Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tell Tales

What are those ribbons on the sail for?

They are called tell tales, I think?

Why do we need them?

Do you watch them?

Are there other ways to know if you are sailing too high or too low without looking at the tell tales?

Should you look at the tell tales most of the time when you are sailing?

What would sailing be like if you didn't have them?

Should the Opti kids have tell tales or should they learn to sail without them?

Do you have any good tales to tell?


O Docker said...

Telltales are simple, passive devices, usually comprised of light thread or ribbon installed at strategic locations on the sail of a sailboat, that are mainly intended to provoke quarrelling amongst the crew.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

One of the reasons I want to change boats or change my role on my boat: you can't see jib tell tales from the helm. That sets up endless and tedious controversy on all windward legs. But do I yell at crew when they muff a spinnaker hoist? NO.....!

George A said...

Yes, I use my tell tails constantly. I look at both the luff tails and the leech tails to monitor sail shape. I look at the luff tails to see if flow is attached or not, particularly to the leeward side of the sail. The leech tails also provide important info--if they're not flowing well it usually means that I've got battens hooking the leech to weather and the flow is not exhausting off the back edge of the sail. When tell tales aren't flowing well I start pulling strings to see if I can get most of them doing the right thing. Sometimes the top leech tails will be stalled while the bottoms are flowing ok. I usually start playing the traveler control to see if I can find an appropriate amount of twist that gets them all exhausting nicely.

Historical note: When I first started racing we weren't very smart about having woolies or ribbons on various parts of the sail. Instead we had bits of wool tied to our side stays. In those days some of the kids had Davis "tell-o-tails" instead of bits of wool yarn. Tell-o-tales were made from a piece of stainless wire thick enough that the company could put a permanent spiral in them, which allowed them to be attached to a stay. Attached to the wire part was a red or green chicken feather on a string. These were great in light air but when the wind piped up they became useless after the first bit of bow spray soaked them. I still have a pair of the silly things. More recently, Davis reintroduced the idea but now uses red and green plastic vanes instead of the chicken feathers. Those are OK if your boat has a stayed rig but they're really not a good substitute for either woolies on the sail or a Little Hawk on the mast. When we were kids we used to watch the luff of the sail and keep pointing up just until the luff started to shiver. Tails on the stays were mostly useful as gross down wind indicators of when we were sailing a little to close to the lee and risking a "chinese gybe". Now days, especially on boats with free standing rigs we're always sailing by the lee--it's generally faster!

What would sailing be like without luff and leech tales? For me, at least initially, slower until I got better at detecting the wind with my face. I think guys/gals who can easily grow impressive facial hair would have an advantage of those of us with wimpy beards--built in woolies.

As for Opti kids, I don't have a good solution for them other than to let their parents deal with them...

Baydog said...

I always say that I watch my tell tales so much that I miss the beautiful day passing me by.

When a non-sailing guest of ours takes the wheel, I believe tell tales are the most effective way of ensuring the guest stays on course.

Keep Reaching said...

Good question. I admit I look at them a fair amount, although I know it can be a mistake to do so and neglect other things. I have sometimes sailed other Lasers without them and I am not sure I did any worse. Maybe they are a form of security blanket?
Also, there is the question of where to place them or which ones have priority - sometimes I see the low ones streaming nicely and the upper one not so at all - is that good or not?

Baydog said...

What I said earlier today. Are you there Tillerman?

Tillerman said...

Am I where? Am I there? Where is there?

meech said...

I think sailing homonyms are useless.

Tillerman said...

1. I heard a story this week about a teenager who is an amazingly good sailor, and one theory about why he is so fast is that he grew up sailing boats without tell tales. That gave him amazing good feel for what makes a boat go fast without looking at the tell tales all the time.

2. And I wrote before about where to look when sailing a Laser. See Seams. And it's not the tell tales.

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