Re: Dinghy sailing - tacking
Yeah, speed before the tack is what you need. Sounds like you're running out of forward momentum before you get head-to-wind. Get up to close-hauled, get comfortable, then jam the tiller over and keep it there. The Widgeon's at least lukewarm if not a "hot" boat, she should come around.
You could head up then back the jib, but wouldn't recommend that in 17 knots, in 5-10 it'd be okay.
But you shouldn't need to. Get pointing high but footing fast, so you only have to turn 90-100 degrees. Make sure you get the jib in quick after the tack--it, not the main, is what gets your acceleration started.
In light air, learn to "roll tack", where you/crew stay on the "old' side a little longer before crossing over to the new windward side. This "pulls" the sails/mast over onto the new tack more quickly, and minimizes your luffing/no propulsion time during the tack. Watch the college racers do this, it seems their sails (at least the main anyway) go form full on old tack to full on new tack without any luffing. It's cool, and fast.