How good is your technique at the windward mark rounding? Video evidence suggests that even some top sailors are not always consistent. In this post, we discuss techniques, show some examples of gains and losses, and link to expert videos on windward mark rounding.
Windward Mark Rounding Technique
A good rounding accomplishes three goals:
- Maximize acceleration as you bear off
- Minimize distance sailed
- Keep clear air when turning downwind
The key techniques involved are:
- Set controls before rounding.
- Cunningham off for more power on downwind leg and reach to offset
- Outhaul relaxed for more power
- Vang relaxed just enough to help boat bear off without too much twist
- Approach the mark slightly high.
- Gives you room to bear off smoothly without touching the mark
- Gaze at the point of closest approach to the mark as you make the turn, unless you’re in traffic.
- A detailed study of windward mark rounding performance showed that gazing at the point of closest approach helps you make a faster turn (just like race car drivers).
- In traffic, it’s better to shift your gaze around to avoid collisions.
- Ease the mainsheet smoothly and rapidly during the turn.
- Make sure main is free before rounding.
- Laser sailors slide their hand up over their head on the sheet to gain as much arm throw as possible for easing. Boats with lots of main to ease may not be able to fully ease in one armful, but the faster and smoother you can ease, the better. An auto-ratchet block may help.
- Flatten the boat to help bear off.
- Hike out hard
- Move weight aft, especially if there is a chance of plowing the bow as you speed up
- Get set for the turn downwind
- If you want to turn downwind or gybe immediately after the windwark mark (or offset), consider going a little wide so you can exit tight to the mark. (Just like the leeward mark rounding.)
- Avoid sailing extra distance past the mark and then gybing, unless clear air requires it.
Technique Leads to Gains – Drone Video
The SailZing.com drone video below shows several examples of gains and losses made while rounding.
Windward Mark Technique Videos from the Experts
We picked out two YouTube videos showing good rounding techniques.