Lessons from the
Jibe marks can be hairy because
they bring a bunch of boats close together and then require their crews to
perform one of the most challenging boat handling manoeuvres. Because of
this, you can often make big gains or losses at jibe marks. Like most
sailors, I’ve had my share of bad jibes where I rounded wide with my chute
collapsed and let a train of boats round inside and roll over me. To avoid
this you need good teamwork between skipper and crew, excellent boat
handling, clever tactics relative to other boats, and a smart strategic
approach. Let’s see what we can learn from this great photo taken at a windy
J/24 jibe mark.
This fleet of J/24’s is
rounding the jibe mark in a fairly strong breeze, turning onto a
relatively tight reach.
1) In heavy air, steer an “S-course” through the jibe. To begin, bear
off just far enough to make sure the boom goes across. As soon as you
are on the new jibe, instead of continuing the arc of your turn, bear
off again (making an ‘S’ with your wake). This reduces wind pressure in
the sails and minimizes heeling, which makes the manoeuvre much easier.
2) When you are turning onto a tight reach, try to get the pole on the
mast before you pass the mark. This boat is too far behind in the
process because they are already heading up for the next reach, but the
pole is not in place. The bow person will have a tough time getting the
pole in the mast, and this will hurt speed and manoeuvrability.
3) This boat has begun the jibing process earlier (which is possible
because the first reach is fairly broad). They have a good chance of
getting their pole in place before the mark.
4) In spite of a late turn, this bow person is in a good position to
handle the pole. She is standing behind the pole, on the windward side
of the boat, facing forward. Her feet are spread apart for balance and
her hip is planted against the mast for stability. Her hands are spread
apart on the pole for better control, and the pole is at chest height,
which makes it easier to handle (than if it was higher).
Strategically, the ideal place to jibe depends on the wind angle of each
reach. When you're going from broad to tight (left), jibe before the
mark. This way you sail higher (faster) on the slower reach, and you
won't lose ground to leeward on the tight reach. When you're going from
tight to broad (right), jibe after the mark so your speed from the first
reach helps you gain ground to leeward on the second.