Re: handling gusts
I'm with Sailormon.. and will pinch off a puff to avoid excess heeling. On our former 24 foot day racer we used to call this 'survival pinching'.. it can be a bit of a tricky balance - enough to feather off the knock down but still avoid excessive slowing, or worse, an 'autotack'. In really puffy conditions it's often possible to take some pretty big bites to weather this way.
".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)
1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"