Traveller Tips #13 Approaching the Windward Mark (on flat water)
No matter how close you are though you inevitably include an extra bit of ‘comfort zone’ in your decision (ie, sailing beyond the precise layline) in case the wind direction changes or you’ve misjudged the angles.
My opinion is that in club-level sailing we tend to make this ‘comfort zone’ far too big, and it’s quite common to see boats going two or three full boatlengths further than they need to before tacking for the mark.
It’s easy to understand why though – when you’re thinking “Crikey, those boats aren’t far behind – I must make sure we get around this mark safely!” an extra couple of boatlengths before tacking may seem a sensible precaution – but, looking at it another way, you’re offering those boats behind an easy way of getting 40 feet closer to you and possibly even overtaking.
Of course those boats behind might simply copy what you did anyway, because another tendency in club-level sailing is for all of us to base our decisions on what we saw the boat ahead do – but if you can force yourself to make your own decisions instead – and then force yourself to not include that comfort zone – you will find yourself frequently taking big chunks of distance out of other boats.
It can go wrong of course – without that comfort zone there will quite often be times when you find yourself approaching the mark from slightly below the layline and unable to get around without doing two more short and very messy tacks.
How you can avoid those extra messy tacks will be the next tip in the series!
Helm, Jeremy Arnold, FF3936