Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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A couple quick points here;
-As has been said, sailing downwind does require more attention than almost any other point of sail and often does not make sense in shifty-gusty condition.
-On most modern boats, in winds under 12-18 knots it makes more sense to reach than to run, both from a VMG and a safety standpoint.
-In higher winds, big jib-small mainsail sail plans, or in heavier displacement boats, it does make sense to run at lower windspeeds than in more modern designs since the VMG gain goes away.
-Keeping the mainsail partially trimmed in greatly increases the likelihood of an accidental jibe as it is easier for the wind to get behind the sail not to mention being slower and more likely to produce big roll angles.
-sailing slightly by the lee makes it easier to keep the jib full and on a big mainsail, small jib boat may be faster, but sailing on course that is a slightly headed up does the same thing while giving a wider margin for error but perhaps without the speed gain.