Step 7: Steering
Did you ever notice that there is no rudder on these darn things, let alone a tiller or wheel. A brilliant insight of Drake and Schweitzer was that a rudder wasn't needed!
Steering upwind is easy. Move the sail back and over the rear of the board (see Figure A). The foot of the sail may actually touch the deck of the board. Hold this position until the board changes direction: then move the sail back to the neutral position (see sailing stance). If you are having trouble making the board head upwind, you are not moving the sail far enough back and far enough over the board. The lighter the wind, the more you have to exaggerate this move. Be careful that you do not head up into the wind too much and get caught in the NO sailing zone (see below and Sailing Terms, Points of Sail).
Many sailors have more trouble turning off the wind (away from the wind). The maneuver is just the opposite of the above: move the sail forward and across the front of the board (see Figure B). Be sure to sheet in, because if you do not have power in the sail, you will not turn. After you change direction, move the sail back to the neutral position. If the wind is light, you must exaggerate leaning the sail forward and to windward. In order to move the sail far enough forward, it may be necessary to move your hands back on the boom.
If you have trouble turning the board off the wind, you are doing one of two things wrong: (1) You do not have the sail leaning far enough forward and across the front of the board. Lean the sail as much as the figure B above; (2) You are not sheeting in and therefore do not have power in the sail.
Where should you steer? To the next Whiskey Bar? For now, you should orient yourself to the wind, and sail in the green areas in the figure below. You will learn how to sail downwind (running) later. Avoid the NO sailing area. If you find yourself drifting sideways, or not moving much despite plenty of wind, you might be in the NO Sailing area. (Yes, the Bermuda Triangle exists.)
Now would be a good time to review stance: Are your knees bent? Is your butt in? Is your sail straight up and down or is it leaning out to leeward?
The theory of steering without a rudder
The sailboard is turned by moving the Center of Effort (CE) either in front or behind the Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR, see figure below). The CE is the center of the force of the wind on the sail. The CLR is the center of all the side-ways forces on the board. The CLR is located about approximately at the center of the centerboard. Think of the forces acting on the sail and board like a child on a teeter-totter. The CLR is the pivot point, the CE is the force (i.e. it is a child on one end of the teeter-totter or the other). If there is more wind force at the front of the board, the board will pivot and the bow of the board will swing downwind. If there is more wind force at the rear of the board, the board will pivot and point upwind.
The location of the CLR is determined mostly by the location of the centerboard. In high wind, you may have a tendency to point upwind. One way to counteract this is to move the CLR back by moving the centerboard partway up. When you raise the centerboard part way up, it will swing back, moving the CLR. (This trick also works with sailboats.)
The location of the CE is determined mostly by where you place the sail. If the board seems to have a slight tendency to head up or downwind, you can change the CE forward or back by moving your hands on the boom. For example, if you have a tendency to turn upwind, moving your hands back on the boom will have the effect of moving the sail (and CE) forward. Moving your hands forward on the boom has the opposite effect. Also, you can move the CE by moving the mast in the mast track forward or back. For example, in high wind if you continually tend to head upwind, move your hands back on the boom. If that doesn't do the trick, raise the centerboard about halfway up. Finally, you can move the mast forward in the mast track. (Move the mast back if you have a tendency to head downwind.)