Shifting gears on your boat requires knowledge of your boat, the conditions, and plenty of practice. Gear changing is what separates those with adequate boat-speed from those who always seem to be higher and faster.
Many in your fleet start a race with a similar setup using a tuning guide or by following class accepted principles but the faster boats in your fleet are constantly making additional adjustments. and when conditions suddenly change these sailors shift gears smoothly.
Fix Pointing Problems:
Pointing problems are not only indicated by the angle that the boat is sailing relative to the boats around you but more by the fact that the boat is actually sliding to leeward.
Trying to pinch to maintain height is generally the problem and to solve this we must remember to foot, then point. Your boat needs to go fast so the underwater foils develop enough lift to hold their position in the water.
To regain pointing ability, ease the sails out, bear off slightly, and get back up to speed. Once your pointing has been re-established, re-trim your sails.
Fight the urge to heel the boat to aid pointing and keeping the boat as flat as possible will maintain a balanced helm and ensure the efficiency of your foils plus reduce the drag caused by the rudder.
Fix Footing Problems:
The simplest fix is easing the sails and more open leeches on both sails will help the boat sail lower and faster.
If this results in a pointing problem the first thing you must do is check your helm balance.
First, try to sail the boat flatter, if that doesn’t help, try flattening the main by bending the mast.
Next ease the traveller to balance the helm and lastly tighten the outhaul and apply Cunningham to the mainsail and tighten the jib halyard to move the draft forward in both sails which will open the leeches and remove drag.
Shifting Gears in a Lull:
Puffs feel like lifts and lulls usually appear as headers.
In a lull, it’s important to bear off as smoothly as possible making sure that the boat remains flat and resist the temptation to add heel to maintain “feel” in the helm.
To maintain speed in a lull, ease the main and allow the boat to heel to weather creating lee helm to steer the boat down then ease the jib, level the boat and pull the traveller up if the boom is below the centerline.
If it is a long lull, straighten the mast and ease the main Cunningham and jib halyard.