What are some of the common mistakes made when racing at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and what does it take to be a winning team? Rupert Holmes gets the low-down on a 5-point plan from Matt Alexander and John Raymond who won the Redwing Class and White Group overall in 2012 with Harlequin.
1. People often start to struggle when they arrive at the starting area too late, with no clear plan of how to start. Make sure you have plenty of time and always have a plan.
2. Around the course, lack of planning means people fall into some of the traps that are waiting to catch you out – like sailing to the wrong mark because you’ve not properly checked the course and written it down in more than one place. Be prepared!
3. For many people, Cowes Week is the most competitive event they do in the year, but don’t let the adrenaline get to you. Give other boats a wide berth, sail a clean race and look for the big gains elsewhere.
4. Watch for big park-ups forming at mark roundings – sometimes there can be 15 boats going round at once. If you can’t get an inside overlap, don't go round the outside. Slow down so that you can follow right behind the leaders on the inside.
5. Most big boat sailors know that the driver must concentrate on just that, but it’s still common in keelboat classes to see the helmsman also trying to make the tactical decisions. If you’re doing two jobs there will invariably be times when it’s impossible to do both to good effect. It’s therefore worth putting your strongest strategist/ tactician in the middle position and try running the boat with the skipper in the middle, rather than on the helm.