Here's a video that shoes the boats getting ready for the start.
There's an imaginary line between the Committee Boat and an inflatable marker that is set some distance away.
You have to maneuver your boat to the starting line, don't hit any other boats, and don't cross the line until the signal sounds. If you cross before the signal, you suffer a penalty and have to make a 360 degree turn before you're allowed to restart. Now, you can imagine it's all about timing. Boats don't start and stop on a dime.
Once you're underway, then it's all about strategy. When do you turn (tack upwind, jibe downwind), which line do you follow, etc. You're racing toward several markers that make up the course. Usually you have an upwind leg and a downwind leg.
If you watched sailboat races, everyone gets excited when the big spinnakers go up. Those are the full fluffy sails you see on the front of the boats. That's when you're going downwind.
The most exciting times for us as crew are the starts and the turns. The rest of the time we are hanging out on the side of the boat to provide counterweight to the pull of the sails. Except for me, I work the mainsail. So I sit in the boat and make small adjustments as wind conditions change.
We haven't won a race, yet, but it has been fun spending those hours on the water, concentrating on nothing but feeling the wind in your hair, the sun in your face, and the pleasure that comes from controlling the wind.
- Come, hoist the sail, the fast let go!
They're seated all aboard.
Wave chases wave in easy flow:
The bay is fair and broad.
The ripples lightly tap the boat.
Loose!-Give her to the wind!
She flies ahead:-They're all afloat:
The strand is far behind.
- No danger reach so fair a crew!
Thou goddess of the foam,
I'll pay thee ever worship due,
If thou wilt bring them home.
O, might I like those breezes be,
And touch that arching brow,
I'd toil for ever on the sea
Where ye are floating now.
The boat goes tilting on the waves;
The waves go tilting by;
There dips the duck;-her back she laves;
O'er head the sea-gulls fly.
The sun-light falling on her sheet,
It glitters like the drift,
Sparkling, in scorn of summer's heat,
High up some mountain rift.
The winds are fresh-she's driving fast.
Upon the bending tide,
The crinkling sail, and crinkling mast,
Go with her side by side.
The parting sun sends out a glow
Across the placid bay,
Touching with glory all the show.- -
A breeze!-Up helm!-Away!