Trying to luff someone going faster than you almost always ends badly because the faster boat’s momentum will take them around you and there is little that can be done to stop that.
Momentum is also essential in the last 10 seconds before the gun goes, you need to have momentum on your side and be a little faster than the boats around you. That little extra momentum generally continues for the first minute or two of the race and you only need to be a tenth of a knot quicker for you to succeed.
When you’re sailing upwind, and you cover another boat or want to make them go the other way, tack just on their line, not directly upwind of them.
If you tack directly upwind of another boat, they get to coast through their tack with very little wind on their sails because you have taken their wind. This loss of boat-slowing friction will ensure they will come out of their tack faster than you did which is a gain for them.
If you tack on their line, they don’t get that free gain and they are still going to tack away anyhow and if they don’t tack, they will soon be going slower.
We spend a lot of time and energy working on upwind speed where the gains are tiny compared to downwind. You need to concentrate on using every possible gain from puffs, waves and crew weight positioning from the second you round the top mark until you get to the bottom.
Most of us work hard to gain two boat lengths upwind whereas downwind, there are five times that gain available to you. Many of us use the downwind legs to relax a little, but in fact because of the gains that can be made, perhaps that little breather should take place when you are going upwind.
In most cases, the goal of rounding the leeward mark is not to have to tack right away but you don’t want to get into the bad wind of the other boats that have already rounded the mark.
Another thing to be mindful of is that you don’t want to have your bow right on the stern of the boat ahead of you. Half a boat length gap works better.
A smooth turn at the mark with the main trimmed in just ahead of the jib but matching the rate of turn will assist in helping you turn and lessen the drag caused by rampant use of the rudder.
When you reach the leeward mark, blindly pulling the sails in and turning tightly on the mark won’t give you much chance of having a fast, high exit.