Tacking is by far the most common maneuver sailors do, so it’s the most important one to get right.
The key to tacking well is to use the sails and your body weight to do as much steering as possible, rather than using the rudder, which creates drag.
Following the process below should help you improve:
Before the tack look to see whether it’s a good time to tack. You don’t want to tack into the dirty wind of another boat, or worse, crash into them.
Now for the tack; here are 4 steps to follow:
1. Lean the boat to leeward- this steers the boat up, closer to the wind, exactly what we want to do in a tack. So we start the tack by letting the boat heel to leeward like in the first picture. At the same time we squeeze on the mainsheet a little which also helps spin the boat into the wind. You certainly don’t want to make the common mistake of letting the mainsheet out before tacking. We’ll also need to use some rudder here but not too much. Allow the tiller to go to leeward, don’t push it.
2. As you approach the eye of the wind move your body weight back to windward
3. Keep your body weight there until that moment when you are looking at the rig thinking its going to capsize on top of you if you don’t move now. That’s when you cross the boat. As you cross ease the mainsheet an armful
4. Pull the mainsheet back in with a pump as you flatten the boat by sitting down on the new side
That’s it. Tacking is an easy skill to improve as you can practice it anytime- even if you don’t have any boats to sail against.
If you make a habit of deliberately doing 10 tacks before every race then if you do 50 races a year you’ll have practiced 500 more tacks than if you hadn’t adopted that habit.