When sailing in a multi-race regatta, it is very important to keep
track of the points and positions in the standings as you go into
the final races. In order to improve or protect your
position, it may be necessary to beat or stay close to particular
boats. The other boats become irrelevant to the final
outcome of the series.
Rather than covering the fleet (which is good strategy early in the regatta), it becomes necessary to cover certain boats and disregard the others. It may be necessary to attack a particular boat to drive them back into the fleet. Knowing the point spread makes it possible to plan your strategy.
Going into the eighth and final race of the 1995 Sunfish North Americans, Jeff Linton was 5 points behind the leader, David Van Cleef, and two points ahead of Tom Donahue. He needed to put five boats between him and Van Cleef and not let Donahue put any boats between them in order to win.
Halfway up the last beat, Jeff had one boat between him and Van Cleef. Donahue was close behind among a half dozen others. If Jeff had continued up the leg covering and protecting his position, Van Cleef would have won the regatta.
Since he knew he needed five boats between them, Jeff sailed back down to Van Cleef and sat on him hard. He began forcing him back into the fleet by driving him to the wrong side of the course, out of phase with the windshifts.
Because he had done his math homework before leaving the beach, Jeff knew how many boats to allow to pass to give him the chance he needed to win the regatta. He also knew he could not allow Donahue to get too far ahead.
After Donahue was just in front of him and Van Cleef, Jeff abandoned his tight cover and proceeded to gain back the boats he had allowed to pass.
Back in phase, he proceeded to pass boats he had allowed to get ahead. Van Cleef had been pushed too far to the unfavored side to recover.
Jeff finished the race with six boats between him and Van Cleef, one more than he needed to win. He had never led the regatta at any time during the first seven races. He went out for the final race knowing exactly what had to be done and did it.
© Charlie Clifton 1995, 2000, 2005