Conventional wisdom says success in dinghy racing results from 70% boat speed, 30% strategy. So, how does one measure boat speed? Conventional wisdom again says: compare yourself to the rest of the fleet. However, this is made difficult by the chaotic nature of dinghy races (with wave action, constant shifts, puffs, and people screaming starboard) and doesn’t provide any insight on how the adjustments you make to your trim, course, or heel, affect your speed.
Accordingly, after less than satisfactory finishes in my 420 races, my crew and I often played the guessing game of “why were we so slow?” But we rarely came up with concrete answers. (The times we did it was mostly along the lines of: that DFL might have been the result of turtling on the second down wind…might have.)
What part of “Sheet out” do you not understand, Larry?!
Fortunately, there’s a way to eliminate the guesswork.
The SpeedPuck displays speed to the tenths of a knot and updates changes every ½ second. This allows you to fine-tune your boat handling skills, test different theories, throw out what’s not working, and focus on refining what does.
- How much crank should I put on the cunningham?
- Is it better to pinch or to fall off?
- How does board trim affect my speed? (1/4 way down, 3/4s way down?)
- That tack felt slow. How slow?
- Does blowing the vang downwind really affect speed?
Many of these actions result in speed changes too small to be perceptible, but big enough to separate a bullet from a 5th place finish. The SpeedPuck will tell you the instant you slow down, so you can make the necessary adjustment to keep sailing fast.
The SpeedPuck’s GPS logging capabilities are another reason why it makes a solid training tool for dinghy racers.
The SpeedPlay program offered by Velocitek makes it easy to download GPS data from multiple SpeedPucks and replay the day’s races. In the program you can drop in marks, import geographical information from charting software or google maps, and view every boat’s speed alongside their respective tracks.
The software can provide many insights, ranging from what side of the course was favored, to right of way conflict resolutions.
In a Sailing World gear review, Stuart Strueli discusses how SpeedPlay enhanced his training:
“While watching my track run around the course, I noticed that my tacks from starboard to port really stink, that I come out of them 10 degrees low and then quickly adjust the course, which doesn’t happen from port to starboard. It looks horrible on the track, and I know it isn’t fast. That’ll be my first order of business next time I hit the water.”
And an A-Cat racer recently posted the following on SA:
“What I found to be the most benefit was the download at the end of the day and the ability to replay the race on my PC and look at my angles and speed. It’s even better if you have another sailor(s) who did the same and you combine your tracks. It is interesting and educational and makes the racing experience more fun.”
Test out a SpeedPuck today. Instead of “feeling” fast, you’ll know.
How do you use your Velocitek to train?