9. Nonplaning Jibe

There are several different kinds of jibes. This is one kind nonplaning jibe. You are sailing along (not in the footstraps, not planing) and you want to go the other way. Instead of tacking (turning toward the wind) you want to jibe: turn away from the wind.

In the figure below, the arrows represent the direction of the wind.

To prepare for jibing do the following (Figure A): (1) head off on a broad reach; (2) move your hands back on the boom.  The lighter the wind, the further back on the boom you will need to move your hands.  In addition, prepare to jibe by moving your back foot further back on the board. The further back on the board you are, the snappier your jibes will be.  Keep those knees bent! Finally, look before you initiate the turn so that you do not turn into the path of an oncoming sailor. Just as when you tacked, the first step is always, check the traffic!

To initiate the turn swing the sail to windward across the front of the board (Figure B). Keep this position until you turn past a dead run (Figure C).  The wind will be blowing directly from behind.  This is the time to switch your feet so that your front foot becomes your back foot and your back foot becomes your front foot.

When you are on a broad reach on the new tack, flip the sail (Figure E).  To flip the sail, first slide your front hand forward on the boom all the way to the mast. Then let go with your back hand and the sail will flip itself. Grasp the boom on the new side step forward to a normal sailing position, and sail off.  You might have to move the sail to the back of the board to head up higher.

Note that to get the board to turn downwind, you had to move both of your hands back on the boom. But just before you flip the sail for the jibe, you must slide your front hand forward all the way to the mast. Note where my front (left) hand is in figure D.

In the sequence above, you flip the sail after you are well onto the new tack (a broad reach or higher).  The only exception to this method is if the wind is very light, your turn will stop when you are pointed directly down wind.  If this happens, flip the sail and muscle it onto the correct side and to the back of the board to finish the turn.

You can do several things to make your jibe snappier. First, after you move your front foot back, put more weight on the windward rail than the leeward rail (only if the centerboard is down). Second, step further back on the board. Finally, these two strategies can be combined in the following way. Move your old front foot even further back and put most of your weight on it. Do this earlier in the turn than the figure above. Most boards have a "sweet spot" way in the back of the board. If you move your old front foot way back to that spot and put your weight on it, you can turn on a dime (with the centerboard down).

Variations on the Jibe

There are many different variations on the jibe. The variations can be divided into two broad categories: nonplaning jibes and planing jibes. Different versions of the nonplaning jibe are called the snap jibe, scissor jibe, and power jibe. These are all slight variations of the jibe described above. In all nonplaning jibes, your weight is moved to the back of the board, and most of the turning power comes from the sail. Nonplaning jibes can be used with beginner boards (with centerboards) and short board (e.g., 9 foot boards without centerboards). The nonplaning jibe is a skill that will always be useful. The nonplaning jibe is fairly easy to master.

The planing jibe requires one to be sailing very fast on a plane. Do not worry about learning the planing jibe until you can use a harness, waterstart, and sail fast in high winds. In several ways the planing jibe is the opposite of a nonplaning jibe: Your weight is forward on the board, you sink the leeward rail, and most of the turning power comes from carving the leeward rail through the water (like skiing or snow boarding). The planing jibe is considerably more difficult than the nonplaning jibe. Whereas each of the steps in this guide can be broken into at most 4 components, there are approximately 17 things to think about when making a good planing jibe. When an advanced windsurfer is talking about jibing, they are most likely talking about planing jibes. Variations on the planing jibe include the lay-down jibe and the duck jibe.

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