patterns;

Oscillating; The wind flicks back and forward through a constant average heading, for instance on starboard tack the average compass heading is 120 degrees but through observation (you've arrived well before the start) you've worked it out that your heading is popping around between 100 degrees (a 20 degree header) and 140 degrees (a 20 degree lift). Without a compass you take a landmark on the shore - you're headed when you are suddenly pointing below it, lifted when you're pointing above it. Other boats ahead also give you advance warning of lifts and headers. The idea in this type of wind is to tack on the headers, therefore spending the maximum time possible on lifts and getting to the windward mark more quickly. So in an oscillating wind (unless strategy dictates otherwise) tack on every major header, sail up the centre of the course playing the shifts. 

Shifting wind. You've listened to the sea area forecast and arrived early before the start and your observations confirm the forecast, that the wind is shifting steadily in one direction, eg 120, 130, 120, 135, 125, 135, 130, 140. The idea here is to bite the bullet and sail towards the side the wind is shifting towards. So if you figure the wind is shifting left you sail towards the left side of the course. This can be hard on the nerves because you have to sail in a header towards the shifting side. The gain is only realised when you tack and get lifted towards the windward mark. Again the idea is to take a tack a bit further towards the favoured side than the opposition, don't go miles further towards the layline than the opposition - you risk being left out on a lonely limb. 

Wind Bend. Wind bends are difficult to detect, clues lie in the land shape around you, and in other people getting massive gains not explained by the tide, skill, or a faster boat. Wind bends usually occur in offshore winds when the landshape on the foreshore forces a bend. The idea is to take a tack towards what you think is the centre of the bend, again you'll be going in on a header hoping to get a constantly improving lift after you tack out of the centre towards the mark. If a beat offers a seaward side and a landward side and if everything else (tide, waves, wind strength) is equal it may well be worth taking a tack inland looking for a bend to gain from, but make sure you're not sailing to the less windy side of the course looking for a windbend that may not exist. 

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Here's a short and simplified guide to the race itself. Almost all dinghy racing is around variations on a triangular course with a beat to windward, one or two reaches or run downwind. Sometimes the old Olympic style course is used, which consists of a triangle (ie beat up to windward mark, reach to gybe mark, then reach to leeward, then beat again...), sausage (beat up to windward mark, then run down to leeward), triangle, sausage etc. The number of rounds will be displayed on a board on the committee boat, or else may be fixed in the sailing instructions. When you sail out to the race area you'll remember that the first leg is (nearly) always a beat and it's not too hard to figure out that the committee boat will be in the downwind part of the sailing area somewhere setting up the start line. If you look directly upwind of the committee boat you'll probably be able to make out the windward mark in the distance and if it's a standard port (left hand) course the gybe mark will be some distance out on the left, completing the triangle. A port course is indicated by a red flag on the committee boat, indicating that you leave all marks to the left of your boat when you round them). A starboard, or right hand course is indicated by a green flag. 

All the race course information will be in your sailing instructions which you should read carefully. Things to keep a close eye on are your flag (the class flag is plain yellow "Q" but sometimes other flags are used so check), the starting sequence (ie is your start the first or the fifth ? , remember especially which class goes before you), the types of marks used (the start and finish line may use the leeeward/windward marks for one end, or it may have a different mark for the start and finish - be very clear about this), the recall sequences for individual and general recall, the time limit for the race, the shortened course signals and flags. 

Once you have found the race area and your committee boat you should check out the wind patterns and look at what the tide is doing and make a judgement on it's strength and significance. Take a good look around and develop a strategy for your race based on the conditions you find. For instance your strategy might be - "we'll start at the committee boat (usually right) end of the line because we'll need to tack in right out of the adverse tide and get close to the shore for the first beat. The wind seems to be oscillating so we'll play the bigger shifts, but working our way right to get out of that tide...On the first reach we'll need to remember the tide again, it'll be flushing us downwind of the straight line course, so we'll need to point a bit higher to compensate. We'll line up a transit (if possible) to keep our course.." 

So have a strategy before the start and carry it out. Revise it however if as the race develops you see that you've forgotten something (eg you went right out of the tide but there was less wind there and those who went less far right gained on you). Also keep in contact with the rest of the fleet unless you're absolutely certain of your strategy. Remember you only need to win by a couple of inches, if you take a flyer hoping to win by a mile you'll more likely loose by a mile. If you're convinced that right is the way to go, go right, but only a bit more than the rest of the fleet. 

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The start and the first beat are the most crucial part of any race and it's important to get them right. You've got your plan, now let's check the start line. Almost every start line has one end more upwind than the other, and since the first mark is upwind you'll generally want to start at that favoured end. There are various ways to check the bias on the line. You can put your boat head to wind, make sure it's really head to wind and not moving - the end that your bow points towards will be the favoured (upwind) end for starting. Another way is to use your jib setting. Sail the line exactly in each direction with the crew trimming the jib properly so that both telltales are streaming. Whichever end you sail away from with the jib further outboard is favoured. You should mark your jib sheets to make this job easier, a mark in waterproof marker exactly the same distance down from the jib clew on each sheet. 

Having found the favoured end you then need to make an informed decision on where you want to start. If the pin (left) end of the line was favoured but you reckoned that you wanted to go hard right immediately after the start (to get out of that adverse tide for instance) you'd be better off starting where you knew you could tack easily to the right. In a big fleet that may mean the unfavoured end of the line, in a smaller fleet it may mean somewhere up from the pin, without many boats on your right. 

Now you know where you want to start you'd better have a game plan on being there. The big thing is to be where you want, closehauled, on the line, with full speed, when the gun goes. Just as important you want a bit of space to windward, and even more important to leeward to keep your speed up off the line without being either overrun to windward by a faster boat, or squeezed out by a boat to leeward. Either boat could cause you big problems with dirty wind, and the boat to windward will prevent you tacking. 

Some rules; You should read and be aware of the rules about the start. The main ones are windward (upwind) boat gives way to leeward (downwind) and most of the time the only intelligent tack to start on is starboard, because of the racing rules which say that port gives way to starboard. If you started on port you'd have absolutely no rights and would have to give way to every starboard boat. As starboard boat you'll still have to keep clear of other starboard boats below (downwind of) you because of the windward gives way to (same-tack) leeward boats rule. In practice what sometimes happens on the start line is that some genius comes screaming in on a beam reach with great speed shouting for water. This person has no rights at all on close hauled starboard boats, is known as a barger (but may be called worse in the heat of the moment) and will be disqualified in any protest. Be one of the boats approaching the line at a nice close-hauled angle, don't be the barger ! Be aware too that there are no rights to room (or "water") as it's known at the start marks. If you're that barger you'll be squeezed out at the committee boat end of the life and if you misjudge the far ("pin") end you'll either be sailed past it or pushed over the line by your nearest competitor. If you're new to racing don't however be intimidated on the start line, you have to get stuck in and learn - people will tell you very quickly if you're in the wrong and that's the only way to learn. 

Plan your approach to the line, do a dummy run if you have time, to arrive close hauled or slightly lower (full-and-by), this should prevent anyone sailing over the top of you. Control your speed, slow down if you're going to arrive too early, but slow down far enough back from the line so that you can build up full speed for the start on the line. To slow down use the sails and steering, but mainly the sails. Let your jib flap totally and use just enough mainsail to keep you moving at the right speed for the time remaining. To keep in one position let the jib flap, ease the kicker totally, keep the boat at a point between close hauled and head-to-wind, use little pulls on the mainsheet (to luff up to the wind) and vigorous rudder and body movements (to bear away from the wind) to keep yourself in position. If you get head to wind by mistake the crew should be ready to back the jib (ie pull it in on the "wrong" side to make the boat bear away on starboard. To get moving from almost stopped the crew first pulls in the jib gently and the boat bears away to close hauled, you then pull in the main and get going. 

Start sequence and flags - You get your time from the committee boat which will fly and then drop the various class flags for each start and sound a hooter or gun as the sequence rolls on, usually in three or five minute intervals. Get a stick-on guide to the flags in any chandlers - and stick it where you can esaily see it in the boat. Having read your sailing instructions carefully you'll know the sequence, timing and know when to expect the flag for your start. The normal flag sequence will be - a named flag to identify your committee boat, a red flag for a port course or a green one for a starboard course, then the first class flag and gun (or hooter), identifying the ten (sometimes six) minutes warning signal to the first start, then at five (or three) minutes the "blue peter" flag "P" is flown identifying the five (or three) minutes to the first start, and indicating that the racing rules now apply. At the gun for the first start the class flag will be dropped and the class flag for the following start will be flown immediately, indicating the five (or three) minutes to the next start. Note that the Blue Peter will remain flying until the last class has started - so if you arrive late and see that your flag is flying along with the Blue Peter your start is the next one and you need to get your act together fast ! If one or more boat is over the line at the committee boat will fly flag X and sound a hooter. If you're over the line sail back without interfering with any boat racing and restart. You can usually just dip back behind the line to restart but sometimes the sailing instructions will compel you to sail back around the ends of the line. The crew takes and calls the time continually during the start sequence, ie calls 5mins, 4 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, one and a half, one, fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, fifteen, ten , 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. At the gun you want to be crossing the line where you planned, close hauled at full speed, free to go to the preferred side of the course (if any ), without a boat to leeward squeezing up giving you dirty wind, or a boat to windward sailing over the top of you. In any fleet there is usually only one perfect start if any - try and make it yours, and failing that aim for a clean start in clear air as close to where you'd have liked to have been as possible. If you have a disastrous start don't get flustered, settle down for maximum boat speed and tack if necessary for clear air at the earliest opportunity, but just as important, tack back as soon as you have clear air and stay in contact with the fleet while playing any shifts and keeping to your strategy. It's here that a lot of people go very wrong, are forced by dirty air to take a tack and once on it head off to the horizon on a long cosy tack to oblivion.

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Hopefully you will have sailed the beat well, sticking as much as possible to your strategic plan, keeping away from adverse tide, staying in the windiest part of the course, tacking only on windshifts and arriving at the windward mark in good shape. We will assume that (90% of the time) the mark must be rounded to port, ie passed on the left side. You will find yourself approaching the mark either on the port or starboard layline. Be aware that arriving on port tack at a crowded windward mark leaves you little or no rights under the new rules, you are give-way boat in almost all scenarios. So ideally your final approach should be on starboard and the idea is that you will smoothly bear away around the mark onto your new course for the first reach with the spinnaker going up and pulling within a few seconds. Arriving on starboard in lighter winds also allows the crew to have to spinnaker pole set. Remember always that heeling the boat a little to windward will help the boat turn off the wind. To help achieve a quick rounding and spinnaker set the crew (in light to medium winds) will have already set the spinnaker pole before the rounding, clipping it onto the guy, the uphaul/downhaul and of course the mast. You need to watch your weather quarter to ensure that no close following competitor luffs up above you and takes your wind - if a threatening boat is close behind luff a little above the ideal course for clear air before you set your spinnaker. Otherwise you can bear away and set the spinnaker, having of course checked (looking at boats ahead and the wind angle) that the reach is broad enough to allow a kite to be flown. Typical sequence is that the helm hoists kite while steering downwind with tiller between legs, crew cleats guy onto the reaching hook, ensuring that pole is about right angles to the wind. Helm should be able to sheet in spinnaker and fill it & hand it to crew as soon as crew is ready. Helm then sheets main back in and steers for the optimum course. Helm (not crew who has just two hands) uses spare hand to sheet jib in just so that it is neither flapping madly nor in tight and backwinding the mainsail. 

During first Reach straight line course is the ideal one for most reaches but there are exceptions. Firstly you must sail in clear air and that may mean luffing above your straightline course to prevent competitors sailing over you and taking your wind. The main rule here is that you can luff and the windward boat must keep clear but they must be afforded time and room to keep clear. You need to also be aware of the "proper course" rule. In practice keep your eyes open and luff early to protect your wind. You need to be aware of any tide and adjust your course from the start of the reach to compensate, otherwise you could end up sailing an arc rather than a straightline course to the next mark. Ideally find a landmark behind the next mark and use it as a transit to ensure you're sailing a straight course. The other exception to the straightline course is a gusty reach where it can pay to luff up in the lulls, increasing your speed because you're now close reaching, and bear away in the gusts, keeping full speed on with the increased wind. The extra speed generated by the weaving course can make up for the extra distance sailed.

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This is one of the most exciting crewing tasks and should really first be practised away from the drama of a race. Sequence as above, however this time helm and crew calculate that it is windy enough to require the crew on trapeze during the reach. Usually it's also a question of how close to the wind the reach is because the closer it is the more heeling moment the wind will create, requiring the balancing weight of the crew on the wire. If the reach is very broad you will only need the crew on trapeze during the very windiest days. Sequence after rounding windward mark and hoisting spinnaker while crew sets pole and puts guy into reaching hook so that wind is at right angles to the pole - helm sheets in spinnaker while steering boat off the wind enough to keep it flat. Crew clips on trapeze wire onto harness, takes the spinnaker sheet in one hand and, keeping the spinnaker sheeted, pushes out on trapeze without allowing spinnaker to collapse. Meanwhile the helm luffs smoothly to windward while sheeting in enough mainsail to support the crew's weight as he or she goes out on trapeze, thus producing the heeling force which helps keep the crew out. As you can guess this requires co-ordination and trust between the helm and crew and this is best achieved through practice. Common mistakes are the crew not keeping the spinnaker full as they go out - remember crews have a vested interest here because it's mainly the power in the spinnaker that's keeping you out there! The helm too must steer whatever course is required to get the crew out and use the mainsheet and steering to keep them out. 

Once the spinnaker is pulling well you can concentrate on the quickest course to the next mark. If the reach is close keep the crew out on trapeze and aim to arrive a little to windward of the mark, this allows you to bear away for the final few boatlengths and arrive at the gybe mark in a controlled way, with the crew off the wire and everybody ready for a smooth, controlled gybe. If the reach is broad, and if the wind is light do not sail a high course initially, sail a straightline course, or even slightly lower, saving the slightly closer reach for the final approach as this angle will be much faster. 

It's very important to remember on the reach that there are huge speed gains to be made if you can get the boat planing and keep it planing. The means of doing this includes keeping crew weight back a little, raising centreboard as much as halfway, keeping the boat flat, and steering for as long as possible down the face of any waves. It may also mean sailing slightly higher than a straight line course initially to get the boat to plane and gently steering back to straightline while keeping it planing, repeating this throughout the leg. 

The crew needs to respond with spinnaker trim to the helms steering. In trapezing conditions it's not practical to adjust the guy and pole continually so the technique is simply sheet in smoothly as the boat luffs, and ease the kite out smoothly as you bear away. The spinnaker luff should be kept just on the point of breaking, otherwise the sail is being oversheeted, backwinding the main, and creating excessive heeling forces in the boat. For major course alterations and for windshifts you would of course adjust the pole angle relative to the apparent wind, keeping the pole square to the apparent wind. It's quite important that the helm and crew are in constant communication while flying the spinnaker, the crew should be the first to feel any extra pressure in the kite indicating that the boat should bear away, the helm should tell the crew about each course alteration so that the sail can be properly trimmed throughout. 

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In a trapezing situation you want to arrive at the gybe mark in complete control. This really means getting an inside overlap at the mark so that you have the right to round in a seamanlike manner without interference from competitors to leeward. What you are really aiming at is a controlled gybe from a broad reach to a broad reach, regardless of the angles of the course. This often means sailing the last few lengths to the gybe mark well above a straight line course, allowing the crew in from the trapeze and a controlled gybe from broad reach to broad reach around the mark. If you're using twinning lines you cleat in both lines before the gybe and release the line controlling the new spinnaker sheet when things are back in control and the crew has reset the pole for the new course. While all this is going on the helm sheets the spinnaker to keep it full while steering with the tiller between their legs. In heavy weather this may not be possible and the object is to gybe around the mark staying upright, then the helm gybes the boat while letting the kite (held down by the twinning lines) take care of itself, then immediately sheets in the new sheet to regain control and steer a course that "keeps the boat under the rig", ie sail downwind to keep control until the crew has set the pole and is clipping on and ready to go out on trapeze. Only then can the helm luff up, sheeting in the main to help keep the crew out on trapeze. All this should take seconds because every delay is taking the boat downwind from the ideal course, and any flapping of the spinnaker is destabilising the boat and threatening capsize. Obviously the key to success in windy gybing with a spinnaker is practice away from the racecourse.

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The second reach, like the first, should be sailed as fast as possible, avoiding any dirty air from other competitors. If the first reach was very tight you can be reasonably sure that the second will be much broader. In this case you would avoid luffing too high initially above a straightline course because you'd then have to sail the remainder of the leg on a dead run, the slowest point of sailing. So sail only high enough to keep your air clear. If the second reach is close you can safely sail high initially, especially if it's gusty, allowing you to plane back down to the straight course with each gust. Either way aim to arrive at the leeward mark with an inside overlap and therefore the right to round inside. If it's windy and the crew is trapezing arrive from above the straightline course, leaving ample time for the crew to come off the trapeze and stow the pole and kite and tidy the spinnaker sheets which have a habit of going under the boat if not cleated into the boat. 

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Your final approach to the mark should allow you to almost touch the mark with your windward bow quarter. You ideally want to enter the (imaginary) two boat-length circle around the mark wide and exit tight, almost touching the mark with the windward side of your bow. Then you're right up on the wind close hauled with no room inside for any competitor. The crew will have lowered the centreboard and in trapezing conditions will have clipped on ready to go straight out as the helm rounds, ie the crew sheets in the jib as the helm rounds the mark while sheeting in the main. One common mistake is for crews to sheet in the jib hard before the rounding. This pushes off the bow of the boat and hinders the rounding. The sheeting in of main and jib should be smooth and simultaneous. A good leeward mark rounding is particularly important. If you are leading one or more boats it ensures that nobody gets inside you and also that following boats are in your dirty wind (lee-bow) and will have to tack away to clear their wind. If there are boats ahead which did not round well your good rounding should bring you sufficiently to windward of them to be in clear air and avoid the need for a tack for clear air. In this situation you might even luff above closehauled for a second to get upwind of boats ahead. 

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The idea here is that you'll have learned from the first time round which, if any, side of the course is favoured. You'll be in tune with your compass settings (or visual transits with the shore) and you'll know whether you're lifted or headed and react accordingly. With this information absorbed you'll concentrate on sailing your second beat in clear air playing the shifts to take you to the top mark as quickly as possible. The crew will have been watching during the first beat to see where gains and losses were made by boats of similar speed, ie whether left, right, or centre paid off. If you're ahead at this stage you will generally stay as far as possible between the windward mark and the boats behind you. You won't be taking any flyers out to the edge of the course unless there are proven major advantages there. If you're trying to catch a boat or a bunch ahead you won't take flyers either, but nor will you follow like a sheep. You'll go a little more to the edges of the course that you think are favoured than the boats ahead, but you'll stay in touch with them and with boats behind. 

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In the old style Olympic course your second rounding of the windward mark will be onto a run (ie the "sausage"). Ideally you will have worked out before you ever arrive at the mark which gybe you should be on down the run. If there are boats ahead you'll take your cue from them, if you're in the lead it's more difficult - you need to figure whether the wind backed or lifted during the beat. If the wind lifted (swung more to the right) you will gybe around the mark and then hoist your spinnaker. If the wind has headed on the beat you will do a "bear-away-set", ie hoist as you bear away around the mark to go on the run. The reason is that you always want to sail on the headed tack on the run, ie it's the exact opposite to the beat, which makes perverse sense because you're going in the opposite direction. The real reason is that because a dead run is the slowest point of sailing you want to be on the tack (well gybe really !) that is more of a reach than a run. Thus classes that gybe easily (like the single sail Laser) will gybe many times during a run, keeping to the headed gybe as much as possible. Boats like IDRAs should probably gybe a lot more than tends to be the case but you must weigh up the loss of distance due to flapping spinnaker and elephantine helm/crew movements. If you can gybe really smoothly and efficiently while keeping the kite full (practice, practice, practice) it would pay to gybe every time the wind frees (lifts), ie comes more astern bringing you on more of a dead run than a broad reach. 

The run is especially nerve-racking for leading boats, it's the only time boats astern have the advantage. The aim as always is to sail in clear air but following boats should also place themselves directly in the wind of the leading boat. In light air this will slow the leading boat from as much as ten boat lengths back and allow following boats to claw back some distance on the leaders.

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There are two main ways to approach the run. One is to run directly downwind for the mark on a dead run - ie slow but direct. The other is to sail the run in a series of reaches gybing from time to time. The idea with the latter is that you sail the extra distance by reaching but your speed gain more than makes up for it. Remember however that you need major speed gains to make up for the extra distance and the IDRA 14 is a relatively heavy boat. If reaching means the difference between planing and not planing it could well be worth that extra distance, also on very light air days reaching up to keep the kite full may also pay off. You pay your money and take your chances. Personally I believe that the reaching choice pays off in certain conditions but you really need to be aware of how far you are straying from the straight course. Remember we're talking about broad reaching here, don't dream of close reaching down a run, you'll never make up the extra distance in speed in an IDRA. 

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Like the start line most finish lines have a bias, ie one end is favoured over the other and the end you want is this time the downwind end. Unlike the start line you obviously have no time to carefully test for that bias. To find the favoured end sail towards the centre of the line - as you get close to the port and starboard laylines it should become apparent which end is closer. Thus if the port tack approach appears to take you on a course parallel to the finish line you're going to sail too far - you should tack to finish at the left side of the line. If you're covering one boat all the way to the finish, and no other boat threatens, stay between that boat and the line all the way to the finish, protecting your place from any last minute shifts. If there is a very big bias on the finish line it may well be shown by the flags on the committee boat.

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After the finish some people like to just take out the sandwiches and forget about the race. If you can take the time to analyse your race and figure out what you did right and (more often !) wrong it's a great help for future races. We are all prone to repeating the same mistakes, over and over, and if we can at least recognise them it's a major first step to future success. It's very important however in this process not to enter a blame game between helm and crew. Recognise your errors and move on by trying to eliminate them from future races.

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It's really important to realise that sailing is a team sport. In IDRA 14s we sail in teams of two and all results, good, bad and indifferent are the result of the team effort. Good helm/crew combinations support and motivate each other around the racecourse. They avoid negativity and blame, mistakes are corrected quickly without recrimination and attention is refocussed on getting back into the race and in front of the opposition. Experienced teams have a big advantage on the racecourse, they get to know instinctively what the other team member will do in any given situation. A simple example is that when the crew goes forward to fix something on the deck they don't need to tell the helm, who automatically moves back in the boat to keep the trim constant, and not an inch is lost in the race. Equally the crew can go straight out on trapeze, knowing the helm will automatically sheet in to keep them out there. So find a compatible crew/helm to sail with and practice until your teamwork is perfect. And remember above all else it's supposed to be FUN !!! 

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There are many great books on racing and here are a few that can be got in Ireland, mostly at good book shops like Hodges Figgis, Waterstones and good chandlers like Viking Marine and Dinghy Supplies. First however a word of warning ! There is so much to be taken in when learning to race, and there are so many variables that for someone completely new to racing reading can confuse more than enlighten. In the longer term reading is certainly a great way to learn, but it is secondary to actually sailing races and analysing the results, with the help of books and other sailors. The key is to try to match your experiences on the water with the advice in the books, then the pennies will start to drop ! Winter too can be a great time to absorb racing books and get new ideas for the next season. 

Sailing - The True Techniques, John Terry, Bloomsbury Books. A very well illustrated book, useful for the clear photographs of sail setting and tuning. Often remaindered at a bargain price & therefore worth a look.

Racing, a beginners guide. Sail to Win series, Fernhurst Books. An excellent, first short introduction to racing.

RYA Race Training Manual, Jim Saltsonstall, Macmillan Press. Probably the best racing manual available, leaning towards the younger sailor but superb all round book, every racer should have it.

Dinghy Helming, Lawrie Smith, Sail to Win Series, Fernhurst Books. Very good guide to dinghy helming, nicely broken down leg by leg of the course and for different wind strengths.

The Tactics of Small Boat Racing, Stuart Walker, W.W. Norton & Co. Arguably the best book of sailing tactics ever written, it's logic and intellgence is irrefutable and overcomes its minor vices, conservatism and occasional pedantry. A must-have for every racing sailor

Winning in One Designs, Dave Perry, Adlard Coles Ltd. A great book on one-design racing, recommened.

Tuning Your Dinghy, Lawrie Smith, Sail to Win series, Fernhurst Books. A very good clear guide to dinghy tuning.

Sailing Smart, Buddy Melges and Charles Mason, Henry Holt & Co, NY. Interesting anecdotal book from a very fast sailor, revealing psychology of a champion, some great tips.

Start to Win, Eric Twiname, Adlard Coles Ltd. Nicely written racing primer, clear and accessable.

Sail, Race and Win, Eric Twiname, revised Cathy Foster, Adlard Cole Ltd Good book on the psychology of developing a winning attitude.

Dinghy Systems, Mark Chisnell and John Hodgard Waterline Books. Compehensive guide to dinghy control systems, illustrations a little confusing however

Advanced Racing Tactics, Stuart Walker, W.W. Norton & Co. Excellent follow on from Walkers first tactics book, more detail, more theory. 

High Performance Sailing, Frank Bethwaithe, Waterline Books. Mindboggling but brilliant theory on faster sailing, by the father of the modern skiff. This is the one that'll make you wish you'd paid more attention at Physics in school. If you feel like a challenge off the water this is the book for you. 

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