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Using The Wind To Your Best Advantage

Using The Wind To Your Best Advantage

As sailors it is the wind that drives our boats forward and round the race course, to be competitive we need to be sure to use it to our best advantage at all times.  It requires intense concentration and perfect sail trim to maintain your boat speed through the gusts, lulls and windshifts around the racecourse.

How close can you sail upwind

  • When sailing upwind, use your intuition & feel to find your optimum course to the wind.
  • Watch for gusts across the water to windward of your bow and be ready to hike out or ease the mainsheet.
  • Watch windward telltales to steer as close to the wind as possible, ensuring a flow of clean air across the sails, this will help you to sail upwind without needing to trim your mainsheet continuously.
  • If you bear away from the optimum upwind course you need to ease the mainsheet as the sails begin to generate more power to prevent the boat from heeling over.

When to rake your mast

  • In light wind, for maximum power you want the mast upright.  To point higher, rake the mast slightly aft, if the mast is raked too far aft the boat will develop weather helm and become difficult to steer.
  • In stronger winds, raking the mast aft will lower the center of effort and move it further back behind the center of lateral resistance, making your boat easier to control and allowing you to point higher.
  • Boats without shrouds have a fixed position mast and cannot be raked.
  • On some boats the mast rake can be adjusted out on the water, while with other boats this can only be done ashore.

Apparent wind

  • True wind is wind direction & speed blowing into a fixed object – the flag on a flag pole..
  • Apparent wind is wind direction & speed blowing into a moving object – the wind that your sails feel.
  • If beating toward the wind - wind speed + boat speed = apparent wind speed.  If sailing away from the wind – wind speed – boat speed = apparent wind speed.
  • Boat speed alters the direction of the apparent wind.  As the boat accelerates the apparent wind swings forward, blowing from further ahead.
  • Apparent wind speed boosts your power for maximum performance offwind.

What to aim for, speed or height

  • If waves are hitting your bow & slowing you down, it will pay to bear away & go for more speed.  Move the crew weight slightly aft to help lift the bow, particularly in stronger breeze.
  • Sail the boat free and fast upwind for maximum VMG, while keeping the boat as flat as possible by hiking hard.

Using a compass

  • A racing compass can give you a tactical advantage as it is easier to react to wind shifts by providing comparative headings on each tack, both upwind and downwind making it easier to judge the layline.
  • A compass can also be used before the start to establish whether you have a line bias.
  • On long courses, you may not be able to see the next mark, using a compass in this scenario is essential.

Windward leg watch

  • When sailing upwind, once the boat is balanced and you are hiking hard, all you need to do is trim the main and steer, with the jib correctly cleated.
  • Helm should focus on steering through the waves, adusting the main sheet to keep the boat upright through the gusts.
  • Crew looks ahead and to windward to spot gusts and shifts feeding back the information to the helm.
  • Crew must also look out for other boats, potential right of way issues and dirty air scenarios.

Tags: apparent wind, mast rake, true wind, windward leg, sail high, sail fast, sailing upwind