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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How To Sail Better In Light Winds

If you want to improve your results in light air you need to master the four things which are listed below.

Attitude: is the biggest hurdle to overcome, you should not fear light air just because you have sucked at it in the past.

Relish the opportunity to sail against light air specialists, those that have thrashed you in the past, and treat a light air race as an opportunity to learn from them.

In large fleets in light air there are often big shake ups throughout the day and with the right attitude you will often find that you are in a position to take advantage of shifts in direction and pressure as they occur.

Don’t worry about the fact that some boats are sailing faster. Victory in sailing races can come in many ways, with small improvements from race to race being an incentive to work harder.

Boat Improvements: in light winds, sail as light as you possibly can and leave everything that is not completely necessary on the beach or dock.

Ensure that the hull and foils are as smooth as possible and with a moored boat, clean the bottom by scrubbing before leaving for the course.

Whilst racing, continually check for weed on your blades.

In a one-design boat, tune up with a crew that is similar weight to your own plus one that is lighter or heavier so you can set your boat up to be sailing in the fastest groove.

Learn From The Competition: watch other boats to see what they are doing to see if you can change something to improve.

Look at the sail shapes they are using, the position of their travellers, sheet tensions that affect the luff and leech shape and other vital adjustments that have a bearing on boat performance.

One of the biggest mistakes that sailors make in light air is to pinch particularly in short, choppy waves. To keep your speed up in these conditions, you must foot off for speed.

Experiment: make one adjustment at a time and then leave it for a reasonable amount of time to see whether it improves your speed or not.

No matter the size of your boat, experiment with the position of the crew weight, once again look around your fleet and see where the fast teams sit.

As a generalisation in light air, you want the weight forward and with a slight heel to leeward. It is only with experimentation that will you find the fastest boat attitude.

Don’t be too shy to even try heeling to weather, as some highly accomplished sailors have been able to make that work for them.

Experiment with all adjustments available on your boat but only make one incremental change at a time, ensuring that after each, you let the boat settle down to give yourself a chance to properly evaluate the outcome. 

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By Brett Bowden

Brett Bowden is an author, entrepreneur, business broker, and yachtsman. Brett is a competitive yachtsman and has competed in many races and championships around the world and still owns several boats.
Brett Bowden is the author of “Sailing To Win” and lives in Victoria, Australia.

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