As a rule of thumb Downwind, Always be searching for the best pressure.
When sailing on a run, the key to success is locating better wind velocity, getting your boat into that pressure, and then staying in it as long as possible.
Better pressure allows you to sail lower and faster than your fellow competitors meaning you will gain on those in front or move away from those behind.
Keep Your Head Out Of The Boat
Keep your head out of the boat because you want to find puffs early while you still have a reasonable chance of getting to them.
Wind velocity is an important strategic factor because it allows you to sail lower and faster.
The wind you get comes to you from the direction of your apparent wind and that’s where you should search for puffs. Look straight into the wind you feel on your face or in the direction where your telltales or masthead wind pennant indicate the apparent wind, this is where you will see the puffs and lulls that are coming.
Changes in pressure are not always visible on the water so you need to use other indicators such as other boats on your course. Become a detective, often boats around you are going faster and higher because of an increase in pressure and this often appears as a wind shift.
It is often not wise to chase after wind shifts because you may have to sail in the wrong direction to get there but it is sensible to chase after puffs. If you are not in a puff, generally you are in a lull and when sailing downwind don’t be scared to gybe to get to more pressure.
Conversely, if the increase in velocity is to windward, head up more to get there sooner, once there, the extra boat speed will allow you to sail lower and stay in the puff longer.
If there is a choice to sail for more pressure or a better shift it generally pays to sail for the puff and this is especially relevant if the wind is light to moderate.
Downwind, Always be searching for the best pressure
Downwind you can stay in the puffs longer as they are moving with you. Milk them for all they are worth and consider gybing back when you reach the edge unless there are tactical reasons not to.
Try to connect the dots sailing from puff to puff.
Weight movement fore and aft will also promote planing to make the boat go as fast as possible with the extra velocity of the wind.
One last note, make sure you shift gears to adjust for the changes in wind strength using changes to mainsheet tension, pole angle on a symmetrical chute or a change of heading with a Symmetrical.
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