Light air and strong current are tricky conditions and as the results of last Sunday’s race show, trickier for some boats then others. Besides reading the current and the wind, light and varying conditions call for almost continuous shifting gears to maintain good boat speed. Here’s Greg Fisher’s take in Sailing World on Shifting Into Your Point Gear.
The ability to point is an important part of any boatspeed toolkit. In many cases, having the ability to point is just as important as having great speed through the water. There are many instances when being able to outpoint the boats around you is incredibly helpful, especially in executing your tactical game plan: We all appreciate how critical it is to be able to clear out the boat to windward at the start in order to have the opportunity to tack, or to hold a lane as long as possible when a boat has tacked close to leeward.
Most sailors recognize that sailing in point mode, or point “gear,” puts the boat in a fragile, somewhat demanding trim and tune. If the boat is sailed too high or too long in point gear, it can easily stall, and you’ll slip sideways. When conditions make it challenging to steer and maintain speed (for example, when it’s choppy, wavy, or very light or very windy), your ability to maintain a point mode is significantly shorter than it would be when sailing in flat water or medium winds. Sometimes, you may only maintain point mode for a matter of seconds, sometimes it may be as long as a minute.