Here's a Sempers ramble on tacking a 600 - it works for me!Posted: 24/05/2001
Really critical thing about tacking is flatness, and what you do with the mainsheet. Kicker, cunningham and outhaul settings will make it easier or harder, but the fundamental is to be flat.
If the boat is heeled even slightly, the rudder drives the leeward aft corner into the water, the back of the boat gets a bite on the water, and instead of pivoting the boat, the rudder just makes a (very big) brake. All the way comes off the boat, and the reversing lights come on!
If the boat's leant to windward, the rudder helps pull the back out of the water, letting it all pivot around the keel nicely, with a lot less (apparent) angle on the rudder.
Depending on how confident you are, you can either unhook on the fly, going into the tack, or sit on the wingbar and unhook - it makes a difference only in terms of speed, neither approach is fundamental to the tack (if you sit on the bar, you'll have to ease some, and sail a bit lower to keep the boat moving prior to the tack.)
From the ready to tack position, ease some (more) sheet so that the boat is starting to heel over on top of you.
Push the tiller down relatively gently at first, but keep increasing the rate of turn.
Step into the middle of the boat, duck the boom (my knees just touch as I do this, staying on the balls of my feet). At the same time, I swivel the mainsheet jammer to the new side so the main is free to be eased more if necessary.
Tack facing forwards, and watch the forestay (or other suitable point of reference) through the tack. Do all this staying as close to the front as you can manage, as digging the stern in stops the boat.
As soon as the boom is over my head, I start out for the 'new' side. I walk up the boat to the side-deck forewards (i.e., facing out over the side of the boat), spin round, front forwards, and sit onto the wing bar, as if in hiking boat. A useful detail at this point are to come from crouching behind the mainsheet jammer, and walk forwards as well as outwards, to get your weight well forwards on the wing bar (stops the stern digging in longer than necessary, helping keep way on the boat) As I reach the wing, I'm starting to straighten the tiller, and ease some more mainsheet as necessary to keep the boat flat, or rolling into a windward heel on the new tack. Ideal is to hit the wing bar just as the sail starts to power up, with some windward heel on - this will keep the boat bearing away. As this happens, I put my feet on the edge of the boat. (Caution, don't be tempted to hook your toes under the gunwhale and sit it out. If it goes wrong and the boat flicks over, you will be trapped, hung in an incredibly painfull, potentially leg breaking position. Trust me!) Leeward heel at this point will tend to drive the boat back up to wind. If you don't bear away far enough, the drag on the rig will tend to pull the boat back up to wind - certainly if you're struggling with the tacks, aim to come out low.
The final bit, and a word on mainsheet: I enter the tack with the mainsheet in my forward hand, tiller aft hand. It all stays that way as I cross, steer through etc. On hitting the new wing bar, the tiller is behind my back (it stays outside of me as I come up to the new side) mainsheet has stayed in the same hand, which is now the aft hand as I have turned. The aft (and mainsheet) hand grabs the tiller extension, leaving the front hand free. This hooks up the trapeze ring, Immediately start pushing off the boat so your bum hangs over the side of the wing, putting weight on the wire. As this happens, the front hand is reaching for, and grabbing the mainsheet from the tiller hand, with the tiller still behind your back. Then a foot goes out, the rest of me follows, pulling in the eased mainsheet as I go (largely by virtue of my moving away from the centreline). The tiller is then, finally, passed over my head into the more normal dagger style grip, and all is go.
Properly executed, the boat will round up easily, and almost carve out of the tack. It's all about practise and timing, the advantage is that this can be slowed down pretty much as much as you like. Once the boat is through the wind (and pointing low), with you on the wing bar, it's pretty safe. Some people enter the tack with the mainsheet in the aft hand with the tiller, using the front hand to pull up and unhook. To do this, you need to pass the mainsheet back to the front hand in the boat, or drop the tiller as it's difficult to manage both effectively. I simply pass the mainsheet under the elastic part of the trapeze wire, and unhook with my forward hand, still holding the (UNCLEATED!) mainsheet. In this way it's clear of the trap gear as it twangs inboard.
Lastly, a word on rig settings....
Things that make tacking easier: Soft diamonds, cunningham, slackish battens, outhaul, moderate kicker.
Things that make tacking hard: Tight diamonds, excessive batten tension, slack cunningham, slack outhaul, excessive kicker.
In an F4, I'd anticipate the outhaul almost fully tight, cunningham 2-3 inches off the boom (i.e. pretty tight), and the kicker almost full on - the sail should be pretty flat, with significant twist.
You may need to read the above a few times, it's a bit wordy, but I've tried to describe what I do! Come back to me with any questions...