Tom: Besides using minimal steering, what are your other boat handling techniques for the weather mark turn?
Greg: As we come abreast of the mark I like to ease the main sheet about 2 feet and have the board immediately hoisted to the half-way point. This will greatly reduce weather helm and aid the boat in bearing off.
We work hard to keep the boat flat or even slightly heeled to weather at the beginning of the turn. Allowing the boat to heel (to leeward) makes it a lot harder to get the boat to bear off. You probably noticed this the last time you were on port in a big breeze trying to duck a starboard boat. Anyway, the main goes out to assist in keeping the boat flat or slightly tipped to weather. In a good breeze the main may be eased to the point of a lot of luffing in order to create the slight roll to weather and allow the boat to bear away with very little rudder action.
Although I ease the main, we do not ease the jib much if at all. We want it to help pull the bow down to leeward.
Tom: The experts always say not to go all the way to a lay line “early.” How does that affect making a fast rounding?
Greg: Approaching the weather mark we want to avoid getting to the starboard lay line too soon. If we get to the starboard lay line too soon we risk having to sail in bad air, the slow lane. Or, we risk not being able to benefit from a further lift on starboard.
Instead, we should approach the mark on port tack, three-four boat lengths away form the mark. That allows us to play the shifts right up to the last few lengths from the mark. We would like to have made that port approach without anyone on port just ahead disturbing our air. It’s a no-brainer. Clear air is faster: the air is more likely to be clear on port near the mark than on the starboard lay line.