In my haste to send out my already late Blog, during the paring down to make the article short and easy to read I eliminated the essence of  “shifting Gears in a Lull” what should have been included follows in bold italics.

Bearing off to restore luff telltale flow in a lull is a bad habit. Frank Bethwaite recommends you consider trimming in and very slightly feathering down in a lull and unnecessary steering will slow you down. The boat will slow down due to the lull and moves the apparent wind back closer to its direction before the lull. If the lull persists, your final heading might be only a touch lower than your original heading. If you steer down initially, you will then need to steer up again as the apparent wind comes back to its original direction. 


Moose McClintock learned that twings down on a spinnaker sheet or guy is similar to applying vang tension on a mainsail; it closes the leech and stabilizes the kite. He taught this while sailing on Farr 40s with the kite up in big breeze and waves.

Jonathan McKee  The farther away the jib clew is from the lead, the more you have to move it to make a change. An Etchells jib clew almost touches its lead; therefore, small changes make a big difference. On the other hand, a Melges 20 jib clew and lead are much farther apart, so your range of jib-lead movement is greater from light to heavy air.

Dave Ullman explains that raking your mast forward will give you more power because the wind flows over your sails closer to a 90-degree angle. It also closes your leeches. Raking back generates more up-flow, from front to back, decreasing power.

It also twists the sails and effectively moves the jib lead aft (because your jib clew lowers toward the lead), which also decreases power.

Buddy Melges says to practice tacks and jibes because they can provide massive gains in short amounts of time especially if you are practising by yourself, spend a lot of time on both. 

Vince Brun’s lesson was that while sailing upwind in flat water you can pinch and get away with it because nothing is disturbing the flow over your sails and blades. But as the chop increases, you have to put the bow down to keep speed. The choppier it is, the lower you have to sail.

Chop throws the boat around and makes it pitch fore and aft, causing everything to easily stall, especially when you slam into waves. Make sure you ease your sails to increase the twist and decrease helm load this bow-down twisty mode is more forgiving and keeps the boat moving fast.

Skip Whyte, coach of the University of Rhode Island sailing team knows a lot about sailing dinghies. He preaches sitting upright with good posture so that you can better see the wind and the sails. When you need to scoot in, slide your butt and hips in first. Doing so keeps your head outboard, again helping visibility. Slouching in toward the boom is uncomfortable and less effective.

Ed Adams explains the importance of setting the foot of your jib — ideally, the majority of the foot — so that it kisses the deck. The seal formed between the sail and the deck forces wind aft rather than allowing it to escape underneath the sail. Capturing and accelerating the wind gives you increased power and lift.

Karl Anderson preaches the importance of delivering a positive message to the team, especially after a tough day, let them know the team is still in good shape and all is well. Make everyone feel like they’re still in the regatta. This goes a long way, especially if you are respected on the boat.

Larry Suter explained how, when the pin is favoured by 10 per cent, it takes about 10 per cent longer to get to the line compared to a square line from a given distance because your approach angle is more parallel to the line.

If the boat is favoured by 10 per cent, it takes about 10 per cent less time to reach the line from the same distance because you are sailing more directly at the line.

That’s why there are more on course sides and general recalls when the boat is favoured. It’s critical to factor in line bias when setting up for the start.

James Lyne, coach to many top teams, emphasizes the lifted tack. In an oscillating breeze, he says, if you sail a header out of the gate or off the starting line, you end up missing the first shift and often end up missing shifts later up the beat. As you sail a header early in the leg, you rapidly get near the layline.

If you get to the layline early in the beat you have painted yourself into the corner. Later up the leg, if you get headed, you don’t want to tack because you are already on an edge, with not much distance to sail the other way. You have a dilemma because you are still on the long tack, but you are also headed.

You end up sailing through a header or two later in the beat, compounding your losses. Those who sail the lifted tack more often are positioned in the middle of the course and don’t mind tacking on headers at the top of the beat.



Footing, Pointing and Shifting Gears

Shifting gears on your boat requires knowledge of your boat, the conditions, and plenty of practice. Gear changing is what separates those with adequate boat-speed from those who always seem to be higher and faster.

Many in your fleet start a race with a similar setup using a tuning guide or by following class accepted principles but the faster boats in your fleet are constantly making additional adjustments. and when conditions suddenly change these sailors shift gears smoothly.

Fix Pointing Problems:

Pointing problems are not only indicated by the angle that the boat is sailing relative to the boats around you but more by the fact that the boat is actually sliding to leeward.

Trying to pinch to maintain height is generally the problem and to solve this we must remember to foot, then point. Your boat needs to go fast so the underwater foils develop enough lift to hold their position in the water.

To regain pointing ability, ease the sails out, bear off slightly, and get back up to speed. Once your pointing has been re-established, re-trim your sails.

Fight the urge to heel the boat to aid pointing and keeping the boat as flat as possible will maintain a balanced helm and ensure the efficiency of your foils plus reduce the drag caused by the rudder.

Fix Footing Problems:

The simplest fix is easing the sails and more open leeches on both sails will help the boat sail lower and faster.

If this results in a pointing problem the first thing you must do is check your helm balance.

First, try to sail the boat flatter, if that doesn’t help, try flattening the main by bending the mast.

Next ease the traveller to balance the helm and lastly tighten the outhaul and apply Cunningham to the mainsail and tighten the jib halyard to move the draft forward in both sails which will open the leeches and remove drag.

Shifting Gears in a Lull:

Puffs feel like lifts and lulls usually appear as headers.

In a lull, it’s important to bear off as smoothly as possible making sure that the boat remains flat and resist the temptation to add heel to maintain “feel” in the helm.

To maintain speed in a lull, ease the main and allow the boat to heel to weather creating lee helm to steer the boat down then ease the jib, level the boat and pull the traveller up if the boom is below the centerline.

If it is a long lull, straighten the mast and ease the main Cunningham and jib halyard.



3 Tips For Staying Out Of Trouble

Even though we employ the best tactical foresight out on the racecourse, we can still often get ourselves into a jam and to that end, I have outlined below some tips to enable you to dig your way out.

Ducking a Competitor:

The main reason that you have to duck is to minimise a loss and a good duck generates extra speed when you bear off.

As a bonus, you also gain a little lift as you cross close behind the other boat, it’s important though, as you cross close behind to get back to closed hauled as quickly and smoothly as possible.

If you do this well, there is a good chance that next time you come together and you are on starboard tack, that you will have the advantage. This is especially powerful at the top of the course a few lengths under starboard tack-layline.

If it appears the other boat will leebow you, and for tactical reasons you want to continue and you are in a lightweight boat with good manoeuvrability, try a late duck, which will keep from giving away your intentions.

Avoid The Pinwheel Effect at a Mark Rounding:

As an outside boat in a group approaching the leeward mark, don’t carry on with pace, not only will you sail extra distance in bad air, you will get carried wide around the mark and you will end up in a terrible lane coming out the other side.

The remedy here is to slow down and let other boats move ahead, kill speed by taking your ­spinnaker down early and steer a little extra distance. 

If you’re advanced on the group, you can slow down a lot by steering hard, swerving back and forth, and swinging wide to slow your boat and kill time.

The advantage of falling in behind is that while the group in front push each other wide of the mark and sail in each others bad air, there is the opportunity for you to round the mark tightly without fouling those boats and be on the inside track going upwind ensuring that you pass a boat or two.

When slowing down and waiting for your opportunity to round inside, there could be boats coming up from behind with no room and who want to sail into the gap you’re ­shooting for,  be sure to communicate with them that they have no rights.

Recover from Overstanding:

If you find that you have overstood a mark, the key to recovery is to crack off and put the bow down to get to the mark as quickly as possible.

In medium and heavy air, cracking off causes heel, so depower the rig,  traveller down, backstay on, hike hard, and move your weight aft.

Set the sails to reduce helm but always keep a little in the bank by sailing slightly high of the mark especially if you’re sailing in current or just in case you get headed or a boat tacks on you.

If you have overstood while sailing downwind, sail high and fast toward the leeward mark, if sailing high puts you in the dirty air from boats ahead, sail low to keep your air clear as long as possible, then heat it up late near the mark. 

At all times, either upwind or downwind, keep the boat flat to avoid going sideways and keep the foils working efficiently.



Strategy For An Upwind Leg.


The wind has just shifted left so it has headed all boats around you on starboard tack – Should you keep sailing into the header, or take the instantaneous gain and tack? 

As always with sailing, the perfect answer begins with ‘It depends’

Possible scenarios for you to consider:

  • The wind has headed, but you are still certain there is more wind on the left-hand side of the course, and that is going to make more difference. You will keep heading towards the pressure, but revisit the decision if all the boats on your hip tack off before you get there.
  • You are still above your mean heading for starboard tack and you believe that the wind is still moving left. As soon as you are down to mean numbers you’ll tack onto port, and duck the boats on your hip if necessary.
  • You have no confidence in what the wind might do next, therefore positioning is your first priority. If you are getting closer to the port layline you need to look for an opportunity to head back to the centre of the leg.
  • The header has given you a gain on the boats to your right so you are going to tack to put that gain ‘in the bank’ right now.”

The Big Picture:

You should have an informed opinion gleaned from a practice beat before the start and that will usually narrow the basis for ‘staying’ or ‘going’ to one or two key factors.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • Can you see more pressure on either side of the course?
  • Is there tide or current affecting the course and the time of tide change?
  • Will there be a wind direction bend caused by land at either end of the course?
  • Is there a possibility of a persistent shift in wind direction?
  • Is the water less lumpy on one part of the course?
  • If the wind is shifty, are the shifts likely to be small or large?
  • Are the shifts oscillating, regular and repeating or completely random?
  • How many shifts do you expect per upwind leg?

Further Considerations:

  • Do you want to risk everything to win the race by a leg, or just be happy to arrive at the windward mark in touch with the leaders?
  • If you’ve spent most of the upwind leg chasing gains or tacking on the shifts, positioning rules should take over as the leg progresses.
  • If you are less willing to take a chance on a big gain on your own, the position of the next mark and the rest of the fleet must take a bigger part of your “tack or continue” considerations.

Tack or Continue:

  • Don’t get pushed around by the other boats, take every opportunity to work toward the favoured side of the course.
  • If there is a regular pattern and you are confident that there will be at least two cycles per beat, tack whenever you are headed below the average heading on that tack.
  • If you are not confident about what is going to happen next, start on the tack that takes you closest to the mark, keep away from the laylines and tack and cross or close gauge on boats to windward whenever the wind heads.