When to Pinch and When to Foot

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 make trees on your competition. 

To gain bearing you need two things:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 around 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 wanting to go the 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 you 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 the conversation of what is the tactical goal for the next three minutes and this needs to be constatly re-evaluated based on what is happening with the fleet.



As temperatures climb again, it is important to remember how important a regular intake of fluids is to be able to maintain performance capability.

The consequences of a lack of fluids –

Effects on mental performance

  • Mental tiredness increases, attentiveness and concentration decrease.
  • Co-ordination ability decreases; special manoeuvres don’t work anymore as they should
  • Decisiveness is impaired and this has negative effects on our tactical decisions.
  • Distances and angles are harder to judge and the chances of an incorrect decision increase. 

Effects on physical performance

  • The cardio-vascular and central nervous systems are affected, causing an increased pulse rate, lower blood pressure and loss of muscle strength.
  • Physical tiredness leads to lower performances in all areas; all movements become subjectively more strenuous. 
  • Even a reduction of the body mass, caused by lack of fluids, can reduce muscle strength by up to 6%.

The consequences of loss of water –

An 80kg sailor only has to lose 1.2 kg in order to feel negative effects on mental and physical performance.

Even with light physical effort under moderate conditions, say 18-22 degrees, the rate of perspiration equals 400ml per hour.

If we assume the sailor is on the water for 2 hours including the journey to the race and waiting time, even before the first race of the day starts, the critical limit of 1.2kg will be reached by the end of the first race.

Normal sailing clothing and sailing in warm areas will heighten these effects. 

If you are thirsty its already too late

Recent research results confirm that light dehydration can affect your mood,your energy level and the ability to think.

According to the opinion of hydration experts, our sensation of thirst does not occur before the body mass has reduced by 1-2%, and dehydration has already begun. 

At this stage, our mental and physical performance are generally already lowered.  


Take Your Sailing to the Next Level

If you want to improve your results and strive to get to the next level you need to dedicate many hours to the sport, even if you can’t sail every day, making a commitment to sailing as often as possible and in as many conditions as possible is the key.

Play to yourStrengths and improve on your weaknesses.

It is important to know yourself, are you introverted or extroverted? Understanding your personality type will help you determine which people you will have a good rapport with and this is necessary to create effective communication on the boat.

It’s helpful to know that people recharge differently, so allow those who need an hour to themselves post-race to have it.

Find out What you Love outside Sailing

Finding common interests will connect you to other like-minded sailors in the sport and provide you with a healthy outlet from the constant grind of racing.

Maybe its playing another sport like golf, fitness training at the gym or even a game or two at the snooker table.  Giving back to the sport by assisting with junior training and coaching or even getting involved with a club working bee helps you to connect with other members of the sailing fraternity.

Observe how Pro Sailors Behave:

The more you observe how the pros conduct themselves and operate, the more you will understand how to be part of the smaller team within the larger team if you are sailing on a multi crewed boat.

Slowly gain trust by asking questions and being accountable, the key here is to ask, never tell!

Your observations of teamwork on the boat and how systems can be improved could save the day but as per the previous sentence, the way the information is passed on is just as important as the information itself.

Be careful not to become negative:

It can be hard, but don’t let your emotions get in the way,  know how to react in tense moments or when things go wrong, add some humour into the program – it will go a long way.

It isn’t worth holding a grudge or badmouthing anyone in the sport, the more you overcome a bad race or regatta with good humour the more people will want to make you part of their team or circle.

Develop a wide range of skills:

Try to work in as many positions on the boat as you are able including mainteneance, navigation and even a stint on the bow. By doing this you never stop learning but above all you become a much more valuable member of the team.

Pull your weight physically:

Good nutrition, hydration and regular stretching are a great investment not to mention exercise.

Speak to a trainer who understands our sport, explain what you do on the boat and get them to design a sailing specific set of exercises with durations that will match up with the bursts or sustained energy that you need in a typical event.

Concentrate on balance and strength.

Whilst on the subject of health, don’t neglect your skin and live by Slip Slop Slap. We are seeing more and more sailors with skin cancers and its worth noting also that sun and saltwater age sailors quickly so attention to covering up will pay dividends in later life.

Develop a Support Network:

It is great to have both Male and Female fellow sailors who you can vent with and discuss aspects of your sailing.

It’s helpful to speak with someone who has experienced what you have and when you are in a race whether it be a short round the cans event or longer passage event remembering back to those conversations will help you push through.

Having someone on the boat who can back you up by stating that you know what you are doing can be really helpful in building trust amongst teammates.

Make Notes:

When you return to a specific sailing venue you will realise how important it is to keep a sailing record. Find a system that works for you and keep specific notes for boats sailed and venues raced.

Keep track of specific boat setups for conditions that day and any discoveries you or the team made.

The next time you return to that venue or boat, you will have an easy refresh before practice and can quickly appraise any new teammates of what to expect.

Buy a beer for someone or go out of your way to help someone, especially at clubs, sail lofts and boatyards. Simple acts of kindness open the door to making friends in the sport and industry.

Sometimes the favor is returned in a cross on the race course or with sail setup, advice on maintenence issues down to borrowing tools, spare sheets or fittings.

Sometimes it’s returned as an invitation to sail a Wednesday night social race or can lead to racing a bigger regatta or event at some time in the future.

Make  your commitment to the sport known and don’t be afraid to follow up.

If you have a positive work ethic when the going gets tough and the willingness to own up to your mistakes, you will get called.