When to tack

Thread starter #1
I was sailing today and would like to know if it is better to tack in medium to light winds during the lull or wait for a puff?

I was sailing to a windward mark mark today in light air and was getting some medium air puffs which was causing me to *bear off* to gain boat speed but I do not know if I should take advantage of the lull to tack or wait for another puff. Which will get me to the windward mark faster?
 
#2
Assuming your tacking efficiency is equal for both conditions, I'm going to say it doesn't matter.

Just don't sail on knocks.
 

Merrily

Administrator
#3
I was taught that if I was ready to tack because of a knock, wait for the puff (if it's not too long, say 10 seconds) to keep up your speed. On the other hand, if there is a serious lull that would just about stop you, you can use your momentum to head up.
 
#4
A lengthy subject, is there ever a right answer? This is the beauty of sailboat racing, trying to get the best out of an infinitly variable race track. Read the books is my answer. One of my favourites for intermediate sailors is Winning in One Designs by Dave Perry.
I'll try and give some advise.
What is a gust - its faster moving air coming down from above. Why is it faster -because of less friction higher up. Why is it coming down - turbulance or topographic reasons. Get to know your local sailing area, there will be a relationship between different wind directions and the micro structure of the wind, some directions will be more gusty. If you are keen keep a record. Evening/funnel/sea breeze winds tend to be less gusty. Look at conditions before launching, try and assess what the wind will be doing. Does it vary on diff parts of the course.

Sail the beat and analyse the gusts. Do they all lift on one tack and head on the other. If this is the case position yourself to get the most of the gust on the lifting tack. If its a patchy wind it may pay to sail through a header to get to an area of more consistant breeze.
Thats enough for now.
 

gouvernail

Super Opinionated and Always Correct
#5
I was sailing today and would like to know if it is better to tack in medium to light winds during the lull or wait for a puff?

I was sailing to a windward mark mark today in light air and was getting some medium air puffs which was causing me to *bear off* to gain boat speed but I do not know if I should take advantage of the lull to tack or wait for another puff. Which will get me to the windward mark faster?
This is like asking is it further to Cleveland or by bus?

Tacking has to do with choosing the best path to get there. Puffs have to do with velocity.

The very best possible answer would be:
Sail over to the puff and complete your tack on its face just before it arrives so you can make the very best use of the increased velocity while maximizing the effect of the spreading lift.

This answer assumes you can tell in advance whether the new wind is more from the right hand or left hand side of the course.

Generally, with small occillations and puffy winds, the entire perimeter of the leading section of a small spreading puff is a lift.

If you are playing the game perfectly, and all the puffs are coming from one side , you sail the tack that is about to get worse toward the puff and tack just in front of the puff so you maximize the benefit of the puff. Then as the puff dies you tack and sail the "lull" wind toward the next puff and if everything is just perfect, you arrive at the weather mark never having to sail in any headers.

You need to be patient and sail as though you are the only boat trying to get to the place you are going. Your best path is always your best path and since you are not where "that guy with the great lift" is right now, you can't do what he is doing. Work on figuring out your own best path but also remember, if 40 boats are on one tack, forty skippers think they are doing the right thing. Unless you have a very good reason to believe they are wrong or experiencing different conditions, remember the other forty aren't all nitwits.

In practice the real trick is to get a great start and then sail such that your boat is always pointed at a better angle with respect to the mark than those to leeward and behind.
 
Thread starter #6
Hey guys thanks for the replies. My biggest problem is a lack of a *sparring partner* and I don't know how I am doing. There are a few Lasers here on my back water but I have not had the chance to bout with 'em.

Most of the time when sailing on an inland lake the puffs are created by thermal activity and I have almost sailed my Laser in a loop (complete circle, close hauled and on same tack).
 
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