The concept of going fast-forward in a lift, or pinching in a header, has been around forever.
When to Sail Low and Fast
Going fast-forward or making a bearing gain is a great weapon to have in your tactical arsenal, bearing gain is when making trees on your competition.
To gain bearing you need two things:
- A boat that is capable of going faster when you put the bow down and a high-performance dinghy can make a better bearing gain than a heavy displacement boat.
- You need an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve by sailing high and slow or low and fast.
In a planing boat, such as a 505 or 470 there’s a fine line between going fast and sailing out of your lane and you need to set up your sail trim to be able to do both, the extra load put on your foils by going fast should help you hold your lane.
To reproduce the settings for a variety of modes and wind conditions, mark your sheets, backstays, and any other adjustments. If you spend a lot of time trying to get the sails set up properly, chances are you’ll miss a brief window of opportunity to go fast.
There are many different situations, but generally, you are looking to go fast-forward when you know you are lifted and leveraged near a corner.
As an example, if you are sailing a long beat and have tacked on a lift to go toward the top mark, anywhere within 2 minutes of layline, you should work on gaining bearing with the fleet to leeward while also maintaining gauge on the boats to leeward.
Another time where you’d look to gain bearing is in a breeze where the shifts are oscillating within a 5 to10 minute period. Sailing fast across an oscillating shift allows you to maximize your leverage and use the maximum amount of the shift before the breeze oscillates in the other direction.
When it comes to which mode to sail in, the decision will be based on the true-wind direction, heading and feel.
It’s important to be aware of what you’re doing when you’re going for
bearing gain because you don’t want to spear off into a corner potentially sailing extra distance for a shift that never materializes.
When to Sail High and Slow
There will be times when you need to know how to sail the boat two-tenths under target for a period of time.
Instances where this may be necessary include getting off the starting line, getting away from a leeward mark, when a boat is on your leebow, heading into a persistent shift or when you’re on a layline in the dirty air of a competitor.
If you are stuck in traffic but want to go the side of the course that the traffic is heading, you would intentionally sail a higher slower mode to play out the long-term tactical plan. More often than not, the high/slow mode is a traffic mode and you need to adjust your sail setup accordingly with traveller up and more sheet or vang tension.
Knowing your set-up allows you to quickly and efficiently go from a normal, to fast, to high mode trim.
If you’re blindly sailing high and slow and gaining bearing, there needs to be a conversation of what is the tactical goal for the next three minutes and this needs to be constantly re-evaluated based on what is happening with the fleet.