Leeward Mark Squeeze
Clean, aggressive sailing during a crowded leeward mark rounding is a great way to make a pass. In this month’s sequence we see how, when you’re in the middle of two competitors, you can pass, defend, and come out on top. To get to where we are in Photo 1, Full Throttle (USA 600, bow No. 28) had kept a hot angle as they approached the leeward-mark gate on starboard. The left gate-looking upwind-is favored. They were clear astern of No. 25 (USA 551), but by sailing high, they came in fast and held No. 25 beyond the port-jibe layline. Once satisfied with its jibe angle to the mark, No. 28 jibes and breaks any overlap with No. 25. (The best angle for No. 28 is one that is tight enough to carry the spinnaker, but too tight for No. 25.)
PHOTO 1 Once beyond layline, a spinnaker boondoggle takes shape with a poorly executed jibe. Now, without any overlap, No. 25 will have to keep clear. No. 28 is on starboard, and in charge of the situation, but what to do about bow No. 09 (blue spinnaker), coming in fast. The tactician on No. 28 has the foresight to slow the pace (notice the jib unfurling and setting up for an early leeward drop, and No. 9 overlaps No. 28 to leeward.
PHOTO 2 At this point No. 09, having established the leeward overlap, is obligated to jibe under RRS 17.1. They do so, and No. 28 follows. No. 25, still tangling with its spinnaker is left behind.
PHOTO 3 No. 28, now has a solid inside position, a clean exit to the mark, and forces both of its competitors into tough roundings. What made this work? Good awareness on No. 28’s part. This wouldn’t have worked unless the boathandling was sharp, as shown by No. 25. No. 28 also showed a solid understanding of the racing rules; early in the chain of events, they knew 25 was in trouble and did not sail into a leeward overlap. By not establishing an overlap, they kept avoided Rule 17.1. No. 09 should have done exactly what bow No. 28 did: slow down, avoid the overlap, and pick the best jibe angle to break the overlap on the way back to the mark.
Racing editor Terry Hutchinson has won world championships in the J/24 and the Farr 40 and was a two-time college sailor of the year at Old Dominion University. He is currently the tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand.