Competing sailors must practice tacking and how to get it right
Unfortunately, all of us have fluffed a tack and sometimes with disastrous results. We may have let a competitor off the hook, got the boat in irons or caused ourselves a myriad of poor outcomes.
The goal of a good tack is to maximise our gain to windward. This is not the same as completing the tack as quickly as possible. (although this may be necessary sometimes) Not coming out of the tack as fast as possible.
You need to control the speed of your tack to ensure that you end up where you want to. Whether it is to be on the layline or on or off another boat.
The way you execute this is by speeding up or slowing down the turn.
When you are simply tacking to make it around the course, you should aim for a good tack. You should calmly set up and not rush it. Always be considering the boats around you and where each will be when you have completed your turn.
If your aim is to get across to the other side of the course, you would tack and foot off a little initially. The aim is to get to the favoured side as quickly as possible.
It is extremely rare that a crash tack pays. This is because of the time it takes to build speed again on the new course plus the distance you lose to windward.
When tacking on a knock towards the lifting tack, ideally you tack straight away rather than bearing away with the knock. In this case, the tack may be quicker than usual as you will tack through fewer degrees.
As with all things to do with sailboat racing you must constantly have your head out of the boat. This ensures you are prepared in advance to play the shifts and pressure changes.
Tacking to loose cover
As an example, you may want to stay with a particular boat or boats and head to the favoured side of the course. By tacking but not giving the boat or boats heading your way dirty air they are likely to keep going.
Tacking for Tight Cover
A tight cover is used when you need to beat a particular boat or even need to sail that boat down the fleet. Position yourself where you are giving the boat dirty air.
Watch them closely and tack when they tack but be wary of dummy tacks and be prepared to act accordingly so that you maintain the cover.
A tight cover is a way of shepherding a boat to go the way you want them to as they will continually tack to get clear air.
As an example, if you want the fleet to go right, you can tight cover on Starboard and loose cover on Port.
To tack in precisely the right place, you may need to speed up or slow your tack down.
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