The First Beat
This leg of the Team Race involves the least amount of Team Racing strategy. Instead, the teammates must concentrate on boat speed and play wind shifts. A good Team Racing strategy for the first beat would be to win both sides of the course and then corral the opponents back to the middle, minimizing their potential to get ahead from a wind shift. The best strategy involves each teammate going as fast as they can, trying to get to the mark first. Obviously, every teammate cannot be first, but if all three can come in first, second, and third, passing the windward mark, the opposing team will have a difficult time trying to break through. If all three teammates concentrate on getting off the line well and going their fastest to the windward mark, they will be able to have more leverage by the time they get there. A teammate who gets to the windward mark first is in a much better position to help her teammates than if she had got to the mark in last place. There are clearly more options and more security with a winning combination early in the race. For this reason, it is best to devote most of the first beat to going fast and the right way so as to have the best positions at the first mark.
At an Old Dominion University National Team Race Invitational Regatta, I remember two Navy boats getting pinned at the windward mark by the first place ODU boat. Boy, was that embarrassing! As you approach the windward mark, watch out for an opponent ahead setting up for a mark trap. If the opponent ahead sets up for a mark trap look to see who is behind you and consider Defense against the Mark Trap.
The concept of trying to get to the windward mark first is important. But there are little things that can be done to consolidate your gains made by being faster on the first leg. About two thirds of the way up the beat you should look around and see what combination your team holds. As you get closer to the mark, with a crossing situation approaching, it would be prudent to tack on an opponent and pin her beyond layline so that a teammate could get inside. Equally effective, if you see that you are first to the windward mark with an opponent behind, and a teammate in third, it would be tactically sound to wait at the two length zone and luff the opponent in second, letting the teammate squirt ahead of both of you. In figure 14, Dave sets up the 1/3 passback to bring up his teammate, Chris.