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Drills for Skills- Rabbit Starts

Published Thu 14 Mar 2024

Drill/ Game: Rabbit Starts

This is a gate start without the fuss. The Rabbit or ‘Pathfinder’ sets off at a preset time (either using repeated whistles when they start their run or after a timed sequence. This effectively opens the gate allowing the boats to start by ducking his or her stern. When all boats have crossed the line the ‘Rabbit’ can tack on top of the fleet closing the gate.

Course/ Skill level:

Green fleet / intermediate fleet

Min and Max Number of Participants:


Session training outcomes/ Aims:

To take the emphasis away from the start by giving all boats a potentially clear lane.

To keep the fleet together when starting exercises

Help improve judging closing speeds and approach Lay lines.


  • Identify the Rabbit and get them (the Rabbit) to sail on port
  • All boats must duck the Rabbit on Starboard tack and then harden up onto a close-hauled course. The rabbit can tack back onto starboard when all boats have started, effectively ‘closing the gate.’
  • When one boat is clear ahead the fleet should stop and reposition for the next start.

Equipment Requirements:

Ideally a Start Mark although its not essential.

Risk-management considerations:

When running this exercise for the first time use the rib as a guard boat to protect the rabbit from frisky starters.

What is your back-up plan in case any of the above activities fail?

Lay a Start line of a length relative to the ability and size of group.

The options here are what to do with the fleet after the start. You can use the exercise as a means of starting a race or tuning run or simply recall the fleet when one boat has sailed over or crossed all the other boats.

Key Messages:

What are the 3 key messages you want the audience to gain from the session?

1 and 2

Time and distance. Judge the speed of the rabbit and decide when and where to accelerate from so you can cross behind on a close-hauled course at max speed.

3 Positioning and deciding whether you want to exit the gate early or late.

Coaching Points:

Green Fleet - Focus on boats that had a poor exit from the rabbit and decide if that was due to speed, poor judgement or being boxed by another boat prior to ducking the rabbit.

Intermediate fleet: Tactically its about positioning and deciding whether you want to exit the gate early or late. Ask the sailors what the benefits would be and why?