Skip Dieball, July 2017
I’ve written many times about the best practices of sailing downwind and the related communication between Skipper, Trimmer and Spotter. Here’s one of my articles: http://www.sailingworld.com/skips-tips-downwind-communication
I can’t overstate the importance of constant speed/pressure dialog downwind. Many of the gains that you recognize upwind can be double downwind, if you play it right. The longer the run, the more opportunity there is for gains. You have to, however, have a handle on what is going on with the overall wind on your race course first.
INLAND LAKES: The wind can be completely random on the inland lakes. Many of the shifts come out of nowhere and if you are fortunate enough to find a rhythm through the puffs/shifts, try to carry that momentum to the downwind leg. My rule of thumb when sailing on Inland Lakes is to sail to the pressure. Once you are in the pressure, then you can make the necessary course change for shift or additional pressure.
OPEN WATER: Generally you will be sailing in oscillating or persistently shifting winds. Ultimately, you will want to determine the longest gybe downwind and make sure that you set yourself up for any change. If you sail the shorter gybe first and find that short gybe lifting, you won’t have much time to gybe as you could be risking your layline position. If the short gybe is a header, try to size up how much and if it balances the run (say from a 70/30 shift to a 50/50 shift). Then, take advantage of the shifts you are dealt. Also, you want to be sure that on open water that you have a handle on how the shifts/puffs are moving across the course. If they are slow movers, sail into the puff before making any adjustments. If they are fast movers, intersect them to stay in the puff as long as you can.
Continual chatter between helm, trim and spotter is super important to get a handle on the run and to make as many gains as you can.