In a typical course, there are three marks: the windward mark, the gybe mark and the leeward mark. Of course all courses will be more complicated than this, but all marks can be assigned one of these types.
There are some great rules you can utilize at marks in order to take the advantage when you reach the mark.
• The windward rule – The windward rule is an important rule when approaching a mark and you are not overlapped at the 3 boat length point. It states that a windward boat must keep clear of a leeward boat (your boom is on the leeward side). This is very important at the windward mark, because it means that the leeward boat can push the windward boat further up in order for the leeward boat to go round the mark first. This only applies when the leeward boat’s bow or stern overlaps the windward boat’s bow or stern.
• Keep your wind – The boat behind you when you approach a mark on a beam reach will try to go windward of you so that they take your wind and you slow down. Instead of letting them take it go windward yourself and push them higher up on the course until they decide it isn’t worth it. Remember though that reaches are faster than going up wind so you have to calculate whether or not it is worth going up wind.
• The water rule – This is exclusively for mark rounding and states that the inside boat that has an overlap with in 3 boat lengths of the mark can call for water in which the outside boat must allow the inside boat room to round the mark. The rule has been changed in the ISAF 2009-2012 rulebook to 3 boat lengths and you must take this into account and work out if there is an overlap at that point or not. If there is an overlap call for water, if not make space for the outside boat to round the mark.
• Wide in and Tight out – This technique is used to start beating just as you round a leeward mark. If you go slightly lower to leeward than the mark and then tighten up as you round the mark, you should end up with a little burst of speed and be higher than a boat that doesn’t use this tactic.
Hopefully these tactics help you in rounding the marks and make for better finishes.