Everyone talks about it and it makes excellent cocktail discussion-Velocity Made Good. But, do you know how it affects your sailing? Do you know where your own boat sails best? What angles really do get you there fastest?
Back in the days when I was racing windsurfers at a high level, there was one truth above all else that determined how you were going to do. I remember as I got better and better at the sport, the biggest thing about the guys at the top, versus the rest of the pack was consistent speed (not burst speed). That is where it all starts. It really made no difference if you could point 5 degrees higher than someone else if he was going 20 knots, and you were going 8. That is a whole lot of inequality. So go fast first.
I often tell my clients when they get a new boat, take your GPS out, set up a little course, and make a chart. Find out where your boat is the most comfortable, and get it going near its optimized speed, then see where you can go, upwind, and downwind. Incidentally, it works exactly the same sailing downwind. The lighter and sportier your boat, the more benefit you will see heating up for speed, rather than bearing off for target.
Cruising cats certainly are not famous for pointing. So try bearing off a few degrees, take rough seas out of the equation, and get the boat on track. The quicker you go, the better those keels work. If you do have daggerboards, the place you will see the real advantage is once the boat is up to speed; the lift is better, and the drag is somewhat eliminated. If you pinch too much, the advantage goes away. Make a chart. It is worth it! And do the same for sailing downwind.