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If You’re Slow – Ease For Speed

Sails require airflow across the leeward side. A sail stalls when airflow detaches from the back of the sail and is indicated when the leeward telltales fly forward or upwards.

Generally, the top part of the sail will stall first and by the time that you are visually aware of it, you have already lost the sails optimum sailing angle.

Knowing the right time to ease the sheet when sailing through a lull, gust, pinching or footing off through waves will give you superior speed to fellow competitors.

Ease after Pinching

If you sail into a header and are not quick enough to react, it doesn’t take long to luff the front of your sail and slow you down.

The initial reaction is to sheet on tighter but once you’ve established that your course is too high and make the adjustments back down to your optimal upwind angle, your boatspeed is slower than a boat that didn’t pinch.

Easing the sheet will momentarily relieve the stall induced by being slowed. Then trim your sails to the new apparent-wind angle until you’re back up to speed.



The two components of drag are:

1. underwater drag from hull friction that can be increased by chop and swell, and

2. drag that comes from a sail setup that is too deep and has excessive leach hook.

In moderate wind, it’s useful to keep some hook, as it helps to power through chop.

When you have reached top speed and your apparent wind moves forward, trimming your sails to have less leach hook will decrease drag in some conditions.

Sheeting out before the boat has slowed will maintain force in the sails and help you stay at speed.

In windier conditions, this stalling is perceived in the helm as a lift. When your bow hits a wave, the apparent wind moves aft, heels the boat and gives you the feeling of heading up.

In bigger swells, it’s OK to steer up to keep your heel angle consistent. However, in most conditions, extra weather helm tells you that there is extra drag.

Again, easing the sheet for the new apparent-wind direction is a crucial part of re-acceleration.

Ease In The Gusts

Ease the main when a puff hits, thus trimming the sails to the new apparent-wind direction.

A puff causes the boat to heel as true wind force increases and pulls the apparent wind aft so resist the urge to treat this as a lift.


Entering a Lull

You can generally see a lull coming by noticing the lighter shading on the water.

When sailing into a lull in a boat that carries momentum, momentarily sheet on, blading the sail to reduce drag. Your apparent wind moves forward so avoid the temptation initially to bear away.

After slowing, the apparent wind shifts aft and requires a more forgiving sail setup that provides more power.

On dinghies where mainsheet changes mast bend, sheet out to increase camber in the top of the sail.

On boats where the mainsheet affects leech twist, easing to open it increases the velocity across the leeward side of the top of the sail.

Stay active with the mainsheet, easing for optimal sail force and apparent wind direction changes.


The importance of effective on boat communication. I have just returned from an Australian Championship and after speaking with a number of fellow competitors, it became really evident that the best crews have a communication hierarchy.

On board communication when racing is a key factor for performance. No matter what type of racing you do, when the number of crew increases, it becomes more and more important.

In order to cover as many types of boats as possible I have outlined below communication necessary for different crew members on boats with different crew numbers. Pick out the ones that are relevant for the type of boat you sail.


The helmsperson/skipper

The helmsperson must talk to the trimmers about how the boat feels, the fact that there is too much helm or even negative helm. This feedback enables them to ease sheet or trim on to remedy the problem and keep the boat fast.

The advantage of a boat with a speed indicator is that the helmsperson and trimmers can see that the boat is not sailing at the right speed for the conditions. The skipper can suggest more or less sheet, or for the vang, jib car position or Cunningham to be adjusted to get up to the desired speed.


The Trimmers

Good trimmers should ask the helmsperson frequently about how it feels to make sure the boat is sailing at its full potential.

When sailing upwind, the main trimmer, who is usually the only other crewmember besides the skipper facing towards the middle of boat and sitting next to the helmsman, is constantly talking with helmsman about how the boat feels

When sailing off the breeze, the spinnaker trimmer takes over, keeping the boat in the groove.

They can advise when the kite has plenty of tug or has gone soft and can instruct the helm to heat up or bear off at the appropriate time.


The Tactician

If your boat has a crew big enough to have a separate tactician, they are the one who gives the overall plan. They talk to the whole crew and communicate directly with the helmsman in close quarter situations, such as the start and mark roundings.

The tactician is responsible for where the boat sails through the water, and how it sails, telling trimmer what type of mode is best for the boat.

The Middle Of the Boat – Effective On Boat Communication

Included in the middle are headsail trimmers, grinders when you have them and the pit, which can be multiple people. Communication from this part of the boat is non stop and travels both ways.

The crewmembers on the bow need to know in plenty of time, what the next manoeuvre is going to be.  There needs to be instructions from the middle boss so that they have plenty of time to prepare sails or equipment.



This is the member of the crew who operates at or in front of the mast and who deals with the hoisting and lowering of all headsails. They are also responsible for clipping on and helping to douse spinnakers and are instrumental in Gybing spinnakers on symmetrical boats.

Communication coming from the middle or afterguard is crucial, so that there are no crash tacks or gybes without everything being ready.

In really challenging conditions on larger boats hand signals are better than yelled instructions and these are talked about and practiced when training.

Too Much Communication is nearly always better than not enough.

Prepare and Execute a Race Series



There is a sequence of actions required to prepare and execute a race series and you must focus only on what’s important.


Plan logistics well in advance and make sure everything on your boat is in working order. If you have a trailer or transport vehicle make sure that all maintenance is up to date. This includes the pesky wiring and wheel bearings.

Make a check list and when it comes to getting logistics ready, lists are your best friend. Carry out a comprehensive check early giving you enough time to fix any problems.


If you’re sailing with a new team or new team members, practice will be extra important to ensure that you can work efficiently together. Practice to prevent boat handling mistakes and practice like you are racing.

Take the time to practice each manoeuvre in as many conditions as possible. Make a list of each type of mark rounding (both top and bottom turns), make a short windward-leeward course, and cycle through them so there’s no confusion come race day.


Make sure your crew is on the same page with regards to logistics and schedule and ensure everyone knows the rules. It’s each crew member’s responsibility to read the race documents (SIs, NORs, and class rules) so there are no surprises.

Before the event, point out anything that might be unique to that regatta.

Early in the Regatta

You can’t win the regatta on day one, but you can lose it. Important points to make your team aware of.

  1. Focus – Have a pre-race briefing on the beach or dock before the day’s first race for any last minute questions or reminders.
  2. Get on the water early – conduct a few warm-up manoeuvres, test boat speed against a fast boat, and review pre-start homework. Sail all or a fair part of the first leg to get settled and note the numbers and settings.
  3. Practice like you are racing –
  4. It’s always great to win – but sail for the best average and not to win races.
  5. Set small goals – keep the goal manageable and prevent it from overwhelming you.
  6. If you find yourself back in the fleet early in a race, work on picking off boats one by one rather than going for a flyer.


Reassess your goals compare them to reality and see how you stand.

Are you still in striking distance of your goal, or should you make a new one? If there’s a big gap to your ideal outcome, it may be time to take a few calculated risks to step up a spot or two.

Look for opportunities that maximize your potential gains on the fleet with the least amount of risk.

Last Day

Going into the last day, understand how the scores play out and which scenarios will get you the best result.

Knowing the point totals will dictate if you can focus on the boat next to you in the standings or if you need to keep an eye out on a number of boats.

Focus on what you can control. You can’t control other boats, the wind, or the weather, but you can control how you respond, so focus 100 percent on your own boat.

Strategy and Tactics

I have copied below excerpts from an interview I did on Strategy and Tactics with Australian sailing legend Rob Brown. Rob was a crew member on Australia 2 when they won the Americas Cup in 1983, breaking the longest winning streak in sporting history.

Rob was also multiple 18 foot skiff world champion amongst the impressive sailing back catalogue achievements. He has excelled in one-design and offshore events so understands strategy and tactics better than most.

Brett – With regard to strategy and tactics, what do you and your crew do in terms of on water tactics? Do you call all the tactics or do you get feedback from your crew? What are the roles of the people?

Rob: Okay. I think, assuming I am the tactician, obviously I’d be calling the tactics and receiving input from various sources throughout the boat.

If I was steering a boat, I would be principally concentrating on steering the boat as fast as I possibly can and relying on the eyes and ears of my crew to call the tactics.

If there’s indecision, to be able to feed information back to me and involve me in the process of making the decision.

Brett – Often tactics involve a bit of discussion and you don’t want to start having an argument or a philosophical discussion with your crew, you want to get some pretty good feedback.

Rob: If you’re steering the boat, your principal job is to steer the boat as fast as possible. If you’re going in the wrong direction, that’s not really your problem.

You rely on your wind callers and your strategists who are giving you feedback, like where you are on the course relative to your opposition.
I remember when I was sailing Etchells, and a lot of this goes on when I was steering. He would say we’ve got 15% of the fleet below us and we’ve got 85% of the fleet above us or on our right or on our left. That gave me a mental picture where we were.

So while I’m steering the boat, I’m saying are we hedging our bets a little bit too far to the left or should we consider any opportunity to get back in touch with the rest of the fleet on our right.

Brett – Would you say to the tactician, is there any obvious advantage to stay out here or should we be getting back to the fleet?

Rob: If everything is going fine and you’re happy, I wouldn’t say anything. But if there was any hesitation or the boat was starting to go quiet, that alarm bell would ring in my head, hang on, things aren’t looking as good as what they thought earlier. 

Brett –  In that situation, who does what and what are their key activities?

Rob: It really comes down to the skill set of the personnel you’ve got on board. The main sail crewman who’s looking in the boat is part of the speed team and he’s interacting with you to make the boat go fast.

It’s a lot easier for the main sheet trimmer to look at and view the compass and he basically calls five up five down, ten up ten down, whatever. So that gave us an input on where we were heading. 
Then the forward hand would give you the wind calls. The gusts coming onto the boat. Gust in four three two one on you now. Then he would also be the swivel neck looking around, analyzing where the boats were, opportunities to cross people.

So he is more involved in the tactics on the boat. But it really comes down to the skill sets of the people you’ve got onboard. 

Brett – I heard a very successful skipper say that they felt their crew was 75% of the reason that they ended up where they did, what do you think of that statement?

Most definitely. I think having roles and responsibilities on your boat and having confidence and backing the decisions that are made in front of you.

I think where a lot of people come unstuck is where there’s indecision. It’s better to make a decision than no decision at all. If it doesn’t work out, let’s face it, we’re dealing in a pretty interesting environment where we’re dealing with something we can’t see. We’re just looking at indicators, compass, gusts on the water, or waves.

And we’re dealing with nature. So everyone who’s had any good results would know you make mistakes and it’s really how you recover after making mistakes.

I think that the important thing is to back the judgment of the people on board and live by it. Don’t question it.

Brett – What’s the one strategy a sailor who wants to improve should concentrate on above all else?

Rob: I tend to think if you’re not 100% sure on your strategy of whether the right or the left is going to pay, I generally look at where the main opposition are setting up on the start line.

If your top three or four competitors are pushing towards the boat end, in the last couple of minutes, you know that they want to start at the right end of the line and probably go right. So you use that as a bit of input.

You don’t want to go out there to just follow people, but if you’re not sure, hedge your bets and go with the good guys.

Ingredients of Success

With many of us in the Southern Hemisphere getting ready to head off to National championships and the Sydney to Hobart big boats already finished I thought it was a great time to re-post good mate David Dellenbaugh’s article, Ingredients of Success.

As I have mentioned before, Dave’s website https://www.speedandsmarts.com is the best resource that I have found on the internet for sailors of all levels that want to improve their sailing results.

Dave writes: In order to be successful at racing, a sailor must have a wide range of skills. Consider the America’s Cup, for example. In a serious campaign, the actual sailing is only a small part of the program, perhaps as little as 10-20%. The rest is spent raising money, designing and building the boat, getting in shape, repairing the boat, and so on.

A lot of people have pointed out that Dennis Conner is not the world’s best helmsman; however, he is right up there when it comes to planning and executing America’s Cup campaigns.


There are basically five areas where the typical sailor must concentrate in order to improve her or his racing performance: Preparation, Boat handling, Boatspeed, Strategy, and Tactics.

Preparation —

Preparation includes everything you must do before your race committee blows the first gun. Among the most important elements of preparation is making sure your boat will hold together. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a race lost because of a breakdown.

All your blocks, lines, cotter pins, etc. should be checked to ensure that they are in good working order.  Regular maintenance, cleaning, and replacement of worn parts are essential.

Careful preparation of your underwater surfaces is also very important.  The hull, centerboard, and rudder should be clean, smooth, and fair.  Fill in nicks and gouges so you minimize disturbances in the water flow.

Organization —

Organization is an all-encompassing term that is integral in sailboat racing.  How will we get the boat there?  Do we have all the pieces?  Spare parts?  Tools?  When do we have to be ready to sail?  Where will we stay?  Who’s in charge of the food?  Do we have our lifejackets?  sails?  paddle?

In my sailing, I use several checklists to make sure I don’t forget anything.  This lets me concentrate more on the actual racing.


Boat handling —

Boat handling refers to how the skipper and crew handle their boat in maneuvers like tacks, jibes, mark roundings, spinnaker work, etc.  Large gains  (and losses) can be made during these maneuvers and again, practice is the key.

The various boat handling maneuvers should become second nature so that you can concentrate on the race around you. Imagine rounding the windward mark in first place with the rest of the fleet right on your heels.  POP!  Your crew expertly sets the spinnaker, it fills and off you go on a plane, leaving the fleet in your wake to battle for second.

Without the ability to execute this perfect set, you would have a lot of company for the remainder of the race.

Crew training should be a big part of pre-race preparation since it is usually too hectic in the middle of a race to discuss calmly the best way to take down the spinnaker.  Set up times when you won’t be racing where you can concentrate on practicing new maneuvers and smoothing out any boat-handling areas that have given you trouble in recent races.

Boatspeed —

As you get more racing experience, you may notice that the top sailors not only get good starts and have good boat handling, etc. they are also just plain fast.  This boat speed comes from a combination of variables such as rig tuning, sail trim, steering technique, boat preparation, etc.

Rig tuning refers to the position of your mast and the tension of the shrouds and backstay. These factors control mast bend and, in turn, affect the shape and efficiency of the sails.  Subtle changes in sail trim controls such as sheets, leads, outhaul, cunningham, and vang will also optimize your sails for the conditions.


The ability to steer a boat well, especially in wavy or choppy conditions, is one of the secrets to good speed and also takes much practice.  Knowing when and how much to head up or off to avoid a wave, or how to trim the sails when you can’t avoid a wave is a fine art.

Other factors affecting boat speed include the fairness of the hull and foils (no weeds or barnacles here!), minimizing windage (especially in the rigging), and sailing in clear, undisturbed air (away from other boats).

Don’t worry if this seems overly complicated at first.  You can always get general guidelines for tuning your rig and trimming your sails from class members, sailmakers, or magazine articles.  As you become more familiar with your boat and are more competitive in your racing, you can begin to experiment with boat speed variables on your own.

Strategy —

Strategy is your plan for how to get around the race course as fast as possible. When formulating a strategy, you have to consider wind, current, and sea conditions.  For example, you want to figure out if there is a pattern in the wind.  Is it shifting back and forth (oscillating) or is it gradually shifting in one direction (persistent)?  Where is the most wind?  What is the weather (and wind) forecast?

Current can also play an important role in your strategy.  Sailing in the S.O.R.C. (Southern Ocean Racing Conference) off the east coast of Florida, it can often be advantageous to sail a much longer course to get out to the Gulf Stream which may be pushing you northward at up to four knots!  Knowing the direction and strength of the current on all parts of the course is valuable information.

Sea conditions are often an overlooked aspect of strategy.  Does one side of the course have smoother water?  Does rougher water indicate a more favorable current, a longer fetch for the seas to build up, or shallower water?  Part of your preparation before a race is to accumulate this information so you will have a game plan to follow once the race has begun.


Tactics —

Tactics are the tools you have for executing your strategy in a fleet of boats. The object is not to let other boats get in the way of your plan. Some of the questions you must deal with continually are: How do you position yourself relative to the other boats?

Can you control where your closest competitors go or prevent them from getting toward the favored side?  How can you minimize your risks?  What rules take effect when boats come together?

There are books and articles galore on tactics, but the best experience is lots of racing and observation.  You will gradually build up your own repertoire of tactical moves for each situation that arises.

Use Your Jib Telltales


Use your jib telltales – these give  clues to your boat’s sail trim in different conditions. Nothing is more reliable or true than these yarns or fabric strips as a guide to good sail trim.


What the telltales tell us.

Both telltales flowing, known as full flow is good when underpowered. When your windward telltales are dancing, this is good in overpowered conditions.

Stalled windward telltales is bad and means the sail is out too far and as a result you are not fast. Either trim in to get both streaming or the driver should steer down. 

Telltales are a great guide for the helmsperson to steer by and the trimmer uses them to help trim the jib more effectively. The trimmer uses the tell tales at the upper luff to ensure that the jib car is placed correctly fore and aft giving the right amount of twist and or power for the conditions. 

With a perfect twist, all luff telltales up and down the sail will break evenly.

The jib leech tell tales show how tightly the sail is trimmed, too tight and the tell tale stalls. Ease the sail out until the tell tale flows 90-100 percent of the time.

Sailboat races are won through fast sail trim and precision steering. Using the tell tales effectively can help you do both.


Tell tale Placement.

Place the port and starboard telltales offset slightly, with the starboard side about 25 to 40 millimeters higher than the port. On most jib materials, use green for the starboard side and red for the port side. On black or darker-colored headsails, white telltales work best.

Use a row of three to five short telltales for the steering telltales.  These provide more information about where the flow is attached to the front of the jib. For the other luff telltales, a single set per location is adequate. They should be placed 10 to 20 percent back from the luff.

Leech telltales tell us how the wind is exiting the jib and they are key indicators of leech stall. Leech stall is caused when the jib is trimmed too tightly. Ideally, they should be placed 15 to 30 percent down from the head.




Consistency is the key to starting well and having a great regatta.

This article is written by highly accomplished international sailing coach and good mate Adrian Finglas.

Many regattas are won and lost in the final few seconds before a start. This is due to high risk moves, teams that are on edge and worried about others and not their team.


Clear communication

This is critical during the start process to make sure all team members are aware of the strategy for the start. I am a big believer the starting process must be repeatable and low risk so you get an outcome that gets you going in the race.

How many times have we seen teams battling it out for a high-risk end of a start line.  They slightly miss judge the timing and are left head to wind?

I have found, especially in keel boats;  the port approach gives you consistency and is relatively low risk especially in big fleets.

When you approach the start line on port you can see the whole fleet as well as the gaps and density of boats is clear. We are always trying to start in the low density areas. This gives you clean air and water as well as less psychological stress.

High density areas are full of the risk takers and the screamers calling all the rules and regulations adding unnecessarily to your stress.


The beauty of the Port approach

You can see the gaps and opportunities opening as you sail up the line from the pin end. Depending on fleet size and experience you should be on port with 2 minutes to go.

During the sail up on port, keep a close eye out on the second row  o starboard tackers.

As you sail up the line the key is to look for a big enough gap to tack into. Often the starboard tack boats are luffed up and going slow. In this case it’s easy to judge a nice slow tack in below a starboard tacker.

As you are approaching a starboard tack boat it’s important you aim towards the middle of their boat. If you aim at their bow then tack, you will be bow forward and risk being over the line.

The game is to tack under as close to the starboard boat as possible then match their progression forward. If they accelerate, you do the same, just keeping your bow slightly forward.

The art after you are on starboard, and inside the last 30 seconds, is to slow the boat above you by luffing. If you can slow their progression at 20 seconds with a hard luff this is a key defensive move.

Once the weather boat has slowed and you are inside 20 seconds, you can now concentrate on getting your bow down. Accelerating towards the line leaving them luffed and slow.


Starting consistently

is a real art which requires you to remain alert to your opponent’s moves. I always say, “starting is like boxing – if you stand flat footed you will get hit”.

To get a good start you must move your eyes to watch all the small attack and defend moves. Lining up on port gives you the ability to watch the fleet and look for holes on the start line.


There are some attributes common to all top crews and each crew position has its own specific responsibilities and needs a particular skill set. Every team benefits from simple things like proper preparation and better fitness.

Some of the most valuable lessons we learn come through switching roles and only then can you appreciate what each crew member encounters when called upon to act.

I have listed below some of the things that will ensure that you are a valuable team member on your boat.


Physical Fitness –

Physical fitness improves mental focus, especially as the day and/or week wears on in a regatta. Out-of-shape sailors are slow to recover when things go wrong. Maintaining a reasonable level of fitness makes it easier to change your weight as required in different boats. You can do this without sacrificing your health.

Be Prepared –

Have a look at the forecast before leaving home and only bring the gear necessary for the days racing. Come with a roll of tape, a sailors knife and a few spare pieces of rope to carry out emergency repairs.

Start Racing When You Get to the Boat –

By that I mean rig the boat, prepare the necessary gear for the days racing. Get your head in the race early and don’t waste time with idle chatter not related to the days event. The advantage of this is that you will have time if something is missing or out of place to fix it rather than a last minute panic which could cost you the race.

New Crew Member –

When there is a new person or two onboard, take time to familiarise them with what you expect them to do. Tell them how the communication works on the boat and get out on the course early to practice a few manoeuvres.


Trust Your Teammates –

Trust your teammates so that you can focus on doing your job. Don’t hesitate to point out something that looks wrong, but make sure your area is locked down first. The trimmer who watches the bowman’s every move isn’t looking at his sail enough.

Adapt –

You might not always agree with the tactician or the helmsperson, but save the debate for later. Adapt to whatever call is made, and focus what you can do to make the best of the current situation.

Be Proactive –

Move your weight before the skipper asks and listen to the calls for puff and lull and slide your weight in and out accordingly.

Communication –

When operating outside your standard playbook, step up the communication. For instance, to handle a particularly nasty set of waves, a trimmer might say: “I’m easing a lot for this set of waves.”

If you need to go to leeward, or to the bow, to fix something in full-hike conditions, make sure everyone is aware before you move. Allow the driver to pick the best time for you to go.

Crews Need A Thick Skin –

Skippers anxiety level often correlates to their limited view of the course. Snapping back only makes matters worse. Focus on fixing things and doing your job. Don’t take it personally, and stay confident in your capabilities.


Observe the Competition –

If the boat isn’t going well, look for differences in nearby boats that are going well. It might be something as simple as a different angle of heel or differing mainsail twist.

Know the Race Plan –

Tactics won’t matter if people are unsure of the plan or a call comes too late. This is most critical for the bowman, because of the physical separation to the call makers and the ramifications of a breakdown on the bow. When in doubt, pass the information up the rail in a calm manner.

The bowman has to take charge if things are coming down to the wire. They ultimately have the best sense of what can and cannot be done in time, and has to be willing to say: “You need to make a call now.”

Debrief –

Regardless of where you finish, it’s useful to break down what worked and what didn’t. Frame the discussion into something specific that you can improve on.

The race you have just completed is history; the key is how you can use that experience to improve future results.

Simplify Your Tactics

Simplify your tactics – Every sailor has bad days and when debriefing after the days event many competitors realise that if they had not tried to be too fancy, the end result would have been better.


Keep Your Thinking Process Simple –

Sailing as a sport is complicated enough without concentrating on the wrong aspects of a race which in turn leads to missed opportunities.

The winners look at the same variables as you but simply sift through them better.

Some examples –

  1. You have sailed up a work, stayed in the pressure and tacked on every relevant shift. You extended your lead only to sail well past the layline and let those behind you tack inside and beat you to the rounding.

2. At a start your strategy is to go right but a boat on your hip is pinning you down. You          try to out speed them and continue left only to lose the fleet who have tacked off to the      right and have extended away. Trying to beat this one boat was not worth the fight.

3. You battled for the inside at the leeward mark, only to round with the jib half up and the      spinnaker half down. Wouldn’t it have been better to take the spinnaker down earlier          and give up a small amount of distance for an in control rounding?

Ask yourself Two things –

  1. Are you taking risks that aren’t necessary?
  2. Am I doing the right thing now?

Don’t let frustration or anxiety cause you to take risks that aren’t warranted. If the strategy is to go right, get there. If it was correct, it won’t matter that you ducked a couple of boats.


Focus On The Basics –

  • When practicing, work on your boatspeed and two boat training is one of the best ways to tune your boat. There is nothing worse than nailing the start and picking every shift only to be nowhere at the next mark.
  • You must have good, reliable equipment, know how to use it and have a smooth hull finish with the right crew weight for your chosen class.
  • Are your sails from the loft that is the most successful in your fleet?
  • Work out and record the best settings for light and heavy air, flat and bumpy water.
  • Be a student of the weather, watch the clouds during the race and be aware of tide changes and currents.
  • Get out on the course early to learn the range of the wind shifts and plan a strategy for the racing ahead.

You need a good reason to separate from the fleet –

There are correct reasons to tack away though. Can you make a gain or limit a loss or position yourself to minimise risk? Don’t let laziness or lack of confidence in your crew work keep you from tacking or gybing when the time is right.

The less confident you are the more you should be on the same tack as most of the boats around you. Only if you’re confident that the shift will go your way should you split more. That’s managing the risk.


A simple strategy rule –

Being on the closest tack to the mark doesn’t make it the correct tack all the time.  Many top sailors put a priority on staying away from the laylines until the end of the leg especially when the wind is fairly shifty.

A quick way to confirm this basic strategy is to look for the mark. If it’s within a few degrees of the bow, you have a strong reason to stay put.

If the mark’s over your shoulder, however, you have a strong reason to tack. Generally, the closer tack to the mark carries the smaller risk for failure.

Sail Trim Rules of Thumb

Sail Trim Rules of Thumb by good friend David Dellenbaugh www.speedandsmarts.com 

One objective when you’re out sailing is to trim your sails efficiently so you get the best performance from your boat. To do this, it’s helpful to have some quick, dependable sail trim references.
These will give you maximum performance with a minimum of effort.



Mainsail – Upwind

1) End of boom near the centerline — Trim the main in all the way so the end of the boom will be somewhere between the boat’s centerline and the leeward corner of the transom.

2) Top batten parallel to boom — When the main is trimmed, the top batten should be roughly parallel to the boom. You can gauge this by sighting up from under the boom. If the batten hooks to windward, ease the mainsheet. If it falls off to leeward, trim the sheet.


Mainsail – Downwind

1) Ease the sail until it luffs along the mast — You’ll get optimum downwind performance if you ease your main as far as possible. Ease the sheet until you see a bubble along the luff of the main, then trim it in slightly.

2) Vang tight enough so boom is horizontal — If it’s windy, pull on your boom vang so it keeps the boom roughly horizontal and the upper batten parallel to the boom.

3) Telltale on top batten just flowing — Another good guide for downwind trim is to use the telltale (if you have one) on the end of the top batten. You want this telltale to fly as much as possible; if it’s curling around behind the sail, try easing your vang or mainsheet a little.



Jib – Upwind

      1) Middle batten parallel to centerline — Just like the main, the jib should be trimmed in all the way for sailing upwind. If you have battens along the leech of your jib, you want these roughly parallel to the boat’s centerline.

2) Slot between main and jib has an even, consistent curve — When you look at the “slot” from the stern of your boat, you should see similar curves in both the main and jib. If you don’t, try moving the jib lead athwartships.

3) Telltales flutter simultaneously from top to bottom — The fore and aft position of the jib lead is important for top performance. Ideally, the telltales along the luff of the jib should all move simultaneously. If the top telltales flutter first, move your jib lead forward, and vice versa.


Jib – Downwind

1) Don’t fly jib and spinnaker simultaneously — On most boats, you should drop the jib so it won’t take wind away from the spinnaker. This is more important in light air than heavy air.

2) Ease sail until telltales start to break — If you don’t set a spinnaker, ease the jib as far as possible until the windward telltales start to flutter or the front of the jib begins luffing.

3) Move jib leads farther outboard (or “wing” the sail) — The jib leads should be as far outboard as possible for downwind sailing. If you’re on a run, you can “wing” the jib to the windward side to help keep it filled.








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