Picture this: your team is sailing upwind in four knots of wind and progress is slow and hard to come by. Now it is time to tack shy of the layline and make the trek across the course toward the mark in the dying westerly wind. Going into the tack your team moves smoothly to the high side and rolls the boat, the headsail is slightly back-winded to help the bow turn. The boat smoothly turns through the wind and the sail fills on the new side. Both sails remained eased out as the boat goes into speed build first gear mode and then the boat is smoothly flattened as the sails are trimmed in once the boat is fully accelerated. All goes well and the team almost breathes a collective sigh of relief as the boat gets going toward the mark.
Multi-class events and big fleet venues are increasingly opting to utilize offset marks as a means of reducing congestion (and protests!) at the weather mark. With that in mind, take every opportunity to practice rounding a mark, sail a reach for a short distance, and then bear away and set the spinnaker.
Even if you don’t anticipate sailing with an offset mark this season, much of the information below will help your crew be smoother at the windward mark rounding.
Very often, back on shore after a day’s racing, you'll hear some familiar post-race stories told by competitors. “We ended up barging at the start and got shut out.” Or “We were doing really well and then over stood the weather mark and let four boats in.” Or perhaps “We ended up over standing the leeward mark and gave up three boats on the inside when that shift came in.” Any of those sound familiar? It’s happened to all of us and it costs places in races and regattas and all of them relate to laylines.
Picture yourself on port tack, going fast, with a wall of starboard tackers coming at you. You can barely see them, but you know their bows are charging at you! Your team communicates well and is all on the same page, you cross the first three starboard tackers and then do a smooth duck on the last one before tacking on to the lay line for the weather mark. The whole situation seems almost routine. Why? One big reason is that the team was communicating well as each crew member was apprised of the situation and his or her subsequent role in it.