The Leeward-Mark Tack

A rounding tack at the leeward mark can put you in control. The key is to anticipate the need and tack first. "From the Experts" in our October 2010 issue

Sailing World
FTE: The Leeward-Mark Tack
See the gallery for the sequence of moves and Tom's instructions.Stuart Streuli

There will be times when you’ll want to tack immediately after rounding the leeward mark. This is especially true if the racecourse is one-sided and getting to the favored side requires a tack, or if you’re trying to break free from a competitor’s cover.

In the January/February ’08 issue, Dave Powlison and Andy Horton talked about the advantages of the apex-style leeward-mark rounding. The leeward-mark tack, shares a lot of the same traits as the apex rounding. Often, when two boats round a leeward mark one after the other, they both perform a tactical, wide-then-tight style mark rounding. Each team tries to gain height to windward, to pinch off the trailing boat, or for the boat behind, to set up on the hip of the leading boat.

Invariably, the trailing boat is forced to tack within a few lengths. If you anticipate a need to tack around the mark, planning for it can produce an immediate gain.
As Powlison and Horton explained in their article, executing a good apex rounding requires a smooth turn, with the boat passing as close to the mark as possible at the apex of the turn. This can result in a one-length gain over a boat that does a wide-and-tight rounding. The tendency for the leading boat in a one-on-one situation is to go wide and tight, so more often than not, the apex-turn leeward-mark tack is a highly effective move for the trailing boat.

In this gallery, we'll review a sequence from the 2009 Congressional Cup. Staffan Lindberg leads Philippe Presti around the mark. In Long Beach, Calif., the right side of the course is usually favored, but Lindberg waits to see what Presti will do before tacking. Presti clearly wants the right, and he executes a smooth rounding tack, which immediately puts him in a position to be able to make something happen on the windward leg.