I have copied below an article that was written by Super Sailing Coach Adrian Finglas during his time coaching at Royal Brighton Yacht Club in Melbourne Australia.
This article has been reproduced with kind permission from RBYC and of course, coach Adrian.
One of the most underrated skills on any sailing boat is holding course, whether you are on a cruising yacht or a high-tech racing dinghy.
The fastest route between two points is a straight line, if you are constantly moving the tiller or wheel the boat will start to track extra distance. It is important to keep the helm central and limit your steering to small movements.
When coaching a new sailing team I always focus on their steering, many have been sailing for 20 years or more and still do not hold the helm correctly or straight enough.
As I say to the Optimist sailors, when you get in the car with your parents and drive down the highway, what happens if the driver is adjusting the steering wheel a lot?
The car will alter course and crash, so a boat is no different.
Light winds are a crucial time to hold the helm steady, many skippers will hold the tiller beside their body locked down to the deck with an overhand grip as it gives very good control.
Key elements to remember:
- When skippering a dinghy, Etchells or any boat with a tiller the overhand grip hard to the deck is the most effective. It is a difficult style to perfect, so practice is key!
- On a yacht with a wheel make sure you have clearly marked the wheel where the rudder centre position is, this will allow you to always have a reference point to go back to. Many sailing teams will mark the wheel using bright coloured tape so it is easy to find.
- Never fight the helm when skippering. If you find yourself moving the helm a lot, 99.9% of the time the boat is out of balance. To fix this problem adjust the sails and the twist profile will change which allows you to steer straight, in heavy conditions you will find that the sails are generally not flat enough.
Adrian Finglas – Sailing Coach