A major source of beginning to understand tactics is dealt with by Toplevel sailing as tactics for the first half of the beat (when the boats are diverging into a wider area, as against tactics when the boats are converging into the tiny area around the mark. The difference in tactical thinking is enormous. How many times have you hung out, or even been beating the best sailors in the fleet for half or three quarters of the beat, yet at the windward mark you are a long way behind? This is because the top sailors understand how conservative they need to be on the approach to the mark. The “diamond” is our description of that area where the good guys win.
The term the diamond refers to an area nearing the top mark usually in the shape of a diamond which may have a major tactical role when you are not in the lead
The following diagram shows the second half of a beat and the diamond for a slow class of boats
The big question is why do the good sailors always make gains in this area? Although there are other factors we already discussed in previous blogs one of the major reasons is they were considering and avoiding the diamond when approaching the top mark.
What is the diamond?
The Diamond is an area you would prefer to avoid when approaching the top mark for 2 main reasons
- You will get your wind blocked by boats approaching ahead of you to the mark
- You will probably be forced to take a header for some of the time while sailing inside the diamond
For different classes and different conditions the diamond will have different sizes and shapes that are determined by the classes characteristics, skiffs will have a bigger diamond then lasers for example.
In simple words the Diamond is the optimal area for a boat to approach her lay line when she is at the middle of the fleet
How do we determine our diamond?
In order for a sailor to be able to determine the diamond requires a good prestart data collection as well as understanding the class of boat and fleet size you are racing
Generally the diamond size will be determined by the duration of a shift and the shape by the shift size and pattern. If you can nail that during the pre-start, you begin to understand the importance of both hitting the correct layline (the lifted or pressure one) and how far out to hit it.
For example if a skiff sails 50 boat lengths during the time each shift holds, then each leg of the diamond should ideally be 50 boat lengths, which means the ideal distance to approach the layline should also be around 50 boat lengths, and in the same conditions a Laser will sail 20 boat lengths per shift then the lasers diamond legs will be 20 boat lengths and ideally approach the layline 20 boat lengths to the mark. As shown in the diagram
Now we begin to understand how different class of boats speed will influence the size of its diamond.
It must be remembered that whilst sailing the layline for a relatively long distance we might get pinned by boats tacking in front of us, Giving us dirty air and forcing us into the diamond. We must therefore take into consideration that factor as well, and look at who is likely to create a problem getting to the mark (from the boats to our left) before deciding how high up we should hit the layline. We should understand that we will still sail much faster this way than boats sailing inside the diamond in dirty air.
When you are in the lead it is OK to sail inside the diamond as the likelihood of your wind being blocked for a considerable time that will generate a loss is negligible.
During our training at Toplevel Sailing we discuss and train our sailors on ways to assess their diamond, when to look for it and how to avoid it in order to maximize their gains near the end of a beat. More importantly, we take the risk analysis of the entire course, and show them how it changes from first quarter to middle to top quarter – this is why our “diamond” is so important to prevent bleeding points.