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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.

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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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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

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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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

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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ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN FOR THE NEXT LEG

Excerpt from “Speed and Smarts” Newsletter issue 131 –               David Dellenbaugh

Almost every sailor realizes the importance of making a strategic plan for the first leg before they start the race but how many of those sailors also develop a strategy for every other leg in the race?

It’s tough to make a game plan for the second leg before starting the race, but you should do this sometime before you begin that leg. It’s much too late if you round the windward mark and then ask your crew, “OK, which way should we go on the run?”

By that time, you have likely missed your best chance to pursue the optimal strategy. Instead of waiting until the last minute, look ahead to the next leg several minutes before you reach the mark.

 Talk about what you see (e.g. wind pressure and the angle of other boats) and discuss your tactical and strategic options. It’s good to do this early since certain mark-rounding moves (e.g. a jibe set) require some planning before you get to the mark.

Your strategy for the next leg doesn’t have to be complex; it could be something simple like, “We will do a bear-away set and play the right side of the run where there is more wind.” Or,

“We are going to round the leeward mark and then tack to get the shift on the left.” It’s critical to do this before you round the mark because it often affects the rounding you make.

Use your next-leg strategy to plan the rounding and an ‘exit strategy’ is especially key at gates.

There are two important things that you must do every time you round a mark and they are 1) get around that mark as fast as possible, and 2) set yourself up to sail the next leg quickly.

A fast rounding is not helpful if it means you must sail the wrong way at the start of the next leg, so it’s key to plan your rounding with the next leg in mind.

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Competitive Sailing Sailing To Win

Sailing Success Begins With a Solid Stool

 

By Malcolm Page, Australia’s most successful Olympic sailor

People often ask me what makes a winning sailor. I mostly get the impression that they are after some special Jedi “mind trick” that mentally makes someone a champion.

With the focus these days on sports psychology, people often forget that before you worry about your mind, you first need to worry about getting the basics right.

For me, success in sailing (well any sport actually) can be likened to a three-legged stool. You must have firm balanced legs before you can work on the seat.

Without each leg being equally attended to, your stool won’t be balanced. And without your stool, you don’t have anything to sit on and think!

For sailing, the three legs of the stool can be likened to:

  • Speed: Personal physique (height/weight), Fitness, Technique, Equipment, Technical tuning.
    Racing Ability: Tactics, Starting, Strategy, Fleet management.
    Environment: Geography, Current, Wind, Accommodation, Supermarket, Language, Regatta specifics.

A good example of this from my past was our preparation for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. My teammate and I worked very hard on our racing ability, but for some reason ignored the fact that we were slower in light wind.

We did not balance up our speed and our environment legs. Needless to say, it did not end terribly well for us.

It is important to remember to work on all three aspects of good sailing – how to sail well, how to sail well against others, and how to sail well at the regatta venue.

Then you can start to think about Jedi mind tricks.

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Have An Edge Over Your Competition

Sailing fitness is often overlooked but it is one of the weapons that we can achieve with minimum cost and a little effort. A new sail or a new piece of gear has a finite life but fitness is something that has benefits both on and off the boat forever as long as you have a regime to maintain it.

In an off the beach boat, are you able to hike or trapeze longer and harder than your competition? Can you pump your sails hard downwind (as allowed) for the whole leg? If you can do either more than your fellow competitor, chances are you will be able to beat them.

When sailing in a regatta, the competitor who sails their boat as hard at the end of each race on each day of the event as they did at the start of the event will be more likely to be fighting for the silverware.

In a multiple race day or event, your body must be able to recover and being very fit is also something that you can easily reach by putting in enough training time. Often half an hour a day is enough to be as fit as the other top guys in an amateur class.

As most sailboat races are not decided on one day or in one race, it is important to have enough endurance for a several day regatta. Endurance can be gained by cycling because you get very strong legs which is good for both hiking and trapezing. Swimming trains your upper body but rowing is a good alternative if you don’t like being in the water.

For flexibility, yoga is great and it also helps you to come down after a stressful day – no matter whether it is on the water or in the office.

For strength, weight training is hard to beat but make sure that you get advice from a professional who understands sailing. They will provide a routine that builds the right muscles for the activities that your class or boat requires.

Proper nutrition is another key to performance as it helps with energy, recovery, injury avoidance and repair, attitude and decision-making.

Make sure that you eat things that give you power for the next day, help your body recover and also stay away from foods you don’t know. Work out what is the best food for you to take on the water by testing various things during training. Some sailors prefer energy bars, others go with fruit like bananas.

Lastly, hydration is equally important to maintain performance capability. It is said that once you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated so take every opportunity to have a drink. Water is more than adequate but many sailors use electrolytes or energy drinks.

Some of the consequences of a lack of fluids are mental tiredness, concentration decreases and co-ordination ability decreases. The cardiovascular and central nervous systems are affected which causes an increased pulse rate, lower blood pressure and loss of muscle strength.

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Tips To Improve Your Upwind Helming Techniques

  1. In light air – steer to a higher luff telltale which will find you sailing a little lower, one of the biggest mistakes many helmsmen make in light airs is to pinch. It is important for the trimmer to use all the telltales both up the luff and on the leech to get the whole sail working efficiently.
  2. In heavier air – say over 15 knots, steer more to heel and not be so reliant on telltales. Being over-heeled means the keel is not working efficiently and the boat slips sideways. Sail a little higher in heavy air which helps with lessening the heel angle.
  3. Scalloping – is the ability to be sailing upwind efficiently and then to take about a 5-degree luff up for a few seconds and then steer back to a normal angle without losing boat speed. Each scallop will gain you half a boat length or so to windward.
  4. Marks on Wheel – you should have 3 marks on your wheel, one at the centralised position and one at 4 degrees either side. These marks will show your mainsheet trimmer if he needs to depower the mainsail because you are over trimmed which creates drag when the wheel is beyond the marks. A similar system should be set up on a tiller steered boat although this can be more difficult to do so the main trimmer should watch to see if the tiller is beyond the magic 4-degree angle and react accordingly.
  5. Avoid turning the boat too far through a tack – Before you tack, look to windward about 80 – 90 degrees from where you are heading (depending on your boats tacking angle) and see if you locate a point on the land, or another yacht and set that as where you should be pointing after the tack. If you steer too far you risk over heeling and going sideways plus getting a heavy helm which indicates drag and slows you down. Another problem is that if you oversteer, it is harder and slower for the crew to get the genoa in.
  6. Tacking isn’t just a matter of putting the helm over – In lighter airs, always come out a bit lower than your normal angle in order to build speed after the tack. In stronger air, when going into a tack, let the bow come up 5 or 10 degrees slowly which allows you to gain to windward, then steer to go head to wind and beyond fairly quickly, this also gives the crew a better chance of trimming the genoa in quickly on the new tack.
  7. Wheel Steering – Wheels don’t have the same feel as a tiller. In strong wind and heavy seas, it is best to stand as this allows larger movements than you can make when sitting plus you are able to see over the crew to watch for waves and gusts.
  8. The less you move the helm the better – Moving the helm causes drag and the less you move it, the faster you will be. In Strong winds with big seas though, you will need larger helm movement. In flatwater try to get the helm at 3-5 degrees of weather helm and you should use small slow movements of the helm. Try not to overwork the helm upwind which is a common weakness in helmsman. If you get a lift slowly push on the helm until you get to the right angle is all that is needed. Likewise, if your weather telltale if lifting showing you are too high, a slow bear off is needed, not a big quick pull.
  9. Most boats should have 3-5 degrees of weather helm in medium winds – This allows the rudder to provide lift. If in light winds you are not achieving this, try moving the crew weight to leeward to get feeling back in the helm. As the wind increases, slowly move the weight to weather to keep the feel right.

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