The circling maneuver requires the utmost concentration, since it can make an unwary skipper as giddy as a small boy spinning with his eyes closed. Because he is concentrating on his boat and his competitor's to the exclusion of nearly everything else, the man at the helm may sometimes not know where the line is, let alone where its two ends are. For this reason, he must have assistance from a member of the crew who is concentrating solely on time and position.
There are other maneuvers just as fundamental to the match-race start as circling. One of them is illustrated in the diagram above. Up to the point pictured here, the boat on the green path has been in a controlling position behind the other boat. In spite of efforts to slow his speed, however, the boat on the blue path has approached the starting line too early. He plans to leave the committee boat to starboard and jibe around it, expecting the controlling boat to follow. But Green fools him by staying to leeward, leaving the committee boat to port and preventing Blue's jibe Green then jibes for the line himself and crosses as the gun sounds. If both boats are still too early when they pass the committee boat, Green will stay on course to leeward of Blue, keeping him controlled until the right moment for the jibe. Whether Blue decides to jibe astern of Green or, worse, to tack, he will remain in an unfavorable position.
In a situation such as that in the diagram on this page, where both boats are to windward of the line before a windward start, the controlling boat (blue hull) should keep the other on the windward side of the line until he can jibe around the committee boat to cross the line for the start. White hull will then be forced to follow with a jibe of his own and will be in Blue's backdraft as the windward leg commences. In pursuing this maneuver, however, Blue must be very careful not to bear off toward the line himself, permitting the other boat to do likewise and thus, possibly, to dip over the line from the windward side and attain a favorable position at the gun.
While it may be a useful tactic in fleet racing, where crossing the line on the gun is important, the maneuver known as "running time" (i.e., timing your start by running away from and returning to the line, stopwatch in hand, with little regard for the other boats) is not advisable in match racing since it can make you a sitting duck for attack.
In the diagram just above, the boat on the green path was attacked by the other as he was running time. He tried to stave off the attack by returning to the line early, but the attacker, the boat on the blue path, achieved his first objective by getting to a position under Green's lee bow, only to lose the advantage a moment later. Because both boats were early at the line, there was another minute to be absorbed. If Blue—at that point, like Green, on the starboard tack—had luffed his adversary head to wind to slow him down, then had borne off himself, running down the line under controlled speed to maintain the overlap, he would have kept the advantage. He might have done so with a number of alternative maneuvers too numerous to show here. Instead, in his confusion Blue has made the bad mistake of luffing Green to windward of the committee boat, putting himself in an awkward position to reach the line and giving Green opportunity to kill the remaining time with a tack and a jibe. These tactics put Green in position to approach the line right on time and with right-of-way over Blue.
Even though Blue missed his chance when he put himself under Green's lee bow, it took adroit maneuvering on his part to get there. Since Green was running time, he was probably moving at top speed and might well have sailed past his attacker to obtain a mast-line position, as has boat B in Figure 1, where A would not have been permitted to luff. In order to get free, A might jibe, but B could retain his advantage by responding with a broader jibe of his own, thus becoming "tailer" and gaining control.
Figure 2 shows a situation in which the boat in control (A) has sprung a surprise on his opponent (B) by deliberately putting him in the tailing position. This is a trap that can be sprung only if the springer is in a position of freedom from which he can get to either end of the starting line without interference. In most circumstances, if boat A were headed away from the line and let boat B get on his tail, the other boat would control him completely. As it is, however, in spite of the fact that A tacked and headed for the line early, permitting boat B to become the tailer, A has not actually relinquished control, since he is far enough away from the line to control his speed and decide when he wants to reach it. If B tries to ride up on him to windward, A can control him by luffing. If B tries to gain an overlap to leeward, A will still remain in control because of the mast-line rule, which says that a leeward yacht cannot luff a windward yacht if the latter was ahead when the overlap began.
Some skippers, in their efforts to avoid being tailed, have evolved a plan that occasionally works but is, in my opinion, quite risky. Here the skipper delays breaking out his genoa until just before the start. If his opponent's jib is set, he is not in a position to tail because of his increased speed. But, without jibs, the control of both boats is materially reduced and fouls are more likely to occur. Furthermore, I believe that a good skipper should not take the defensive, but should become the forceful aggressor approximately seven minutes (in large boats such as 12s) before the start of a match race.
The best way to avoid being tailed is to keep your boat moving at the greatest speed that the wind will allow. On opposite courses pass as close to your competitor as possible to deny him tacking or jibing room to get on your stern. If you are in control and your opponent plans to jibe around the committee boat or any other boat not under way, prevent him from doing so by going to leeward of the boat he intends to go around, as in Figure 3. You can then retain your control. Some reduction of speed may be necessary, since you can become overlapped after you pass the obstruction boat if you don't slow down. Your defense then would be to tack after he has overlapped the obstruction boat.
The skipper of a controlled boat may luff head to wind very sharply in an effort to kill way and make the controlling boat shoot by or become abeam as the controlled boat loses way. He can then go on one tack only and must not fill away on the other at the risk of disqualification. If the maneuver works out as planned, the controlling position could then be reversed. The same situation could prevail if the "tailee" bears off sharply and is overridden by the tailer. In this case, the tailee should make every effort to be on starboard jibe.