Many beginning and intermediate racing sailors could improve their sailing by focusing on the body mechanics of tacking. Good body mechanics will help you tack quickly and smoothly, keep control of the tiller extension, and be ready to hike and trim immediately on the new tack.
The Body Mechanics of Tacking
In the video below, we capture a dry land example of good body mechanics and break it down. Key steps are:
- Keep the tiller extension pointing forward as you push it away
- As the sail comes across, don’t try to pivot until you have crossed under the sail and are mostly upright
- Pivot quickly by stepping across with your aft foot first, eyes facing forward
- As you pivot, move your tiller hand behind your back. Pivot the extension so you can give a behind the back push on it to begin centering the tiller smoothly.
- As you pivot, also sit quickly on the new windward side.
- As you sit, move your mainsheet hand aft to grab the tiller extension, while still holding the mainsheet. Try to keep the mainsheet below the tiller extension to avoid getting it caught.
- With your free hand (the one that was behind your back), grab the mainsheet forward of your leg.
- Trim in and hike simultaneously to flatten the boat.
Some of these mechanics may seem unnatural at first, but they will become surprisingly easy with a little focused practice. Thanks to Henry Chesnutt for demonstrating!