There seem to be two schools of thought about sailing V15s upwind in big breeze. V15 sailors often sail other dinghies bef ore jumping into a Vanguard — frequently Lasers or 420s.  I refer to the pinching style of sailing a V15 upwind as “Laser style,” and I refer to the footing style as either “420 style” or, more affectionately, as “let-er-rip style.” Depending on one’s experience, one style of sailing the Vanguard 15 may initially feel more natural than the other. Incorporating both styles into your repertoire, while also learning to sail “in between” the two, will make you a faster Vanguard 15 sailor.

Sailing like a Laser upwind
Sailing a Vanguard like a Laser means sailing with lots of vang and pinching when overpowered. In consistent moderate breeze, the main can be played less often and in small increments while the jib can be kept in fairly tight; a good reference point for a crew is to make sure the foot is just folded over inside the rail. In really big breeze, you can sail with jib slightly eased; the reference point on the deck would be between the point where jib is max trimmed and the footing position (where the leeward-most part of the jib touches the rail where it starts to dip down). Laser style is most effective when sailing in flat water with a lighter crew. In any kind of chop it requires aggressive steering because spending too much time pinched over chop will stall you out. Being able to sail fast in this manner can be a weapon off the starting line…especially against the 420 let-er-rip style sailors on your hip. If they have a big enough hole above you, however, there is a good chance they will get over you.

When to use the Laser style: You ’re sailing light, have already completely de-powered, and are still overpowered. You have someone on your hip and you are sailing in phase. There is flat water and you feel like you can pinch without sacrificing speed.

Sailing like a 420 upwind
Sailing a Vanguard like a 420 essentially means footing. The vang is kept fairly loose, which enables you to spill off the top of the leech if overpowered. It requires playing the main more, but in small increments, so the slot is never completely closed. Always keep the telltales on the jib flying. Once up to speed and planning, little scallops can be taken to windward but the windward telltale should only be allowed to drop for short moments. Sail with jib cracked off just a hair (so the leeward-most part of the foot is near or touching where the rail slopes down). It is tough to make small incremental adjustments with the jib-fairlead system, but if you have a crew who is strong enough to do it while still hiking, it can be extremely fast.
In sailing a Vanguard in this manner, and in considering how likely you are to be overpowered, it is also important to remember just how big that board is…enormous. Don’t be afraid to pull it up at least a foot in really big breeze. Once depowered having the board up will allow you to keep your bow down and the VMG created by planing will more than compensate for any pointing ability lost with the board up.

When to Use 420 let-er-rip style: You ’ re sailing heavy enough or can hike long and hard. You have a big hole off the line or a re the leeward-most boat. There’s big chop so footing is necessary.

A few tips for sailing upwind in waves Laser style: 
In short chop, there can be times when you sail a V15 like a Laser. The Vanguard rudder is significantly larger than a Laser rudder. There f o re, steering as drastically as you would in a Laser could be detrimental to speed. It is more important to maintain flow. Hiking consistently and hard while torquing your upper body can both facilitate steering and boost boatspeed. Thrusting forward enables the boat to bear down, while thrusting back (really pulling on your forward foot in the strap) enables the boat to head up. One rule of thumb to remember when considering how much to pinch in chop or waves is that the bigger the waves are, the more potential there is to stall, and hence, the more telltales should be flowing back smoothly.

420 style: In wavy conditions, I generally lean towards using the let-er-rip style. This is particularly true as waves build into bigger rollers. Thrusting your upper body forward and down, towards the trough, is extremely fast. The goal is to never let the bow smack down hard; keep it “glued” to the water and then bring your weight back again so the next wave doesn’t  go over the bow. Steering should be a smooth motion that coincides with the movement of your upper body. As you thrust your upper body forward and ride down into the trough, you can head up a few degrees; as you climb the next wave, bear down. Having your jib out to the eased reference point will give you the necessary power to climb with speed.

“The guns about to go! Which style for the start?”
In considering which style you want to utilize off the starting line, examining your race strategy is key. If you are starting at the pin, there ’s chop, and you are expecting a big lefty, let-errip. If its super pin favored, but you want to get across the fleet for a righty, try laser style to pinch people off. Experiment with both styles and you will figure out which works best for you and under which circumstances.