Windsurf|Issue 396 - August 2020

Having given you time to practice, Harty concludes his tacking series by critiquing various tacking options, including the carve tack, as well as offering solutions to common slip-ups.
Peter Hart

Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted? Part one of this journey was published the very day we entered our homely prisons. It wasn’t planned, but tacking turned out to be the perfect lockdown topic. With a board on the sand/lawn/veggie patch and just a puff of wind, you can realistically drill the sequence, and in a way that’s elusive and even delusional with the speedy carving moves.

The underlying message of the first instalment was ‘just get on with it will you …!’ or words to that effect. To hesitate is to plop. If you’re entering the tack still unsure where, when, how and in which order you move feet and rig, you will inevitably pause and pay the penalty. Getting the method wired on dry land frees up your mind and allows you to perform instinctively, skilfully and, most importantly, more quickly.

From the contents of my electronic mailbag, it seems that many took up the dry land practice challenge and were delighted at how gracefully they flowed from one side to the other … in the garden. And then, as lockdown eased and you took this skill to the water, you were happy to notice improvement – but also miffed at how former malpractices still infected your game.

In this concluding episode I will address those woes. Others have been confused by the variety of tacking advice out there. “….you said to do ‘x’ … but I’ve been told to do ‘y.’ So tackling the ‘more than one way to cook a goose’ issue is where we shall start.

Beware of templates

Fixed templates are a dangerous phenomena in all sports. There is no accepted ‘right tacking method’ (but there are definitely some wrong ones.) If you’re scoring a 90% success rate on your chosen board, then don’t be lured into changing just to conform to someone else’s vision of perfection. But if the success rate drops off a cliff as you move to your smaller board or into choppy seas, that is the time to experiment.

The basic aims of maintaining distance from the rig, throwing it out of the way before you step and keeping feet away from the edges, are the same – but there are various ways of getting there. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Boom to mast or boom to boom?

As you approach the tack, should you drop your front hand onto the mast or leave it on the boom and just slide it forward towards the mast? Both work and both methods are used by various pros on various sizes of boards.


Advantages - there are two main advantages to dropping the front hand onto the mast (approx. 30 cm below the boom) before you tack:

It encourages you to get low;

It allows you put more distance between yourself and the rig and keep it out of the way.

And the disadvantages? - moving the front hand from the boom to mast can be a bit precarious (but actually not if you slide the backhand forward on the boom first to depower the sail.)


Advantages - the advantages of leaving the front hand on the boom and just sliding it forward towards the mast are: - It’s a quicker, more convenient movement; - Small hands, thick SDM masts, cambered sails with wide luff tubes or a combination of the above, make the mast bulky and tricky to grasp. The boom offers a more powerful grip. Hence it’s the method used by most racers.

And the disadvantages? - crossing the backhand over the front hand to reach the front of the new side of the boom makes you stand tall – notably if you’re using a high boom (shoulder level or above). It also reduces the space between body and mast – which is one of the main reasons for screwing up the tack on low volume boards.

Just for the record, given that the number one problem is crowding the rig, I advocate the first method (front hand drops to mast) for most situations.

Moving the rig out of the way – but how?

The most important element is moving the rig out of the way so you have space to step into.

You can use the front hand, the one you dropped onto the mast.

You can use the new front hand – the one that has crossed over to the new side of the boom.

I’ve even seen people grab both sides of the front of the boom and use two hands, usually small people tacking big sails. It’s not conventional but … it really doesn’t matter so long as you sweep the rig across the centre line before stepping round.


Tacking before, into or through the wind?


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Issue 396 - August 2020