A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Bob Goethe
Date: 2016 Jul 27, 17:51 -0700
I think you are getting the picture from the kinds of responses here that there are two answers to your question, depending on whether you are interested in racing, or merely interested in *learning* from racers.
When racing, there are a variety of tactical considerations that could lead you to come about in situations that would normally be considered sub-optimal for doing so. In those situations, you DO try to eke out some distance to windward whenever you tack, just as your opponent is doing at that same moment.
But whenever you tack, if you are simply concerned about getting from point A to point B quickly, and you are not competing against anybody, then the loss of boatspeed immediately as you tack generally more than offsets distance gained to windward as you come about.
If you are only competing against yourself, then the length of your tacks will be determined by a desire to avoid wind shadows or eddies if near land, and by weather patterns offshore (e.g. you want to avoid steering through the middle of the North Pacific High, even if your most direct path goes that way). In that case, with no other factors intruding, you make more progress with longer tacks - keeping your boatspeed up throughout - than you do with shorter tacks.