Top Tekkers – Managing risk on leg one

In the second of our daily race analysis pieces from the Sailing World Championships, renowned sailing expert Mark Chisnell looks at some classic risk management.

In the third race of the Finn Qualifying series Ed Wright gave a brilliant demonstration of how to manage risk on the first leg. When combined with good speed through the water it gave him options at a critical moment, and by choosing correctly he was able to lead at the first mark and go on to win his first race of the regatta.

It was a much better day for sailing in Aarhus. The sea breeze came in much earlier and was settled for the midday start of racing. The second race of the day – race three for the Finn fleet – got underway with 9-10 knots from the south-east. They were set a windward/leeward with two laps on the stadium race course.

It began with a good start that we can see in Video 1 – Ed Wright was visible in the middle of the frame, just to the right of the distinctive gold sail of ESP 7. We can also see his position in Image 1, where Wright was the highlighted track of red – boat GBR11. This was a text-book, low risk start.

Image 1

The yellow gain line (at right angles to the wind direction) showed that the committee boat or right-hand end (looking into the wind) was favoured. Wright was positioned a third of the way down from the favoured end. This was a great place to gain from the advantaged side, without betting the house on trying to win the very best start at the committee boat – that’s always a high risk venture. He’s also got plenty of space around him, both to windward and leeward. This gave him time to settle, sail the boat how he wanted, and pick his tactics.

If we fast forward a minute we get to Image 2. The highlighted lime green boat was Alex Muscat in ESP7. I think he was probably in a controlling position, because as soon as he tacked Wright went with him, as did the boat between them, Oliver Tweddell in AUS 261. This could have been problematic for Wright – boat speed was essential here to be able to hold this lane despite having Tweddell close on his right hand or leeward side.

Image 2

Six minutes into the leg and in Image 3 we see that Wright has tacked back to starboard. The positioning was important. He was one of the first to go from the right-hand group, leading them back to the centre. Going back to the middle of the race course would give him more options later in the leg – again, great risk management. Wright also took the opportunity to tack on Max Salminen who had a third and a fourth from the first two races. It cost the Swede an extra two tacks and he ended up 16th in this one.

Image 3

A couple of minutes later Wright went back to port tack as we can see in Image 4. At this point he was ranked as sixth, but what was really interesting about this one was that the first and second boats – RUS6 and CRO1 highlighted in purple and orange respectively – were on opposite wings of the fleet.

Image 4

These two boats might have been leading, but they were both very close to a layline (the final tack into the first mark). They had few options left and could only take whatever nature chose to hand them. In contrast, Ed Wright could pick right or left at this point, and he had picked to go back out to the right (looking into the wind).

In Image 5 we can see what a good call this was as Wright came across on port tack to take the lead from Arkadiy Kistanov in RUS 6. If you look carefully at the tracks you can see that he was sailing a much better angle than everyone to windward of him. This indicated that he either found a really nice lane of stronger breeze, and/or a little wind shift to the left (backing or anti-clockwise) that also pulled him out in front of the group to leeward.

Image 5

Wright tacked on the leebow (slightly ahead and to leeward) of Kistanov and from there was able to work his way forward into a comfortable lead as we see in Image 6. It was now just a question of executing the final couple of hundred metres, and Wright laid the first mark and rounded comfortably ahead as we see in Video 2.

Image 6

It’s worth making a quick comparison between Ed Wright’s course up the first leg in Image 7, with Jonathan Lobert in the yellow fleet ten minutes earlier. Lobert’s route is highlighted in yellow in Image 8.

Image 7

Image 8

They both reached an almost identical point indicated with the yellow arrow. Lobert carried on to go left, while Wright tacked and went to the right. Both options worked at different times and the reason both men led at the top mark was because they managed the risk and kept their options open – classic stuff.