The Mark Trap Passback
As opportune situation arise on the race course, the initiative should always be taken to convert a 1/3 to a 1/2. This can be accomplished with a mark trap passback when passing the mark. Alex executes this in figure 11 situation II. The mark trap passback is simple in theory but sometimes difficult to execute. In theory, first approaches the mark and stops at the two length zone. By entering the zone before second, first is not obligated to give any room to the opponent in second. Because second has no rights to go inside first during this reach mark passing, she will probably choose to go high over the top of first. First must then meet the challenge by going high from leeward, not letting second break the overlap, and force first back down to pass the mark. Meanwhile, while first and second are dog fighting away from the mark, third scoots in and passes the mark ahead of both second and first. The 1/3 conversion to 1/2 passback is complete. The old third place passes the mark ahead of the old first, both ahead of the opponent, the old second place.
The execution of this tactic is important. First place of the 1/3 must set up just inside the two length zone, but not be too low from the mark so that if second were to try to go above and over first, first would still be able to go upwind and luff second to windward. On the other hand, first should make sure that she is not set up too high that she will have to jibe to close the door and pass the mark, with the objective of not letting second go ahead and inside.
Defense Against The Mark Trap Passback
The next questions should concern the defense for second place in the middle of a 1/3 mark trap passback.
What is the opponent going to do to me?
What am I going to do to the opponent?
The answer is for second to do to third what first is trying to do to second. Essentially, if first waits for second, second waits for third. Effectively accomplished, the passback is nullified. This is illustrated in figure 12. Conveniently, second has slowed two opponents, while second’s other two teammates are going fast somewhere with only one opponent. The execution of halting the passback is more easily accomplished by second slowing and creating an overlap to leeward of third. In this manner, second assures pinning third into a luff and holding her there until first realizes her frustrated efforts and passes the mark. The smart Team Racer in second should recognize that the mark trap passback will be attempted and immediately set up to stall the opponent behind her. Successful denial of the mark trap passback slows two opponents and forces first to pass the mark, giving hope for success on the next reach or final beat. This creates the potential for second to make a similar passback on her opponent behind with the teammate behind her!
Setting up and accomplishing the mark trap passback is critical to successful Team Racing strategy. It is important to understand the positioning of teammates and opponents as it develops prior to passing the mark. The strategy can become dangerous when teammates second and third get trapped, by opponent first, allowing the teammates of first to pass them both. In this situation, second needs to anticipate the potential for first to stop and wait at the two length zone. Next, she should look behind her and determine whether an opponent or teammate is behind her. As described in the previous paragraph, she should do unto the opponent behind what the opponent ahead attempts to do. If a teammate is behind, she should know to execute a 'Hi Lo Move’. In this particular case, she should go high on the opponent ahead. If the opponent ahead chooses to challenge second and go away from the mark, the door is opened for the teammate behind in third to round ahead of both of them, effecting a conversion from 2/3 to 1/3, which then of course should be converted to a 1/2 passing the mark. This is illustrated in figure 13. At worst, the ‘Hi Lo Move’ will force the opponent ahead to pass the mark for fear of being passed by either second to windward or third to leeward. What is extremely important is that the two team mates know to execute the ‘Hi Lo Move'. Otherwise, they could get fooled into being trapped together to weather of the opponent in first.
Whether it be a ‘Hi Lo Move’ or pinning an opponent to windward at either the mark or anywhere on the leg, the team that initiates first has the advantage. Take for instance a 1/3 combination opposed by a 2/4 combination on the first reach just after passing the weather mark. The one who initiates, either first or second, will have the advantage in achieving the desired combination. First should slow and let second overlap her so that first may luff her head to wind and bring up her teammate in third. For the 2/4 combination, second should slow and let third overlap her so that second may luff her head to wind and bring up her teammate in fourth. The team that initiates the passback first, has the advantage in placing their team in a stronger combination.