Skip Dieball shares from his experiences.
Building speed in any weather condition is critical. How quickly your boat gets up to speed and what mechanisms you have in order to accomplish top speed are important to recognize as they differ from design to design.
For smaller boats, building speed out of maneuvers like tacks and gybes is relatively easy and can be accomplished with smaller effort than say a heavier offshore boat. What is important to realize is that every boat needs to get up to speed before you start to point closer to wind and/or sail deeper from the breeze on a run. You have to enable your boat to develop enough flow over the blades to create the hydrodynamic lift that then assists the sails to achieve top aerodynamic lift. One without the other creates a slower platform, which then contributes to poor VMG.
You all have heard the phrase, “…when in doubt, let it out”. Think about how that could relate to sailing efficiently upwind. If the boat slows down to an uncomfortable speed, you will need to back off the sheets a little and press the bow down (foot) in order to get the boat back up to speed, which you can then slowly trim against and get back to a better VMG. On days where the wind is up/down and generally lighter, this exercise may happen many times over.
I have spent many years on many different types of boats. How they each react to the above scenario differs greatly and the one thing that I try to do is rein in how each boat reacts. For example, when trimming on a Santa Cruz 70, building speed is paramount before trying to point. In fact, the boats are so fast that in the lighter winds, you may not be able to point at all close to an optimum heading. This requires a delicate balance between trim and apparent wind angles. The one thing that is for certain, you cannot come close to pointing in the light winds on that design boat unless you are fully up to speed. Gradual adjustments out of tacks (like having the genoa eased 12-24” off the top spreader is a necessity.
Not so different, the Lightning, which is a 19’ dinghy, requires the same approach, albeit in its own range of trim. We reference our trim off the spreader as well, but will have a “build speed” setting of “at the spreader tip” and a “full speed” setting of 2-4” inside the spreader.
Always keep in mind that you can not and will not point unless you have good pace, so when in doubt, let it out (and put the bow down!).