Saturday, November 9, 2013

Current Trumps Again

I have written several times about the importance of current trumping wind and  how important that is to keep in mind.

In a recent race in a different area, I decided to do something contrary to the usual logic of always choosing the route to minimise adverse current.  We had to beat toward a headland on the right side against incoming tide, and then round the headland.  I intentionally chose to beat against the current in deeper water on the right, away from shore, because the shallow water on the left next to shore was clearly in the shore's wind shadow and the wind away from shore in the deeper water was much better.

And for awhile it seemed to be working. I was making big gains on the other boats and, to that extent, the strategy worked.  I was becoming almost smug. But since we all had to go around the headland on the right side of the beat my smugness soon evaporated.  As the shallow water boats (who were behind me) finally came across the deeper water to go around the headland they had a much better angle and did so on one tack, whereas I was on the right side and had to tack a couple of times right in the worst part of the current.  So, in the end I rounded the headland several boat lengths behind.  I was correct in thinking I would make better VMG with the better wind for most of the beat, but I had not factored in the difficulties in rounding the headland on the right side.

So, from now on I will always take the lesser current unless I am 110% convinced there is a good reason not to.

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