Rounding the Windward Mark

Rounding the windward mark needs to be a smooth operation with a good approach and clean preparation. You need an easy, automatic routine.

What the Experts Say

Ben Ainslie – The Laser Campaign Manual

I turn quickly and use the turn to squirt the boat forwards

Paul Goodison – Laser Handbook

Heeling the boat to windward slightly will help reduce the loads on the tiller and assist the boat turning

Ben Tan – The Complete Introduction to Laser Racing

Having the ability to bear away sharply is useful…spinning the boat on its axis will get you out of the blanket zone…and it will also discourage the boat behind from following you to the left.

Videos with help for Rounding the Windward Mark

Ben Ainslie talking about and demonstrating rounding the Windward Mark in a Laser

Paul Goodison explains and demonstrates excellent windward mark preparation, describing what you need to be doing, looking for and thinking about. The three examples begin here, here and here

This video from Jon Emmett gives a couple of good demonstrations of a windward mark rounding, with some tips for the approach and post-rounding checks

This 470 video shows the fleet rounding the windward mark. Note how flat the boats are on approach, and especially how the jib is kept tight whilst the main is eased to help the boat bear away with minimum rudder. There is another windward mark rounding here, and you can see the leaders really let the boat come over to windward as they turn to facilitate the manoeuvre.

Like the video above, this has some good footage of 470s rounding the windward mark. This rounding shows well how the crew uses her weight to bring the boat to windward on the turn, facilitating the rounding, and keeps the jib tight to pull the nose downwind. The first windward mark rounding from this race is here

A good advert for sailing has a demonstration of a windward mark rounding in a 49er

More superb footage of 49er windward mark roundings here and here. What a race this was...

This Finn Gold Cup Medal Race Video shows the boats rounding the windward mark. Watch in particular how they let the boat come over to windward as they round the off-set mark to aid with the turn.

In this video Paul goodison is talking about his preparation for London 2012, and has a good example of a light wind windward mark rounding here

These videos from a Laser Medal Race give some good examples of technique when rounding the Windward Mark:

1st Windward Mark

2nd Windward Mark

3rd Windward Mark

This video has a brief bit about getting a two handed dinghy to bear off well at the windward mark here

A couple of Windward mark roundings (here and here) - note the windward heel and raised daggerboard at the first rounding to help the boat turn downwind

A couple more windward mark roundings here and here - note how the body weight is used to bring the boat to windward, and how the sail controls are eased on most of the boats before the rounding

A high-wind top mark rounding that proves even the top guys can struuggle when it is breezy. Note, though, the eased vang to aid the bear off, and how flat the boats are at the turn.

And more breezy conditions in this video. Notice how the sail is eased beyond good trim to encourage the boat downwind. Also notice that the vang is well eased before the mark to help the bear off.

An Optimist windward mark rounding

Lots more Windward Mark Roundings in these videos:
Laser Radial
First Windward Mark
Second Windward Mark
Third Windward Mark
First Windward Mark
Second Windward Mark
Third Windward Mark
First Windward Mark
Second Windward Mark
Third Windward Mark

Laser Standard
First Example
Second Example
Third Example
Fourth Example
Fifth Example
Laser Radial
First Example

Another video with some good windward mark roundings

Books with information on Rounding the Windward Mark

Laser Campaign Manual - Ben Ainslie, page 38

Laser Handbook - Paul Goodison, page 56

Complete Introduction to Laser Racing - Ben Tan, page 72

Websites and online articles with information on Rounding the Windward Mark

A good piece on windward mark roundings

This article on Racing Basics gives a simple description of a windward mark rounding

good article on crewing in light airs with some specific tips for rounding the windward mark included

This photo workshop has some good points to consider when rounding the windward mark (on the second page)

What We Learned...

Rounding the Windward Mark

Rounding the windward mark needs to be a smooth operation, and a lot depends on a good approach and clean preparation. You need to have a good procedure in place that is automatic, so that you aren’t panicking trying to get things done after the windward mark, but instead you are focused on getting away on the next leg in the best possible position.

As you approach the windward mark you should have:

  • Untangled the mainsheet
  • Released the vang
  • Released the Cunningham (unless it is breezy, in which case you may be doing this immediately after the windward mark)
  • Eased the outhaul (some people do this after the windward mark)

As you reach the buoy you should pull your main sheet arm above your head while holding the sheet. This will give you a good length of sheet that is tangle-free and will feed smoothly as you bring your arm back down to its natural position. You should hike and release a little of the sheet, bringing the boat smoothly to windward, taking the pressure off the foils and bringing the boat naturally off the wind. Continue to ease the main smoothly, as this will also assist in bringing the boat downwind – the boat will naturally follow the sail position – until you are heading in the direction you want to go on the next leg. Adjust your daggerboard and check sail settings – is the vang correct? Has the outhaul released correctly? Has the Cunningham released correctly? In light winds you may need to push the luff of the sail up, or pull the foot of the sail so that it is set as you want it. If so, try to do it gently so as to cause minimum disruption to the air flow. Now check your toe-strap and adjust it if necessary for the next leg.

Now recheck all of the above. There is little worse than having a slow downwind leg, and realising halfway down that you didn’t release the Cunningham.