The challenge of racing one-design yachts is to maximize the performance of the yacht within the scope allowed by the relevant regulations. Such tuning of the yacht, for a well-policed rule, should only make possible small gains. The main area of possible performance gain is in how best an individual sailor or crew can fine tune their racing strategy. The ability to model such strategic decisions requires an understanding of both the physical behaviour of the yacht and how an individual sailor makes such decisions.
The present study seeks to predict the performances of a yacht-crew system as a whole by deriving numerical models for human behaviour alongside those referring to the physics of yacht motion. The former aspect, a transposition of athletes' psychology within the racing scene, is investigated by means of questionnaires submitted to skilled athletes and structured interviews with sailing coaches. The latter issue, the mechanical side of the problem, is analysed by solving yacht equations of motions in the time domain; crew inputs in terms of yacht steering and sail trim are considered. The paper presents results from simulations in which the yacht-crew system can sail a racecourse in an arbitrary wind pattern, according to strategic and tactical rules derived by common practice and following the decision making schemata obtained above.