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Old 08-23-2000
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road
Long and Short Tacks

Is it better to make short tacks or long tacks?

Dan Dickison responds:

Dear JL,

The best answer to your question is actually another question. Depending upon where you are sailing, where you are trying to go, and who is sailing around you, the answer will vary. If you're sailing point-to-point, trying to get from A to B along a lee shore, you'd probably be better off taking long tacks to keep you offshore. But say there's a big adverse current out there and you'd like to make better time, then you need to short tack along the shore.

If you're sailing upwind from A to B without any obstructions, you're better off sailing the long tack first, which would be the one that heads you closest to B. Say this is a port tack. If the wind backs as you're sailing along, you'll get lifted toward B and consequently sail the shortest possible distance. If the wind veers, you tack on the header and still sail the shortest distance to B. So, to answer your question, all things being equal, sail the long tack first. I hope that helps.

Dan Dickison

Senior Racing Editor


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