Too many sailors don’t use Different Steering Techniques For Different Winds.
When the wind speed changes you need to focus on heel and pitch angles, adjusting each for the optimum boatspeed.
As the wind builds, you use heel angle as a guide using the sails to keep the boat on its feet. It’s good to have rules of thumb to help you sail the boat as fast as possible in all conditions.
Guidelines help the helmsperson steer and give the crew a reference for how they need to react to changes.
For lighter winds, telltale sailing is appropriate. The helmsperson works hard to stream the telltales at all times for maximum speed. The crew then moves their body weight to create the fastest heel angle.
In overpowered heel-angle sailing conditions, the helmsperson can steer much more freely. They focus on a consistent heel angle while the crew hikes hard. For light air, it’s all about maintaining speed; and in a breeze, it’s all about the heel angle.
Light Air Conditions.
While the angle of heel is controlled by the crew, communication from the helmsperson or mainsheet trimmer is essential to coordinate the team’s movements. In really light conditions, tell the team just how much heel is needed to make the boat feel as fast as possible.
The jib trimmer needs to be to leeward, playing the jib and when shifts come. The helmsperson needs to sail deeper to gain speed, and the jib trimmer is there to trim or ease. What the steerer is trying to achieve is to sail straight with minimum rudder movement, and keep maximum speed. Too much rudder movement creates drag.
Slow crew movement affecting the heel encourages the helmsperson to head up in puffs and bear away in lulls. This wastes power in puffs and height in lulls, and reduces speed. Sailing straight, as opposed to heading up in a puff, or bearing off to pick up speed connects the wind to the jib and it never stalls.
Helming in a building Breeze.
With the crew now on the rail, trim the sails in a bit and steer up a little in the puffs. All the time communicating with the main trimmer to keep the boat on the best angle of heel. Be mindful that as the chop starts to increase, you can’t pinch up as much in the puffs.
In flatwater its acceptable to head up in the puffs a little to keep the heel angle down. Steer up just enough for a small amount of telltale lift which in turn should encourage the crew to hike harder.
This is where the wind has built to the point where everyone is fully hiked and the traveller needs to be dropped or the mainsheet is eased depending on how your boat is set up.
As long as the boat’s moving at a decent speed, you can head up as much as you need to keep the boat flat.
In the breeze, even luff the leading edge of the jib when a big puff hits until you get sorted. Next ease the main, tighten the backstay or drop the traveller, whatever you have to do to depower.
If it’s breezy but the water is flat, you can pinch because there are no waves to slow the boat.
When you’re sailing in waves and pressing on the telltales to go faster, watch for flat spots.
In a blustery breeze, you can make big gains by balancing the concepts of sailing by the telltales and sailing by heel angle. Knowing what your desired angle to the wind is and then factoring in lifts and headers along the way.