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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Minimize Sailing Injuries – Three Best Sailing Stretches.

Copied from an article written by Brad Walker – https://www.stretchcoach.com 

 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

TO BE SMARTER & FASTER, USE YOUR SMARTPHONE FOR GPS TRACKING

 

 You don’t need any special hardware to do live tracking. Use your smartphone with the TackTracker app for iPhone or Android and instantly create a live race or training session. 

Discover how utilising TackTrackers GPS tracking system gives you the exact steps to work out how and where to improve your boat speed and tactics without breaking the bank.

Replay your day’s training or a race or series when sailing against other TackTracker equipped boats and work out where you gained or lost leg by leg or what you could have done to get a better outcome.

The TackTracker analytics will show you where you were strong and where you need to improve. Did you choose the wrong side of the course, sit in bad air too long or simply miss a big shift?

In a race situation, you can pick the boats you want to compare or you can view the whole fleet, graphics show each boat’s speed and VMG.

The analytics show you where you won and lost and what you learn from this will ensure that you will not fall into the same trap again.

To learn more visit             TackTracker – Live Tracking

If you can’t find what you want on our comprehensive website, have a question or simply want to discuss tracking for coaching, training or racing, email:

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND: Brett Bowden brett@sailingtowin.com 

EUROPE: Simon Lovesey info@sailracer.co.uk

THE REST of THE WORLD: Greg Seers sales@tacktracker.com

 

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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

SECRETS AND TIPS ON HANDLING GUSTS AND LULLS

Article collated from excerpts of an article authored by Colin Gowland – International Sailing Academy https://internationalsailingacademy.com/

 

Many sailors have poor gust response and in gusts, there is a tendency to “fight” the boat with hiking and often too much steering to control power.

In keelboats, we often see the boat heeling too much, the helmsman pinching and employing corrective steers which leads to unnecessary strain on the boat and crew causing reduced speed and lower VMG.

Much is often said about changing gears in up and down pressure with regards to sailing shape, and while that’s very important, there’s a lot more to learn.  

By handling gusts and lulls efficiently, you’ll be working with the boat, not against it and will get big performance improvements as well. 

Correct gust response involves – ” Ease, Hike then Trim”

Incorrect Gust response – “Pinch, Hike, Corrective Steer, Stall”

If we find that the gust is from the same direction as the original wind and it is merely an increase in wind speed, the moment it hits, your apparent wind swings aft. 

As that happens our objectives are:

1. We need to keep attachment and good flow on the sail, more flow creates lift.

2. We do not want the boat to increase heel as this creates sideways force and drag.

3. We want to apply the maximum amount of body leverage into the boat.

By accommodating our new apparent wind which has moved aft, with sheeting out, we can increase flow on the sail and maintain a constant angle of heel.

Hike as much as is needed to do this – maximizing hiking leverage and if possible sheet out simultaneously to keep the boat heel angle the same. Complete these steps and your boat speed will instantly increase.

Once this new speed is achieved, your apparent wind will move forward again so you’re able to sheet back in to accommodate that. Have you changed the angle? No, because the wind has not changed direction.  

In marginal hiking conditions, sometimes just adding weight in enough to instantly increase the boat speed and in this situation less or even no sheet release is necessary, because your apparent wind swings forward so quickly as you add weight, that flow is not lost and the heel of the boat is not affected by the gust.

Correct Lull Response – “Coast and maintain your height”

Incorrect Lull Response – “Chasing”

In lulls, even advanced sailors tend to chase apparent wind around obliterating VMG and slowing them down unnecessarily.

When you sail into a lull, your apparent wind moves forward which is the opposite of a gust. When this happens you should unweight, coast to keep your height and decrease speed. 

As in a gust, we don’t want the boat to “feel” the lull and the angle of heel should not be affected. To keep a constant angle of heel means that you’ll need to move your weight inboard or just bring your shoulders up depending on the amount of wind decrease.

You can experiment with trimming in tighter to various degrees to reduce drag with the apparent wind forward or alternatively you can ease a bit to keep some power and minimize stall risk.

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Two Boat Testing – a Great Way to Improve

We all love to race but racing is sometimes a slow way to learn how to make your boat faster.

Two boat training is one of the best ways to get rapid on water improvement but importantly, the training must be structured to get the quickest results. 

I have set out below, some elements that will guarantee a successful on-water experience.

  1. Decide what you want to achieve. if you want to improve your helming technique, sail against a faster sailor and try different techniques until you find what works. Two boat testing can also be used to identify fast settings for sail trim, rig settings and evaluating different sails.
  2. Map out what you are going to do, what you want to achieve and how long you are going to spend on each task. This should be done ashore and should involve all crew members getting input from them to ensure they are invested in the outcome.
  3. Make sure both boats are set up the same. This includes rig settings, crew weight, brand and/or cut of the sails. Where this is not exactly possible, be prepared to analyse the results of the test accordingly making allowances for the differences. It is the changes as the test progresses that is important.
  4. Comparative positioning of the boats. Make sure you’re sailing in the same wind, the boats have to be close to each other and not disturbing each other’s air. Windward-Leeward separation should be no more than 2 to 3 boat lengths and with the leeward boat advanced about half a boat length.
  5. Stable wind and waves. Ideally, do not attempt the two boat testing when there are large variations in wind speed (puffs) and direction as it is really hard to evaluate relative performance.
  6. Make one boat the Control boat. On boat will make one change and the control boat won’t make changes. If you find a change that makes the test boat faster, then both boats should make that change before going on to test another change.
  7. Discuss and Analyse the results. In a perfect world, you would have a coach videoing and recording the results and then have a three-way chat about what was achieved in each test. Failing that as an example, after an upwind test, talk with the team on the other boat whilst heading back downwind about what was achieved. Importantly, to get the most out of the test, honesty is paramount.
  8. Record what worked and what didn’t. When you hit the beach have a debrief with your testing partner, make notes for future reference and mark fast settings on sheets and rig so you can replicate them next time you race.

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When, Why & How to Take a Sailing Penalty

Having a good knowledge of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) will help you avoid infringements but unexpected incidents on the racecourse can happen and will jeopardise your results thus you will need to take decisive action.

When to take a penalty – When another boat protests, you have to make an instant decision whether to take a penalty or not. If you are unsure, taking a penalty is the easiest solution – hoping for the best and doing nothing is a risky strategy and likely to see you in the protest room and perhaps blown from the race.

How long do you have to take the penalty – If the Sailing Instructions say nothing about penalties, the default is RRS 44, and 44.2 states that penalty turns should be taken ‘as soon after the incident as possible’.  Be sure to get well clear to avoid impeding other boats, especially at busy mark roundings.

Types of Penalties – Make sure you have read the sailing instructions. Is it one turn, two turns, or a scoring penalty? Unless otherwise specified in the Sailing Instructions, the penalty for touching a mark (RRS 31) is a one-turn penalty. When boats meet and other infraction penalties are also spelt out in the SI’s so read them diligently before heading out, you will not have the time or perhaps the ability to do so in the race.

How to take the penalty – During training, practice penalties to ensure that in the unfortunate case that you infringe, that you will lose as little distance as possible.  Although a penalty must be done immediately, that does not mean it needs to be taken in a blind panic. Think through whether it is better to tack first or gybe first – in most instances the tack first is the better option, but there are situations where gybing first will put you in a better position on the fleet.

Preparation – Use the time while sailing clear to prepare the boat for the manoeuvre, ensuring the crew are aware of your intentions, the sheets are clear to run and you are ready to ease the vang if the breeze is up. If you are on a downwind leg, you should also consider how you want to exit the penalty and ensure the spinnaker and pole are set up ready. On a symmetrical boat, you may be able to leave the pole on by executing a leeward drop, then you are ready to hoist immediately after the penalty. The alternative is that it may be better to do a windward drop so you can hoist out of the last tack without the pole and do the last gybe with the spinnaker drawing.

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TO WIN THE START, DON’T BE WHERE OTHERS ARE

Most racers believe that they must always start at the favoured end but the favoured end is the crowded end and the crowded end is where most of the bad starts happen.

Inshore races nearly always have oscillating winds shifting back and forth and if the starting line is set anywhere close to square to the mean wind direction then just about any point on the line can be a good place to start.

You don’t need to win the start in order to win a race and the goal of the start should be the ability to go straight to your preferred side of the course at full speed with the freedom to tack on the shifts.

A typical scenario is when the race committee sets a decent line about square to the first mark, one boat at the favoured end takes the start and every other boat crowded in that end has less than the perfect start.

Some start behind, some are forced over early, some are caught barging and circle out, some get back-winded and tack into the header, and worse some get fouled.

Meanwhile, it’s really easy to start down the line where the others are not and this might be good for the second or third-best start in the fleet still giving you plenty of options to sail your race not dictated to by the position of other boats. 

How to work out where the others will not be:

Look at their wind shots to determine where you think they will start and watch the traffic patterns during the starting sequence.

There might be many boats on the left half of the line at two minutes but if they are all tacking to port and heading right, the left might soon be clear.

If, on the other hand, you are on port at one minute and a large pack of boats are luffing on the lower third of the line, keep going on port until you get to the least dense area.

One of the reasons this works so well is that many skippers have the attitude that they have to win the start at all costs and they are convinced they can win the pin or win the boat. 

By getting a clean start, race after race you will always have options and be able to put your game plan into effect heading to the preferred side of the course and not being dictated to by other boats.

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