Roll tacking is a method of tacking
used by performance sailboat racers to tack the boat as efficiently as possible. It may be a very athletic endevour in a small, fast boat like a laser
. The methods can also be used in moderately sized keelboats as well.
When a boat tacks, it must turn and take the bow through the wind. During this maneuver, the turning of the rudder can slow the boat as well as the fact that the sails may not provide propulsion during part of the maneuver.
To minimize rudder drag, the hull may be rolled to leeward and this will initiate the turn without use of the rudder. In fact, when teaching new sailors, we sometimes remove the rudder & teach them how to sail without it.
As the boat is going through the wind, the roll is reversed and the sail acts like a fan blade, continuing to propell the boat even while pointed directly into the wind.
As the wind fills the sail on the new tack, the boat ends up fully heeled onto the new leeward side. The crew then dramatically shifts their weight onto the new windward side. This action also provides a push to get the boat back up to speed.
The roll tack can be so effective that the racing rules of sailing regulate what can be done during a race.