During the MORC Midwinters at Davis Island Yacht Club we encountered three situations where it paid to go slowly and lose a little ground in order to make substantial gains shortly thereafter. Because we avoided an overlap on the boat ahead we moved up in the fleet each time.

Sailing on Bill Johnsen's Capri 30, Capricious, we had easterly winds gusting to 25. Mark Scheffee had relieved Bill on the helm for the first downwind leg. It was necessary to anticipate the gusts and bear off right away in order to avoid rounding up and broaching. Any hesitation in reacting resulted in overwhelming windward helm.

We saw numerous boats along the leeward leg suddenly shoot to windward and lay over on their beam ends, chutes trawling, rudders flopping uselessly in the air like fish out of water.

Two boats that had rounded just astern of us were now far to windward and behind because they had not born off in the puffs. The leeward one had tried to defend his position by going high and forced the windward boat to respond. This not only prevented them from gaining ground downwind in the puffs, but also precipitated broaching.

We were moving faster than the other Capri 30 and were to windward of her. They were showing signs of defending by luffing us, which we wanted to avoid at all costs. Mark had been keeping us far enough away from her so we could bear off and take her stern if necessary.

The leeward boat made her move to defend at a bad time. As a particularly strong gust came in, she headed up. Mark bore off down the face of a wave. We accelerated as the leeward boat heeled and slowed. Capricious rolled to windward, helping our turn downwind. Pressure on the helm was relieved and we shot down the wave bearing off and took her stern.

The other boat was trapped in the gust and went right into a broach. Greg Knighton gave a big ease on the chute as Capricious stood back up and we planed on a course directly to the mark. That was the last we saw of the other Capri. If we had not maintained a position where we could avoid the overlap we would have had to go to windward with her.

At the end of the same leg, another boat had an overlap on us coming into the leeward mark. Scheffee bore off and went slowly, allowing the other boat to round in front of us, not inside us.

They were struggling to take down the chute and make a close rounding. Scheffee's wide, slow course around the mark allowed us time to take down the chute and get the crew on the rail. They approached the mark very close abeam but we left the mark very close abeam. They rounded first but we rounded with more speed, sailing higher. Because we waited for them to round first, we were able to shoot above them during the rounding. By the time we were six boat lengths from the mark we were directly to windward of them and rolled them shortly thereafter.

Bill Johnsen was back on the helm for the start of the next race. The wind was backing and we wanted the pin. We approached the fleet on port tack and flopped to starboard about two-thirds of the way down from the committee boat.

Nobody was between us and the pin but there was a boat to leeward with speed. She approached with crew yelling for us to go, "UP! UP!". Bill slowed, feinted to windward giving us room to bear off, and then dove down astern of the other boat and drove for the pin. The other boat continued to windward and held up the whole parade of boats coming down the line.

At the gun they were all slowed by him as we left the pin going full speed, pointing higher, squeezing them off.

These three instances in which we tried to go slowly rather than fast put us in front of five boats. Beware of overlapping other boats. Maintaining your freedom to maneuver opens up opportunities for gains.

(c) Copyright 1996, 2000, 2005 Charlie Clifton