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Can You Even Roll, Bro? Some Roll Tack Tips For Opti Sailors

Self-Coaching Is Always A Good Thing

Key points for analyzing your own roll tacks - ask yourself these questions!:

1. The Turn:
    - Is the turn smooth? (turn through the wind slower in flat water, faster in waves).
    - Do I pump in the mainsheet in a way that makes the boat head up, and propells it into the wind?
    - Are my eyes on the sail until the last possible split second?

2. The Roll:
    - Am I rolling at the right time (when the front half of the sail luffs)?
    - Am I rolling enough? Often if you don't get enough roll its because you went out too early.
   - Am I keeping my weight forward while I roll?
  - Are my knees together for a compact, athletic position to spring from?
  - Am I keeping the sail cranked in to stop it from luffing?

3. The Flatten:
    - Am I landing forwards?
    - Easing the sail as the boat flattens?
   - Getting my eyes on the telltales ASAP?
   - Trimming back in when the boat is flat?
   -Switching hands AFTER the boat is flat and all mainsheet action finished.
 -Flattening the right amount/smoothness for the conditions! If its windy, flatten with your butt on the rail! If its light, land softly - big splashes are slow and overly aggressive tacks more likely to be flagged by the umpires.

A few notes on the Rules & roll-tacking:
- Rule 42.3 (b) begins: "A boats crew may move their bodies to exaggerate the rolling that facilitates steering the boat through the tack or gybe..." So roll tacking is legal.

-Rule 42.1 provides that the "...crew may adjust the trim of the sails and hull." The mainsheet ease that we coach the kids to do as they are flattening is adjusting the sail to the actual apparent wind angle - if you DONT let out the sail at that point it stalls!

So there are 2 potential way these tacks could infringe on rule 42, one logical, one  subjective:

 - Rule 42.2 (e) lists as a prohibited action: "repeated tacks or gybes unrelated to the wind or to tactical considerations." Makes sense.

And then the subjective:

- The latter part of Rule 42.3 (a) says roll-tacks are legal, "provided that, just after the tack or gybe is completed, the boat's speed is not greater than it would have been in the absence of the tack or gybe." 

"Than it would have been." This is a phrase requiring the umpire's imagination! As the great Chris Williford once said to me "Hindsight is always 50/50." Hard to know how it would have been. Until we give Umpires radar guns this is a very subjective call, and I applaud College Sailing for modifying out this part of Rule 42! Any well tacked yacht is going to accelerate from head to wind to out of the tack, so its a tough judgement of exit speed vs imagined "absence of the tack" speed. If the umpire crew is enforcing this aggressively, then I coach the kids to flatten even more smoothly/slowly in order to 'pace out the acceleration' - make it less sudden. Breaking rule 42 is an "Umpire initiated penalty" in Team Racing and the umpires are a really important part of the game - we applaud them for policing sculling, double pumps, plus all the other rules (!) and for the time, energy and expertise they put towards making Team Racing regattas awesome! All good sailors should try umpiring some time - it will give you an incredible perspective!

This article is reproduced with permission in part from an article by Arthur Blodgett (original Additional copy and images by Alberto Olivo 


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