Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How to Make The Helmsman Look Great

To make the helmsman look great on your boat, they need good information and feedback, so who should provide it?

It probably sounds a bit crazy but believe it or not, everyone on the boat has a part to play. At the end of the day, when you have had a great result the helmsman gets the glory but without a skilful crew, they would not be collecting the chocolates. 

Everyone on the boat should be either feeding back information to the relevant person (normally the tactician) or doing their jobs in such a way that they don’t interfere with the steerers’ concentration.

Good, reliable feedback ensures that they steer fast and do not need to look around this means that their sole concentration is focused on keeping the boat moving.

In a keelboat, the feedback from the genoa trimmer is essential for the best speed upwind. If your boat has a speedo, the genoa trimmer should know the boat polars and after a tack, the trimmer should call the rate of increase in speed to indicate to the steerer that he can head up or maybe slow the pointing until the boat gets up to speed.

The mainsheet trim has a lot to do with how the boat feels and the trimmer will also know how the sail should look in different conditions and different wind speeds. The feedback to the helmsman should also include a reference to the position of the traveller and sheet tension especially if you are trying to say in a lane of clear air. The helmsman is then able to call for a little more sheet, less traveller or whatever is needed to get the boat in balance. 

The tactician will be communicating things like the position of other boats, where the layline is and the possible need to cross or duck where boats are converging. Being forewarned eliminates the need for crash tacks or ducks which will cost you many boat lengths and again the steerer will not have to break concentration by looking under the boom or over their shoulder.

It’s important to have the tactician relaying accurate information. Going upwind you need a tactician who understand puffs, headers and lifts as they relate to wind velocity and his feedback also needs to relay whether nearby boats are going faster or slower and the reasons why.

Depending on the number of crew, some of the jobs such as calling waves, calling puffs and developing situations at marks will be allocated to a trusted crew member. This information will be fed back to the tactician who should be the main person to be communicating with the steerer, he will disseminate the information and only pass on the relevant details.

Downwind, the tactician or designated person should be constantly looking at boats behind to make sure that you are not sailing in or about to sail into their wind shadow. As with upwind, the tactician should be watching boats that are converging with your course so that you have a plan when you do meet and constantly alerting the helmsman to the potential consequences.

All this is designed to stop the helmsman from having to look around and to ensure that he can concentrate on steering for the best speed which in turn will give you the best possible result.




Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Proven Ways To Recover From a Bad Start

If you find you have had or are about to have a bad start, there are multiple different ways to recover. I have outlined a couple of my favourite ways to recover from a bad start below.

  • Stay Where You Are And Foot Off – If you worked out that the left side of the course is where you want to be or that that side will get you to the first shift, it will not hurt to sail in bad air for a short time. Put the bow down a couple of degrees and ease the sheets slightly, you will get clear air quickly and will be able to resume the best heading in a clear lane.
  • Tack To Port Before The Start – It’s important to realise that you are in a bad position just before the gun goes and tack to Port if there is no time or room below to foot off and regroup. You will have to duck a few boats but remember that you are still on the same ladder rung as them and as a small bonus you will get a mini-lift as the wind bends behind each of the Starboard Tackers. This works really well if you want to go Right and you still have the option to tack back to Starboard if a clear lane opens up.
  • Tack and Duck – This is done not long after the start when you find yourself in the second or third row with no hope of digging out. You may need to foot off to get enough separation or even to slow up for a few seconds to allow the tack and duck but just be careful that you don’t have to duck rows and rows of boats once on Port. 
  • Wait for a Lane to Appear to enable a Tack – This happens when you have had a reasonable start, near the front row but have a high sailing boat to leeward and a boat about to roll you to windward. Wait for a short time for the traffic to thin out while constantly looking for a clear lane on Port. Make sure that you tack before the boats ahead do otherwise you will have lost any advantage that you may gain. The longer you wait, the greater the chance of getting tacked on.
  • Recover One by One – After a bad start, recover one by one and don’t let your position get inside your head. If you start to think about passing 10 boats in one shot, this is the way you lose. Strategically pick off your competitors one by one at the same time striving for a clear lane, getting in phase with the shifts and getting to the side of the course that your pre-race homework established as favoured.

#starting #sailboatstart #yachtrace #sailing #sailingtowin


Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How To Manage Seasickness


Regardless of what a lot of sailors will tell you, it has been reported that up to 90% of sailors experience seasickness, whether it be mild or violent, at some time in their sailing career.

Seasickness can be compared with a mild to massive hangover (only worse) and for some, the only relief comes when the boat reaches its destination.

Unfortunately, I am one of those sailors and I had a rule on my boats that no-one was allowed to be sick until I was. Fortunately for all concerned, no one had to wait long.

When putting together an offshore team, finding crew members who don’t get debilitatingly sick is really important not only for your race performance but for the safety of the boat as well.

If you do suffer from “Mal de Mer” there are a few things that may help:

  1. Drink lots of water, staying well hydrated is one of the easiest ways to prevent seasickness.
  2. Don’t sail on an empty stomach, sailing on an empty stomach can increase your chances of feeling seasick.
  3. Avoid caffeinated drinks, colas, alcohol or fatty foods a few days before heading offshore.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep before the race, and start out feeling fresh and at your best.
  5. Keep calm, feeling anxious or fearful can increase your likelihood of experiencing seasickness. Take a relaxing walk or spend some time meditating before the race, make sure you start race day feeling at-ease.

Seasickness medication should be taken at least a couple of hours before heading to the boat and if you can, it makes sense starting the medication up to a day beforehand.

Don’t try a new seasickness medication while you are out on the water, many include a sedative and can make you drowsy or have other negative effects which are not ideal if you’re in the middle of a long offshore yacht race.

Try out a new medication while onshore or in a short race to check out any potential side effects before venturing too far out to sea. Chat with your doctor or pharmacist to get advice on the right medication for you, and how to use it.

Spending too much time below decks with your head in a bag searching for gear is not a good place to be if you’re feeling sick. An easy way to minimise this is to make sure you’re well organised before leaving the dock.

While at sea, make sure you’re well-hydrated and fed, stay warm and where possible, change into warm dry gear and get in as many hours of solid sleep as you can when you are off watch.

If you do start to feel sick, one of the easiest ways to recover is to stand up and look at the horizon, looking at the horizon gives your brain important information to help its predictive system adapt to the boat’s movement, and standing up challenges it to do that faster.

Keeping busy helps as it keeps your mind off thinking about the movement and feelings of nausea and helming is a great antidote as well.

It goes without saying that if you are prone to seasickness, cooking, packing sails, or any other jobs that involve “enjoying” the smells of diesel and wet gear down below only contribute to making you feel worse.

Even if you do end up getting seasick, taking the right steps to manage it and adopting a “mind over matter” approach, means you’ll recover fast and any sickness will be a distant memory by the time you reach the finish line.




Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Minimize Sailing Injuries – Three Best Sailing Stretches.

Copied from an article written by Brad Walker – 

 Regardless of the size of the boat, sailing will require all the upper body strength you can muster. Your upper torso, including your shoulders, arms and abdominal muscles will play a major role in operating a sailboat.

The main muscles in play are the rhomboids, trapezius and rotator cuff in the shoulders, and the deltoids of the upper arms. The biceps and triceps provide the impetus of the pull, working against the wind to keep the boat on course and tacking in the right direction

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Conduct a warm-up, including some gentle stretches, prior to getting on the boat.
  • Cool down after sailing with some basic sailing stretches.
  • A good overall conditioning program to strengthen the muscles mentioned above will help prevent many of the strain and sprain type injuries common to sailing.
  • Incorporate cardiovascular training to prevent fatigue during long days and nights spent sailing.
  • A comprehensive set of sailing stretches, with emphasis on the lower back, shoulders and arms, will help avoid many of the injuries common to sailing.
  • Proper training on water safety and swimming will help prevent drowning or near-drowning injuries.
  • Research the weather conditions before leaving and dress appropriately.
  • If possible, take frequent breaks and change positions during long periods of sailing. This will help prevent the muscles from becoming tight and causing pain.
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking water every 20-30 minutes even if you do not feel thirsty. Dehydration leads to fatigue, nausea and disorientation.

Sailing stretches are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.

Below are 3 of the best stretches for sailing; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start.

Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.

Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Bent Arm Shoulder Stretch: Stand upright and place one arm across your body. Bend your arm at 90 degrees and pull your elbow towards your body.

Lying Knee Roll-over Lower Back Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.

Squatting Leg-out Groin and Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.


Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Pre-Race Routines to Ensure Greater Race Day Success

Your pre-start routine shouldn’t be set in concrete and needs to be fine-tuned according to the conditions, your freshness and any glaring weaknesses that you can work on in the time available.

 Ideally, a three or four-hour gap between waking up and starting a race works best to make sure there’s time to get ready, feed, hydrate and switch on. 

Vary how early before the race you hit the water. In lighter winds, get out earlier and tune-up for longer. Allow 45-60min on the racecourse to give more time to refine your trim.

If the breeze is strong, spend 10-20 minutes less time on the course before the start signal to stay a little fresher.

If some specific aspect of your performance has let you down in prior races,  that should be worked on immediately before the next event.

If it was speed, find a buddy to do some straight-lining and make some tweaks to your set up and technique.

If it was strategy that let you down, spend more time gathering wind data and begin the race by sailing the fleet rather than immediately tacking away for glory.

No matter the venue or conditions you’ll always want to check your speed is OK on the day, check out the wind and check out the starting line.

Ideally, before you leave the shore organise to hook up with another boat to test your speed and to study the wind. 

Once on the racecourse,  have a few minutes by yourself to get stuff sorted before joining another boat for some straight-line speed testing.

Once sailing side by side with your tuning buddy, you’ll soon know how much more speed work you need to do or how long a day it might be!

If you’re faster or even speed, you can soon move on to checking the wind.

If you’re slow, review your sail and rig settings, ask your buddy how they are set up, then make a change and test again. Continue the process until you are satisfied you’ve optimised your set up for the day.

Once you are happy with your speed, expand your awareness to tracking your heading on each tack with a compass or via land references.

Sail through a few lifts and knocks on each tack to become aware of the range of wind shifts and working on speed and shifts helps to get your head outside the boat well before the start signal.

If you’re at a new venue it can be worthwhile testing to see if one side of the course is better than the other and this is best done by doing a split tack with another boat of similar speed.

To achieve this, the two boats head off upwind on opposite tacks for 3-6 mins, tack and when you converge, if one boat is ahead more than a few boat lengths then some factor has made that side better.

Discuss the result of your split tack with the other boat – was there anything that may have affected the result or could they have done better by tacking in a different spot?

Determine the most likely reason for the result – tide, geography, shift or pressure and how repeatable that effect might be.


Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Twist, It’s Importance and When to Use It

Twist, is the relative trim of your sail from top to bottom. Your sail has a lot of twist when the top of the leech is open and when you have a closed leech, this is described as little twist.

The effect of an increase in twist is a reduction of power and reducing twist adds power up to the point where the sail stalls and power drops.

Twist in your sails is necessary because of surface friction. The wind is stronger the higher you go than it is at the surface and this is referred to as wind gradient.

True wind and boat speed combine to create apparent wind and the stronger true wind higher up creates stronger apparent wind and a wider apparent wind angle aloft.

The upper part of the sail must be twisted relative to the lower part to match the wider apparent wind angle up high.

Wind gradient is more pronounced in light air,  and a deep sail shape, used for extra power in light air – is prone to stalling, so trimming with plenty of twist is necessary.

In moderate winds, you can trim harder without stalling flow and this harder trim with less twist adds power and improves pointing.

In heavy air, as the boat gets overpowered, you flatten sails and add twist to spill power.

You sail with more twist in light air and heavy air and the least twist in moderate air.

Generally, less twist will help to point while more twist is faster giving you a wider steering groove. Coming out of a tack, for example, sails are initially trimmed with extra twist to prevent stalling while you are still slow then you trim on as the boat accelerates to full speed.

In waves and chop, you will trim with extra twist to give a more forgiving steering groove as the boat as pushed around in waves.

Reducing twist when sailing in smooth water maintains full power and a high pointing angle. 

Sometimes, as conditions dictate, a combination of twist and flattening is best and one of the challenges of trimming is to achieve the correct mix of power by adjusting depth and twist to match the conditions. 

Your boom vang and cunningham are two other controls at your disposal to achieve balance.



Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How To Sail Fast in Waves and Choppy Conditions

To sail fast in waves and chop you need speed which means powered up sails and footing off in the worst bits.

As you hit each wave it slows you down and sailing well in waves requires determination, concentration and the correct technique.

When sailing in chop, acceleration mode is the only mode and speed breeds speed so the faster you go the more power you have to deal with speed sapping waves and to reduce pitching.

Upwind, you will need to sail lower than you normally would to keep the boat fully powered and drive to keep the jib telltales flowing with the outside ones starting to lift but not stalling.

To power up your sails there are three settings to achieve this being

1.Angle of Attack 2. Sail Depth and 3. Twist.

To achieve depth with the mainsail, straighten the mast, ease the outhaul and soften the luff with a combination of letting the Cunningham go and easing the halyard.

For the Jib, allow the forestay to sag and move the jib leads forward to make the jib fuller. Move them until all the inside telltales luff evenly up the whole luff of the sail.

Trimming the sheet on takes the twist out of the leech and adds power and assists with pointing but be careful not to over trim because you will stall flow which in turn will slow you down.

Creating a little leeward heel can help your performance in chop and create weather helm, which will help you keep the boat on the wind even as the chop tries to push the bow down. (not too much though as too much weather helm creates drag) 

On flat-bottomed boats, the heel can also soften the landing when pitching, concentrate weight low to further reduce pitching and reduce windage.

If you see a particularly nasty set of waves coming, foot off for extra power before you hit them. By sailing low and fast you’ll have extra power to sail over the big ones or steer through them.

Just like going upwind, the first step to downwind performance is to build speed. Head up to a hotter angle with the apparent wind on the beam, this gets the boat moving and establishes flow across the sails.

To build speed, you need to keep the apparent wind forward. Once you’ve got the boat moving downwind, let the apparent wind guide you. Sail as low as you can while keeping the apparent wind blowing in from the side of the boat.

The spinnaker trimmer should provide feedback and if the load on the spinnaker sheet lightens, the trimmer needs to pass that information to the helmsman, “No lower, I’m losing pressure, heat it up.”


Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

The Boom Vang & It’s Importance

Depending on the boat you sail, the boom vang will be one of the most important controls to determine the twist of your mainsail. 

As we go from sailing upwind to across the wind and then downwind, the difference in mainsheet tension will determine how much the boom will try to lift as you ease the sheet and this is where vang tension plays its part.

When sailing upwind, different amounts of twist in the mainsail are needed depending on wind strength and sea conditions and as a rule of thumb, in 10-12 knots of wind the main telltale should be breaking 50% of the time and not much or any vang will be needed.

In order to replicate settings for each wind strength and angle of sailing to the wind, it is important to have marks on the vang rope as a reference for the correct amount of tension to control the leech of the mainsail for the current conditions.

When you sail into a lull, the mainsail begins to stall and more twist is needed so the main sheet is eased until the tell tail eventually flies but with the vang on, the mainsail moves to leeward closing the slot. With the vang left slack, the boom is able to rise and the mainsail twists at the top without losing power from the lower sections of the mainsail, and without dropping the boom to leeward and closing the slot.

In light wind and choppy conditions have the vang on hand tight to stop the boom from bouncing but constantly check that your twist is correct by watching your tell tales.

As wind speed increases, the twist is controlled by a combination of sheet and vang tension.

In heavy air where your traveller is completely to leeward and you are still easing mainsheet to keep the boat upright, the mainsail will begin to flap  when the mainsheet is eased. Pull your vang on to tighten the mainsail leech to stop it from flapping while keeping power in the leech. You are in effect driving off the leech of the mainsail.

In these conditions ensure your outhaul and Cunningham are pulled on hard and your backstay (if you have one) is at maximum to flatten the mainsail as much as possible without inverting it.

When reaching, the vang is the main control which effects mainsail twist. As your boom is eased beyond the quarter of the boat, the mainsheet is no longer effective at holding the boom down, so the vang takes over.

On a run, the boom is even further out and the mainsheet is now completely ineffective at controlling mainsail twist, pull your vang on to keep your top batten parallel to the boom and this keeps the mainsail fully projected to the wind.



Small Things Can Have a Major Impact in a Race

  1. Make all your lines as short as possible, this reduces weight and minimizes the number of tangles you’ll get. Use a magic marker or piece of tape to mark important settings on each sheet.
  2. Minimize twists in the spinnaker halyard tail by tying the end to a fixed point. All your halyards, especially the main, will stretch, so you may have to tighten them occasionally.
  3. A rolled sail guarantees it will last longer, take your time and do it right to prevent kinks and bends. If under postponement on the water, roll them up and keep them out of the sun and if you have to leave them up, prevent them from flogging.
  4. Use shock cord to hold hiking straps as close to normal hiking position as possible, this will ensure that you won’t have to reach into the bilge searching for the strap with your toes after every tack.
  5. Wrapping tape around parts of the rigging is really important to stop inadvertent unravelling or pins coming loose. However, seeing little tape ends that have come unstuck and are flapping in the breeze is bad. To prevent this, put silicone sealant over the ends of the tape but make sure you use as little tape as possible.
  6. Adjust your mainsheet cam so the jaws are just below the mainsheet when you are trimming it from a hiked-out position. You want the cam low enough so the sheet won’t automatically go into the cam but you want the cam high enough so you can use your foot to get the sheet in the cam temporarily.
  7. Don’t leave lines in a cam cleat as this wears out the springs. Use metal instead of plastic cam cleats because these hold better and last longer plus you can even sharpen them when they begin to wear.
  8. Clear the weeds from your centreboard and rudder just before the start. On a keelboat, you’ll have to back down to do this. If you have an engine, don’t set your prop too early in light air because you may need some help to get to the favoured end of the line before the preparatory signal.
  9. Read the Sailing Instructions before getting to the starting area. Concentrate on courses, recall procedure, shortened course, protest requirements and any other sections where the committee may have modified standard procedure. Always encourage your crew to read the instructions as well.
  10. Use magnetic tape or yarn for sail telltales and sail repair tape is the best way to stick telltales to the sail. Make it easy to tell which telltale is on which side by using red yarn on port and green on starboard with the starboard telltales a little higher.
  11. Before and during the race, there are certain things you should record for future reference. These include wind direction, the order of marks, compass course to marks, and heading on each tack. Use a grease pencil to write anywhere on fibreglass because it’s easily erasable and still works when the boat is wet.
  12. Sailors, like all athletes, need water to keep from getting dehydrated, get a water bottle with a spout and put it in a place where it’s easy for the crew to reach. Encourage everyone to drink, both before and during the race.
  13. Start the race with your bilge as dry as possible. In windy conditions, if you are planning to sail the race with your thru-hull bailers open, you may have to close them while luffing before the start.
  14. Your best source of good ideas is other sailors. Talk to the competitors in your fleet, and spend some time perusing their boats and their setups. You will definitely come away with a few new ideas, tricks and techniques. FREE BOOK! 49 SAILING SECRETS & TIPS  

Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing



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