Thursday, August 22, 2013

10 Keys to Sailing Upwind Fast in Light Air - Maybe

Do you need a coach - or at least advice from a top-of-the fleet sailor - to improve? Or can average sailors coach each other? Or would that be akin to the blind leading the blind?

It was a perfect evening for Tuesday evening Laser sailing. It was sunny. The company was good. And I knew the beer at Aidan's would be cold.

The only slight problem was that the winds were light. Not even enough to stir up any waves.

As we sailed out to our usual race area it seemed like I was sailing upwind faster than my friends. I wasn't sure why but I wasn't going to complain.

After one practice circuit around the race course we started the first race with the usual rabbit start. The wind was dying and there was a left shift just after the start. Everyone flopped on to port tack except that I dug further into the header than the others and was rewarded with a slightly stronger wind coming in from the left side of the course and I was able to pull out a substantial lead. Race #1 to the Tillerman.

A couple of other sailors joined us and we did some more races around two other government marks that lined up better with the new wind direction. I still felt I was going faster upwind than my friends, and I managed to score two second places. Not too shabby. Probably best Tuesday results for me this year.

Over burgers and beer at Aidan's one of my friends wanted to know why he was slower than me upwind that evening, in conditions where we both expected he would usually have had the edge. None of us really knew of course, but various theories of how to go fast upwind in light winds and flat water were discussed and dissected. Here is what various members of the group said...

1. I had my outhaul set at about 7 inches of draft. That's about right for these conditions isn't it?

2. I had my outhaul tighter than that. I don't think you need it that loose on flat water. I prefer to have the sail flatter with less drag.

3. You seemed to be over sheeting. Trimmed too close to block-to-block for a lot of the time. I was easing my sheet every time the boat slowed down, and only sheeting back in again after I had got it up to speed again.

4. I had my vang looser than block-to-block.

5. I kept the vang set at block-to-block even when I was easing the sheet in the lulls.

6. I had one foot over the toe-strap so I had one foot to windward and one to leeward. I think that helps me to balance the boat better.

7. I tried to avoid steering. When I got a lift I would ease the sheet rather than steer up.

8. I was steering with the tiller extension behind me, locked by my hand to the deck, for some of the time. That helps me to avoid waggling the rudder around.

9. I was watching S (really good local sailor) a couple of years ago. He was using a lot of body movement even in these conditions.

10. I felt like I was pressing the boat flat all the time. Every time I senses a little heel to leeward I would move my shoulders further outboard so that I was pressing the boat down hard with my butt. Pressing down seemed to squeeze the boat forwards.

Too much information?

All 10 suggestions can't be right, can they?

Which of the above really work and which are most important?

Can the blind lead the blind?


Perry said...

Obviously a coach is best but the blind can lead the blind. Eventually through practice and discussion you will work through to get some pretty good advice. Frank Bethwaite wrote about effectiveness of group practice and ed adams wrote about learning to coach oneself.

Doug / Pam said...

My 2 cents worth for light air upwind:

I like 2 (the outhaul is loosest around 8-10, and tighter below or above that), 3 (most people choke their boat in light air), 10 (even heeling to windward, which creates CB lift in flat water conditions).

Do not like 5 (only enough vang to sheet the end of the boom out but not up), 7 (steering is OK but with your weight), 8 (some like this, I do not), 9 (watch the pumping).`

Unknown said...

2. A tighter outhaul in flat water. 4. A looser vang. I set it a bit tighter than the mid-ease setting and play with it if I feel strapped. 6. Feet on either side of the toe strap (Thanks Tim PItts!) helps balance the boat and get me more to leeward int he really light stuff. 7. Avoid steering. Lock down the tiller behind you and ease in the lifts helps the boat accelerate.

BTW- I past you at the leeward mark in that last race of the day. It was R -me-then you. And nice photo!

Tillerman said...

Photo credit to Coach Judy. And she's probably right about the last race. I need to work on my downwind speed and tactics next.

Anonymous said...

this is my worstest skill.... i was hoping there would be answers ha! well i guess there is sorta - ray

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