North Sails Tim Healy shares some tips on maximizing crew technique in flat water marginal planing conditions.....
Tips for Marginal Planing Conditions in 14-16 knots, flat water
At the top of the beat it is important to recognize what side of the course has best pressure.
Plan A: If no jibe is the call, then complete a normal set and quickly determine if you are in a planing puff or not, keeping in mind that you still have to protect your lane to weather.
Plan B: If you decide on a quick jibe, set up on the offset leg so you won’t get overlapped to windward with any boat. It is also important to sail higher, early in the offset leg, so the spinnaker can be set before the offset mark and fill as early as possible. This will allow a jibe at the offset mark to ensure no one will jibe inside you.
If you are in a planing puff, leave the jib out. Once you get planing get more vang on to maximize your power by keeping the main leech from spilling open. You should notice your leech telltales starting to stall then ease off a bit. This will give more power once you are up on a plane, allow you to sail lower while planing and will keep you planing longer as the wind fades off.
Things to keep in mind on crew weight placement:
In marginal or ”lazy” planing conditions, keep crew weight forward. The three forward crew should only move fore and aft in the cockpit section in front of the winch. Helmsman should be hip up to winch to-two feet behind it. The less wind the farther forward the entire crew needs to move.
As your planing puff dies, turn up gradually to maintain power and heel angle. If puff continues to die and you need to start searching up for pressure/power, look upwind and determine if there is another puff coming quickly that you can connect with. If a puff is not coming your way, then quickly go into displacement mode.
When your are in displacement mode, it might be a good time to think about going wing-on-wing. This will allow you to ride the 8-13 knot puff back down to the center of the course and away from the pack. It works well in these marginal planing conditions because it allows you to separate from other boats that may be searching too high to stay on a plane. You will be sailing close to DDW, while they are sailing high (on a reach) searching for the next planing puff. This is an opportunity to gain a lot of distance from your closest competitors.
Once the next puff is identified as a ‘planing puff’, wait until it hits then it’s time to take immediate action: