– boom Vang tension upwind. A number of folks are sailing with loose Vang tension upwind. Even when it is relatively light air I suggest you keep at least a snug Vang. In really light air I actually put on a good bit of Vang to induce bend in the mast to flatten the sail. As the wind builds from around 4-6 knots I I will loosen it a bit but the Vang will never have slack in it. As the winds builds beyond that I will continually add more Vang to flatten the sail.
– traveler block A number of folks were sailing upwind with their traveler block too far inboard. Often that is a sign that your traveler line is too loose. If I see my traveler block is not all the way outboard I will ease my sail a few inches to encourage it to get further out before trimming it right back in.
– boom angle downwind. Sailing by the Lee is really fast in a laser, but a lot of people sail with their boom too far out. Remember that your leech falls off far beyond your boom angle, so if your boom is eased beyond 90 degrees, let’s say it’s hypothetically 110 degrees, your leach is probably somewhere around 125 degrees. In light air having the boom beyond 90 is okay, but not way beyond (unless you are purposely trying to move across the wind for a tactical situation). As the wind builds, you want to bring the main back in to 90 degrees and when it is windy, in a lot more than that. Did you flip (or almost flip) recently when a gust came down the course from behind? That could be a clue that you are sailing with the main too far out. It is hard to tell when your main is at 90 degrees, but what I find helpful is a mark or piece of tape on my mainsheet that tells me when the boom is at 90. I use that as a reference to adjust from. The other critical adjustment downwind is Vang tension. A good way to tell if you have your Vang tension right downwind is to watch the leach of your sail. You want a lively leach, meaning it should bounce a bit when you hit waves or when you get puffs. If it is too rigid you have to much vang. If it is falling off to leeward and never bouncing back, you have it too loose.
– turning the boat around the weather mark. Getting quickly away from the weather mark is a big help when you are next to other boats. Many people lean in as they come to the mark to ease their Vang, outhaul, and Cunningham. The trouble is that leaning in causes the boat to heal to leeward, which makes the boat want to head up not down. To compensate, most people will use their rudder to steer the boat down, which creates huge amounts of drag (slow). A better approach is to ease your control lines before getting to the mark (Vang is most important). As you get to the mark hike out and lean back, which will shift the center of lateral resistance and cause your boat to turn sharply downwind. Due this as you ease your sheet and you will escape quickly from the mark.
It was a beautiful is exasperating day on the water on Sunday. Wind from literally every direction. Long spans with little to no wind followed by brief interludes of decent breeze. But, it was warmish and sunny and a nice day to be on the water. Other than having replaced my toe rails and downhaul line (it had been the same color as my boom vang, which wasn’t so smart) the week before, I have no idea what I did differently this week that landed me in third place. In any event, I tried to concentrate on the things that have consistently plagued me this season, which was particularly important given the tight line and relatively short upwind leg. First, I focused on getting a decent start without trying to be first (the week before I was over early 3 or 4 times). Second, I concentrated on making fewer unforced errors, such as hitting marks, tacking before looking around carefully, and tacking with the vang so tight it’s nearly impossible to get underneath the boom smoothly. On that last point, I did do a much better job loosening control lines at mark roundings and while tacking, netting a few boat lengths here and there. Third, I imitated those who were always in front of me, figuring they were in front for a reason, other than the one race where we basically drifted aimlessly around the course. Finally, I made a cheat sheet based on tips Keith Davids sent around last year, which I try to follow somewhat religiously, particularly using the vang more aggressively. Copying his tips below for those who don’t have them.