The art of the gybe-set

An RS400 sailor wants to know when and how
RS400 sailor Mike Burns asks: When should I gybe at the windward mark? Gusts are king Sailing downwind in an asymmetric dinghy, even a relatively slow one like an RS400, the most important factor is nearly always wind strength, because boatspeed and sailing angles alter so dramatically. So when you are approaching the windward mark, take a look upwind and search for any patches of dark water coming down towards the course. If there's a big gust over your shoulder, as you're on your final approach on the starboard layline, then get ready for a gybe set. Wind shifts Hooking into an extra 3 or 5 knots of breeze is by far the most important consideration in an asymmetric boat, but if the wind strength is even across the course, think next about wind shifts. If you are approaching the windward mark on a nice starboard lift, you will want to gybe to take advantage of the same shift, which once you're going downwind will be a port header. If a header up the end of the beat made it hard to make the windward mark on starboard tack, that is your cue to go for a straight set and hoist the gennaker on starboard. If you pick up a starboard lift which is also gusting, then you will most likely want to gybe straightaway. Your angles can change massively in this scenario, and you may find that you almost pointing at the leeward mark once you have gybed. If you carry on and hoist onto starboard in this lifting gust situation, you are in danger of overstanding the layline and losing ground to those who gybe set behind you. Tidal considerations If there is current or tide on the course, then remember that what helps you upwind hinders you downwind, and vice versa.