In sailing regattas, the strategy and tactics play a decisive role in addition to the given course. In the races, the boats sail like on invisible lines, which represent the optimal course in relation to the wind. The direction of the line on which the boats are moving, changes with the direction of the wind. In order to have the advantage over the opponents and to control them, it is important to keep an eye on the tactics and strategy of the opponents and to react within seconds to their maneuvers as well as to changing wind directions. The sailor must be able to predict how the wind and the other boats will behave in order to take advantage out of it.
By the wave movements or water surface, the movements of the other boats, by flags and cloud formations, the sailor can recognize and assess the wind direction and wind force. Depending on the wind direction, it may be useful to approach or move away from the other boats – this decision can lead to own profits or losses. Only when strong winds are expected, it is for example useful to move away from the other boats. In addition, the boats are never sailed directly against the wind as then the boat will slow down. Rather, the boats should follow a serpentine course to be able to sail faster.
In order to increase the boat speed, it is also necessary to perfect the maneuvers (such as start, turning on course, acceleration, gybing, tilting up after capsizing, circumnavigation of rail marks). Furthermore, it helps to optimize the aerodynamics and hydrodynamics of the boat (for example by using perfect boat material, a refined steering technology or an optimal sail trim).
But as in every sport, not only the tactics are decisive. Rules must also be followed in order to not get point deductions or not have to leave the race. Some of the most important rules are the following:
- Larboard bow before starboard bow: If only one boat gets the wind from the right, the other boat must keep clear
- Leeward before Windward: The boat, which is closer to the wind, must keep clear
- Boat on inner position has right of way
That these and other rules are respected, is controlled by referees on the water and a jury on land.