Having languished at the back of the sonata fleet for to many years, I
After the really windy nationals at Dundee both So and Pied Piper sailed for many years with slight fore/aft bent masts. Slight? When I held the main halyard tight against the mast where the goose neck is there was about a 1-2 inch gap at the shrouds. This got worse and then bent sideways after a windy Tarbert a couple of years back so I did get a new one eventually. (Piper changed his as well).
I would say that the bend had a small effect but only when things were really close already.
The biggest effects on performance are still the basics – starting at the right time, concentrate, keep clear wind around the course, and beat the foredeck regularly.
Also remember the Sonata special settings – keep the genoa with lots of fullness low down and brushing the rail in most conditions and never overtighten the halyard (looking peculiar to most other sailors), alarming forestay fall off, stiff mainsheet, floppy backstay (until needing to depower).
I’m don’t know where you race but try hanging out with the faster teams at the club bar.
…and you’ve read all the Steve Goacher tips on this web site?