During many windsurfing maneuvers, there are times when sailors have a tendency to grab hold of the mast to help themselves through the technique. Sometimes it’s a good idea to follow your instinct and grab the mast and other times it’s not such a good idea. Listed below are four moves with my corresponding mast-grabbing advice for each.
Should you grab the mast while tacking a longboard? YES! Hold the mast at waist height with a straight arm so that you can lean it farther to leeward while oversheeting, which allows you to maintain an upright stance. If you hold onto the boom, it’s difficult at best — if not downright impossible — to keep your back straight. In addition, keeping both hands on the boom puts you in danger of the sail pulling you over.
Should you grab the mast while sailing away? NO! Once you’re underway, it’s important to position both hands on the boom to feel the balance point and maximize the power of the sail. Leaving your front hand on the mast creates too much leverage and makes it difficult to sheet in.
Should you grab the mast while clearing the sail during a beach- or water-start? YES! Holding the mast allows you to cleanly and decisively clear the sail. It’s easy to pull the mast across and to windward because there’s no power in it. It slices through the wind. Maintaining this hold prevents the sail from powering up, which will cause your board to sail away or steer itself.
Should you grab the mast during a sail flip? NO! Going from boom to boom not only gives you more room for your body, but it’s also one less thing to hold onto. Flip your sail by reaching one arm under the other (so your wrists don’t knock) using an underhand grip (smoother than an overhand grip).