A TUNING SESSION- a rabbit and a couple of balls and you're off to the races!
Speed testing is great. To win you have to have speed. Yet at some point we all need to practice racing. That can happen at regattas or with a few other boats using rabbit starts and a few marks. Outlined are a couple of ideas that are used during practices at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and most recently at some of the 505 midwinter east practices. [It really helps to discuss these drills will all the participants, or else you will never get it organized on the water.
It also helps to have one boat be the coordinator as to which drills are next.
UPWIND RABBIT RACING. Goal here it to develop a system for upwind tuning and speed that takes minimal time to reorganize. One boat starts on port tack, and the fleet starts by ducking the rabbit and then sailing upwind. The rabbit clears the last boat and then tacks. The group continues on one tack until one boat is "flushed" and is clearly behind. The flushed boat resets the group by tacking and sailing well clear of the fleet and then tacking back. Then the fleet slows, tacks, and then restarts by ducking the rabbit. It is important for the reset rabbit to set up outside enough so that the closest boat can tack and duck to restart safely. The fleet will be starting on both port and starboard tacks and will be alternating starting tacks.
DOWNWIND RABBIT RACING. Goal here is to develop a system for tuning while running downwind that is easy to organize and reset. This is essentially a downwind rabbit start, with the rule that the rabbit boat has it's spinnaker up and drawing, and the starting boats can only have their poles up. After the rabbit has cleared the starters, it gybes and joins in. Again, the flushed boat makes the call, gybes and resets the rabbit start. Should be able to do this cycle without having to drop the spinnakers every time to restart.
RABBIT BEATS. The goal here is to simulate a racing environment with various restrictions. Windward and leeward marks are set giving 7-15 minute legs. The start is a rabbit start. Then everyone races to the weather mark. Options might be:
REACHING DRILL. If you have a third mark, it is set at an appropriate angle for the breeze. At the weather mark, one boat starts the race by going close reach on starboard away the weather mark. Each boat in the fleet ducks the rabbbit, everyone sets their kite and goes. The starting boat, sufficiently sacrificed tries to catch up. Everyone gybes at the reach mark and continues to the leeward mark and then race upwind to the weather mark finish by rounding and then stops to reset.
These are a couple of ideas. From here we are sure you can come up with more ideas to get you ready to race.
Ethan Bixby and Scott Ikle