• Did you know there are two ways to hang your body off your rig? The most obvious way is to hang out against the power of the wind in the sail. When you sheet in, the sail tries to pull away and you lean out against that power. This is how most beginners learn to balance with the rig. Leaning out against the sail, however, is only half the picture of maintaining balance with the rig and getting the most power from the sail. Less obvious but just as important is the concept of hanging straight down on the mast, regardless of how much wind there is. To get an idea of what hanging down from the rig feels like, go out into your yard, stand a mast straight up from the ground, and try to force it into the dirt. Assuming you’re not standing in snow or quicksand, the harder you drive the mast down, the more resistance you feel. You can do the same kind of thing while sailing and get similar feedback as long as the mast is standing nearly vertical over the board.
    So why all the fuss over hanging your weight on the mast? Well, hanging down has several positive effects on your sailing. It helps create pressure on your mast base that drives the board forward. Mast-base pressure also holds the front of the board down, giving you more control in strong winds and stopping you from stalling out and rounding up in light winds. Downward pressure helps stabilize your rig in gusts and lulls, just like burying a fence post deep in the ground makes it difficult to pull or push the fence over.
    With the basic concepts of hanging down and out against the rig understood, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can improve your performance.
    Body Drags:
    Although this maneuver sounds like something only pros do, it’s actually not that difficult if you can plane and do a water-start. When you step off the board and drag your body over the water, you’ll often tend to sink, which slows down your board and causes your sail to lose power. Concentrate on hanging almost all your weight down on the mast before stepping off. This keeps the body from sinking and allows you to maintain board speed and power in your sail.
    Exiting a Tack:
    When you step around the mast and exit a tack, the board is almost straight upwind. This position leaves your sail in an almost powerless position. Keeping your body over the board and hanging down stabilizes the rig and prepares you for the increase in power as the board bears off the wind.
    Getting in the Straps Underpowered:
    If during lighter winds you sink the tail and round up when moving your feet back to the straps, try keeping the mast and your body farther forward. This allows you to lighten your feet by hanging down and also puts more weight on the mast base, keeping the board flat and driving it forward.
    Sailing Through a Lull:
    How many times have you been sailing along, hanging out comfortably, when you hit a lull and end up pulling the sail over on top of you? As you enter a lull, relax your grip and point your knees toward the mast base. This will help your body move forward and in under the boom, where you can hang down more and out less, keeping balanced with the rig. These are just a few of the applications of hanging down and out. Everything you do on a windsurfer requires balancing between these two forces. The more you understand and feel these forces, the more balanced you’ll be, regardless of changes in wind strength and board direction.
    Note One of the most common problems with equipment setups is rigging the boom too low. A low boom makes it easier to hook in and makes it easier to use the back of the board to clear the sail when water-starting, but these advantages come at a high price. A low boom setting severely limits your ability to hang down on the rig. Make sure you’re setting your boom about shoulder height.

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