- While reaching, sail off on the puffs and up on the lulls. However, only bear off on the puffs after the boat accellerates. Head up on the lulls only after burning off speed. If there are waves, time the turns to be enhanced by the wave action instead of fighting them. Falling off with weather helm induced by a mainsail trimmed in too far will put on the brake.
- Elvstrom on sail trim: "If in doubt, let it out." It takes less time to reattach flow from a luff than from a stall. Use twist to make the entire sail at the proper angle, head to foot.
Exception: high performance boats while planing or any boat after grabbing a wave to surf, sail the jib slightly stalled so as not to limit your speed to the luffing jib. Use the mainsail for balance. Also, a slight stall in a full jib in very light airs is fast.
- Using the rudder to steer slows the boat. Use it as little as possible. This is not to say not to turn. Use the sails and crew weight to enhance the turn, or inhibit it as needed. To fall off: jib slightly overtrimmed; main out a little in light airs, gobs of mainsheet out in a blow; crew heeling the boat to weather. To head up: main trimmed faster than the turn, jib slightly slower; crew allows or causes the boat to heel to leeward until the turn completed.
Beating in light airs, moving crew weight forward and to leeward decreases wetted surface and induces a little weatherhelm. Lee helm makes you push the tiller down to remain straight, inducing the boat to slip sideways. Not fast or high.
- Anticipation beats reaction every time. Plan ahead. Have all the competent crew members give their observations on the wind direction and strength over the course before the start. Have someone keep looking even in the couple minutes just before starting. Flags on the RC boat are a good key to shifts. Do your homework before getting to a mark: find the next mark, go high or low on the reaches, are you headed on the last reach so that you want to tack soon after the leeward mark or are you lifted so you want to just head up, set or jibe-set, has the tide changed since the last race, are the sheets untangled before a tack or turn, did you zip up after the last trip to the stern, which is the favored end of the finish, is there another race?
- Where to start on the line? Start where you can go where you want to go after the start. To gain a boatlength or two by a biased line is of advantage only if you have clear air and can take advantage of the first shift. Chances are the advantaged end will be crowded. It does not matter if the windward mark is offset to one side or the other as far as the start line is concerned, as long as you have to tack at least once to get there. Usually the longer tack should be taken first. Don’t push the middle of the line too hard with the ‘I’ flag flying.
- Telltales or woolies are tools to help you set the sails to a fickle fluid. The starboard side goes above the port. Place the yarns or tape on the mainsail about four mast widths behind the mast. Most put three along the luff but the bottom set on a sloop is not very useful. Put a yarn on the outer end of the top two battens. Also a telltale 2/3 up the main, halfway back will tell you how much twist to have. Fly the leeward yarn. Three telltales are placed on the jib perhaps 8 - 10% aft.
Put the yarns between seams so they don’t catch.
- Steering in waves is difficult. More tiller action is needed than light airs or smooth water. Generally, when going uphill on a wave, head up toward the crest somewhat. At the top, fall off rather sharply. On the back side of the wave head slightly low, picking up speed. Sart heading up just as the new face starts. The reasoning is that the wave has circular motion. The face of the wave coming at you has water impeding your progress upwind while the back of the wave actually draws you to windward. So spend more time and distance on the back side of the wave. Swamped boats on Tampa Bay have been observed to be pulled upwind by this wave action since they don’t float up fast enough to be influenced by the top of the wave and are pulled by the bottom But swamping is slow.
- If you see weed more than three or four inches long on the surface of the water they likely will get caught on your foils. The higher performance the boat and smaller the cord of the foil the more weeds affect speed and pointing. Plastic bags are really a drag. Wonderous ways have been devised to remove weeds. Make one up that works for you.
- How important is a smooth, fair bottom and foils? The faster you go and the smoother the water the more important it is. The Bethwaite book ‘High Performance Sailing’ tells the account of two equal boats towing on a balance pole. Mere invisible road film on one made it slow down and unbalance the load. A high, clean polish is fast. Wax is slow. McLube? Rainex? Starbright? Dental polish? If it makes water wetter it could help. It is not legal to dribble soap over the bow. If it didn’t work it would not have been outlawed years ago!
Soap such a Woolite applied to the hull before trailering keeps off the road film and may help the first few minutes of your first sail.
- Current is a big factor in our racing. It affects the starting line and mark roundings in, hopefully, obvious ways. Plan ahead. A more subtle effect is on pointing ability. If the current is going upwind you will not point as high. In cross current one tack will feel different than the other and both will feel strange in light air. Just try to ignore it and sail to the telltales. The ripples on the water show the wind direction seen by a floating boat. A good Race Committee will use a free floating boat to take wind readings in a current. That apparent wind is the one your boat uses. There’s no lee bow effect unless you are aground. Very slow.
- In very light breezes play the puffs rather than the shifts. It is common to more than double boatspeed in a puff. Sailing sixty degrees to the wind at two knots is better than drifting at thirty degrees. Tacking takes enough energy to negate the advantage of small shifts. Foot to the next puff, always looking for the ‘darker water.’ In very light stuff a header could be a wind shift. Or it could be a velocity shift, meaning that the wind has died off and you are still holding speed from the former wind. No matter which way you go you will luff, so just go straight as far as the boat will go. Don’t turn and stop. But if you sail into an absolutely windless hole, aim the boat for the next puff or straight at the next mark and drift! Or a header may mean that you are getting into a puff, since the wind fans as it hits the water. So, don’t tack as then you will be sailing right back out of the puff!
- In Florida, seabreeze is more likely to occur in the Spring since the water temperature is still relatively low on a hot day, giving a greater differential to cause air flow. The best chance for seabreeze is when the Bermuda High is south of Bermuda, giving W Florida an ambiant easterly. A clear day with morning dew and little haze is the ideal. Look for a hazing of the western sky followed by a deeper blue as the air sinks.
Cumulous clouds over the middle of the state shows the process starting. Cumulous clouds over St. Pete blocks the seabreeze from western Tampa Bay. When they drift north or east it can then occur. Little black flies will be all over your sails during the calm period just before the seabreeze hits. Expect a persistant veering.
Of the wind, not the flies.
- In light airs and waves it is difficult for the wind to attach to a sail that is arcing fore and aft. Contrary to most conditions, spread the crew weight fore and aft and side to side so that the boat’s motion is dampened. Keeping the sails more stable is faster than slopping around. On the other hand, in ‘no wind’, a main set for windward and a small jib may use the side to side rolling as a ‘breeze’. You cannot induce it, as that is "Rocking" under the Rules.
- In a drifter keep the boat down by the bow and heeled to leeward. This reduces resistance due to wetted surface and keeps the sails filled by gravity. To windward, let the sails out more than usual. You are not going to point anyhow because the foils don’t have much flow so go straight in the direction the boat would slideslip anyhow. Keep the leach of the main open by using no vang and allowing or causing the boom to lift. One way on some boats is pulling the traveller car all the way to windward and then letting the mainsheet out. Get the spinnaker pole off the boom. On the jib, slide the fairlead car forward, inducing more curvature to the sail. But don’t overtrim. SPEED!
- In light airs, keeping the boat still is very important. Yes, rocking is fast; also not legal. Random slopping around knocks the wind out of the sails. Except for tacking, jibing and mark rounding make all crew movements "on little cat’s feet." It takes a very long time to get started again in light airs.
- In very light breeze the boat just cannot be turned quickly. The foils are not getting enough flow. So the boat slows every time you turn. Responding to little shifts by changing course may result in a very slow boat. So instead, try moving the sails. In a lift, shown by the jib’s telltales, let the jib AND the main out to make the telltale fly. If after the boat accellerates the lift is still there, then head up. Chances are it was a slight increase in wind and when you get going you will just have to pull the sails back in to the light air setting closehauled going in the same direction. If you see the jib telltales indicating a header in a drifter, try overtrimming for a bit and not turning. Chances are it is a lull. No matter which way you turn , down to a reach, the jib will luff. Why not burn off speed in the direction you are going. When the boat slows you may find that the sails fill again to the apparent wind and you have not lost distance to leeward. On reaches play the sails in light airs. Don’t use the brake, er, rudder.
- Every pound of weight in the boat not used to keep it upright is a pound slowing the boat. Regardless of the size of the hull and rig, make it as light as allowed. A case of beer weighs about 20 pounds. Extra sails not needed for the racing, docking gear, bumpers, a full tank of gas or fuel, bimini all are dead weight. Drink the beer and put it on the rail.
Most boats carry around water in the bilge. One inch of water in the bottom of an Optimist Dinghy weighs almost 100 pounds! Try throwing a milk jug full of water in your bilge. While it seems miniscule, that water weighs 8 pounds. It rolls to the low side every time you heel.
- Are your boat, rig and sails ready for the season? Check not only for speed stuff; check for safety, too. You can’t win if you can’t finish.
How about you and your crew? Are you fine tuned mentally and fit physically?
It makes sailing more fun. That’s why we do it!
- Not much going on in the sailboat racing scene. It is a good time to rack up brownie points with the family to cash in later in the season.