Sunday, July 05, 2020
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Being first at the top mark, how important is it?

DF95Leadgroup Getting more from race videos

The DF95 Invitation on the Gold Coast 30 June 2019 had a large single fleet event sailing this class new in Queensland.   Only one event had been sailed previously so there was no established skills hierarchy.  Ten races were video recorded of the 13 completed.

We decided to explore the relationship between the position at the first mark rounding and success overall on the Regatta.  There is no mystery about the importance of a good start in any form of sailing but we have videos so why not get some numbers on it?  We all see the results, but the video provides an opportunity to get postions mid race.

This is for all the sailing 'nerds', the geeks and addicts who enjoy some numbers served with their sailing.

 How it was done

From the videos, the first six boats to round the first mark were listed for each race, then their finishing positions in each race from the results.  Secondly at Regatta level, the first six placegetters in the Regatta were analysed to see how they performed at the first mark.

First Mark Rounding Vs Average Finish Place

This lists the average finish place for each position at the first mark e.g. if you arrive 3rd, where are you likely to finish in the race?  This was done for each of the first six in each race .

The first to round the first mark finished on average at place 2.2, meaning that less than half the time that boat won.  This is an indicator that the fleet was very competitive, no one dominated from start to finish usually.  Interestingly, round the first mark 6th and average finish place was 5th.  Keep in mind that the Finish places here are an average of ten races, meaning that for the boat rounding the first mark 2nd, half of the time they finished 5th or worse!

Overall Regatta Placing Vs First Mark Rounding

For the first six placegetters in the regatta, their positions at the first mark were analysed.

The winner of the regatta was first at the top mark on only two occasions and in the first group of 6, seven times, this was less than the second and third place getters who each took the gong three times and were in the first group eight times.

So what happened?

If the winner only got to the top mark first on two occasions, what is going on?  Well there is another factor to be considered.  Staying in front.


The winner only rounded to top mark 1st twice, but won both of those races, 100%.  Second won two of the three times he got to the top mark first, 66%.  Third place getter got to the top mark first, three times, but won none of them.  Seems to be a strong relationship. 

Consistancy won the event

Laurie won the event by consistently finishing in the first three places and keeping any lead he developed.  Ten out of thirteen races he finished in 3rd or better, while the other place getters with better results at the top mark, had more varied finishes.

 Note: Thanks to Sylvain Gregoire    for the idea to plot the positions in the graph above, and Ian Lobley for spotting it.

From watching the videos it is clear that Laurie did not stop sailing well, its just that the other sailors appeared to improve over the day.  You can see in the graph that the competition certainly went up a level for the last four races.


  1. To place in the first three overall, two or more wins to the first mark rounding were needed.
  2. To place in the first three overall, they had to be in the first six at the first mark 70% (7 of 10) of the time.
  3. Once in the lead, they had to convert that oportunity into a win.
  4. To win, he had to finish in the top three 70% of the time.

This analysis confirms what sailors already knew of course, that it is where you finish that counts, but you need to be positioned in range to do that.  Also, looking at the top mark averages may be useful in providing a target for sailors between starting and crossing the line.  A race goal, another reason to improve your starting skills, if indeed you need one!

A compilation video of eight of the ten races used for this report has been posted on the QRYA Youtube Channel.  Start, first leg and finish only.

Compilation Video Linked here.  Please subscribe to the QRYA Youtube channel to help others find the resource.


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