Sailing and Tuning Guide

by John Greenwood

Four sailing / wind conditions that we shall consider :-

Sub-Powered
0 - 3 knts
Force 0 - 1

Under-Powered
4 - 10 knts
Force 1 - 2

Full-Powered
6 - 15 knts
Force 2 - 4

Over-Powered
12 - 15 + knts
Force 3 plus

The overlap between wind speeds is dependent on your rig, weight and fitness. For example a 16 stone helm with a soft rig and flat sail could be under-powered in 10 knts of breeze whereas a 10 stone helm with a stiff mast and full sail could be over-powered at the same wind speed.

Before setting any of the following information "in stone", get some feedback from your sailmaker or knowledgeable club or class members on the "look" of your rig and it's "match" to your body weight and sailing style.

Guidelines for boat set-up

Before racing check the following:-
  • All control lines & cleats work efficiently.
  • Mast on centreline of boat.
  • Foils in reasonable order with good fit in boat (leading edges of foils should be kept free from nicks, scratches etc.; 80% induced drag on foils comes from leading edge faults).
  • Mast heel to transom measurement 3.00m.
  • Mast rake to transom measurement 6.00m with ability to move mast +/- 2 cm ( via forstay adjustment).
  • Shrouds set just tight when mast touches front of gate.
Variables to consider for each sailing / wind condition:-
  • Body
  • Mast rake
  • Chock
  • Traveller
  • Mainsheet
  • Kicker/Vang
  • Outhaul
  • Cunningham
  • Centreboard

Overall Objective

To make the boat easy to sail in order to focus our efforts, vision and enjoyment on the race.

Sub-Powered

Objective

To keep the boat moving ignore the marks, by that I mean don't point the boat in the direction of the next mark and wait for the wind to come. Look for the breeze use the shifts just as you would upwind.

Upwind

Body: Forward of thwart to retain maximum waterline length, to leeward to minimise wetted surface area.

Mast Rake: Max. aft, touching aft edge of mast gate to promote more feel. With fuller sails need to extend forstay more to promote more mast bend and flatten sail. This will allow the leech to open and promotes air flow across the sail thus creating lift and hence more boat speed.

Chock: Out. Putting the chock behind the mast reduces feel and promotes a lot of lower mast bend which is not always helpful.

Traveller: Centred. Lock it up in the middle, it's simple and makes tacking easier.

Mainsheet: Eased upwind to position boom up to 30cm outside corner of transom. If you try to narrow the sheeting angle too much the boat will feel stalled in these drifting conditions. Better to keep the boat moving and sheet in a little as speed increases.

Vang: Slack to promote twist in the mainsail. This helps the air flow across the sail.

Outhaul: Tight. Pull on to you get a single crease across the foot of the sail. This will open the leech of sail and promote air flow.

Cunningham: Off, to keep max. draft of the mainsail at approx. 45%, i.e. just the mast side of half way between mast and leech.

Centreboard: Start with the leading edge vertical to promote feel. (Get some friends to help tip the boat over on shore. Put marks on the top of the centreboard when the leading edge and trailing edges are perpendicular to the hull).

Downwind

Body: Keep relaxed. Position your body so you maximise the water-line length of the boat heeling to leeward and in a way that enables you to keep your head up, looking out of the boat.

Vang: Off (as upwind). Consider putting some on to gybe to add a bit of bite.

Outhaul: As upwind position.

Cunningham: Off.

Centreboard: The least you can - to keep the boat moving in a straight line. You actually need more than you think because you are always reaching in order to keep the boat moving.

Mainsheet: Remember that the rudder is a brake and that you want to minimise your body movements. You should try and steer the boat with the mainsheet.
The sequence should follow mainsheet movement, slight rudder, mainsheet, rudder. Think of the rudder as the fine tune not the main steering device. Pull the mainsheet in to luff up and let off to bear away, using the rudder only to correct your actions.

Focus For Sub Powered

Keep the boat moving as a priority, don't automatically point the boat. Look at other boats around you to help your understanding of what is happening to the wind. Try taking a purchase from your mainsheet system or sheet directly from the boom to improve your feel of the pressure in the sail. Get comfortable, move smoothly and in a controlled way. Use your body and the hull shape to steer the boat. (To bear away heel boat to windward and ease mainsail - to head up heel boat to leeward and harden mainsail). Use of the rudder acts as a brake.

Under-Powered

Objective

Minimise the use of the rudder through the co-ordinated trimming of the mainsheet and movements of the body. Luffing up in the lulls, bearing away in the gusts.

Upwind

Body: On windward side of boat with constant pressure on sheets. Sit at or just behind thwart (get someone to tell you when your bow is just in the water).

Mast Rake: Mid range i.e. tighten the forstay 1cm (2 holes) from the mast max. aft position. If we do not make this fundamental adjustment we will find that sheeting the main sheet harder to set the sail correctly will induce unnecessary weather helm and thus unbalance the boat.

Chock: In. This will put more of the emphases on main sheet tension (helmsmen control) rather than mast type.

Traveller: 8 - 10 cm below centreline, sheeting boom over inside edge of sidedeck and transom.

Mainsheet: The mainsheet is your main speed control in all conditions, especially these. By sheeting too hard you can kill your boat speed and the boat will feel dead. By not sheeting enough you will not be able to point. The happy middle ground changes as the wind speed changes. To find it position the telltales on either side of mainsail at approx. 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 height. These should be between 40 and 50 cm back from the luff. The correct sheeting of the mainsail is when the top telltale lifts slightly before the others. (I prefer this method to looking at leech telltales which I find difficult to read). At this moment the leech shape is described as being open, i.e. open to let the air off.

Vang: Slack if you have a traveller, on enough to set the telltales (as Mainsheet) if you do not.

Outhaul: Eased. Just enough to let the creases out.

Cunningham: Eased.

Centreboard: Trailing edge vertical.

Downwind

Body: Keep the weight on your feet not on your backside. Position your legs so that the pressure on your aft foot heels the boat to leeward and your front foot can bring the boat upright again.

Outhaul: When running as upwind, reaching ease a little to let the crease out along the foot of the sail.

Cunningham: Off.

Centreboard: As sub-powered. If you need to make ground to leeward e.g. to get an overlap consider taking the centre board right up to slide sideways. When your doing this use your body weight to correct the "crabbing" of the boat.

Mainsheet: As sub-powered with the addition of body movement into the trimming/steering sequence. To steer and trim the boat, the sequence is now mainsheet, body. The mainsheet movement now acts as fine tune and the rudder shouldn't really need to be used at all. I sheet the mainsheet direct from the boom on a 2:1 purchase i.e. I grab the front downward lead coming off the boom. I find this gives me a smoother movement and most control over the boat.

Vang: As sub-powered for gybing. As wind increases pull on gradually - less is best.

Focus For Under Powered

Be smooth. Use Body weight to steer the boat minimising rudder movement. Look for more wind on the water. Begin to concentrate on pointing. Do not pinch, keep boat flowing. Get the mainsheet setting right and then remember what it feels like. Keep it feeling the same and look at the race not the mainsheet. If the feeling goes, look at the sail again.

Full Powered

Objective

To find "the groove". To race the boat to your maximum physical and mental potential. To understand the options available and not available at any moment in time and to select those that most effectively contribute to meeting your pre-defined goals and objectives.

Upwind

Body: Hiking comfortably and within yourself: do not get stressed or over tired, it's not a hiking competition! Set the boat up so you are comfortable and can concentrate on the racing. Do not hike too far aft, get some feedback as to when your bow is just in the water to maximise waterline length.

Mast Rake: Forward in the range (Rake 6m+) i.e. tighten the forestay 2cm (4 holes approx) from max. aft.

Chock: In front. Hard in. Do not worry if your mast bends backwards slightly without the sail being rigged especially if your mast is a bit softer than one ideal for weight and sailing style.

Traveller: 8-10 cm below centreline. Position boom over middle of side deck at the transom.

Mainsheet: Mainsail leech closed (relatively). All three telltales lifting at the same time. Ideally the top one should always lift a little earlier than the others but just a little.

Vang: Off, or if no traveller then set telltales as above.

Outhaul: Pull out to put creases back in.

Cunningham: May need to trim a little to maintain max. draft at optimum 45%. If your sail is old you may need to pull a bit harder.

Centreboard: Trailing edge vertical for speed. Leading edge vertical for pointing. Vary according to what you want to do at the time.

Downwind

Objective - Fast and low. SPEED, SPEED, SPEED.

Body: Fluid body movement co-ordinating mainsheet and the tiller movements. Position yourself so that your hips are always further inboard than your shoulders. Lock your feet and legs in a position that enables you to move your backside if you need to. You should feel locked in position (solid) from your hips down and fluid (flexible) from the waist up.
In this wind condition the boat should be kept perfectly upright when reaching and heeled to windward on a run until the helm is neutral.
After some practice you can steer the boat on a run with your shoulders & mainsheet movements. Mainsheet out (ease main a little) to bear away, sheet in a little to luff up.
By twisting your hips so that you are facing "half forward" you position your head in such a way that it makes it easier to see the waves, gusts and the race.
Your body positioning is the absolute key in these conditions if you are to evolve your style and technique to the extent that lets your body sail the boat and your mind race it.

Outhaul: Off, to open the lens of the sail. This will vary by sail manufacturer, however, in all cases look to just drop the creases out of the foot, so that it offers an uncreased full shape.
To avoid letting the outhaul off too much, tie a knot in the system at the inboard end of the boom. This allows you to un-cleat the outhaul as you bear away round the windward mark and immediately begin to concentrate on your body positioning and the race.

Cunningham: Off

Centreboard: Half way up. If you are trying to steer the boat without the rudder on the run by co-ordinating shoulders and mainsheet, then less centreboard makes me feel less secure and less confident.

Vang: As the mainsheet is your main speed control upwind so the vang becomes your speed control off-wind. I mentioned earlier that you need less than you think. This is because of the soft masts and floppy rigging that nearly all Solo's use today - (even a Superspar M7 cannot be considered a stiff spar). What happens, as you pull on the vang to trim the mainsheet, is that the mast bends and de-powers the sail. You therefore have to trim the vang to the overall sail shape not just the leech shape as in other boats.
By pulling on the vang until the luff tell-tales fly at the same time, you should be in the correct ball park. If in doubt, ease it off a bit.

Mainsheet: As under-powered.

Focus For Full Powered

Sheer enjoyment, sailing at its most comfortable and rewarding. Let the boat flow and concentrate on how the boat feels. If it begins to feel dead, ease the mainsheet a fraction. If the wind increases momentarily, pull the mainsheet on a bit and feel the boat "squirt" forward as you hike a little harder to keep the boat perfectly upright. If you hike out hard as you can or feel that the extra effort does not fit into the days plan, pinch a little during the gust to keep the boat upright. Keeping the mast perpendicular the water helps the centreboard at its maximum efficiency as well as reducing the amount of rudder you need to use to keep the boat sailing in a straight line.

Over-Powered

Warning - The change from being fully powered to being over powered can happen very quickly. The effective management of the transition can lead to significant improvements in performance and hence your enjoyment. Control movements are made progressively and sequentially "in a spiral" as wind speed increases over and above your fully powered maximum.

Objective

Keep upright. Be confident. Go fast and have fun.

Upwind

Body: Keep relaxed, hike a little further towards the middle of the thwart and the aft edge of the centreboard case as a chop develops.

Mast Rake: Middle of the range, ease 1cm (2holes) from full power position. Mast rake should be approx 6.00m

Chock: If the wind has increased dramatically during the race and you become overpowered remove the chocks. If you are rigging for over powered conditions - keep the chocks full in. This will support the bottom of the mast and direct the effect of the vang to the middle section of the mast where it will have a greater effect.

Traveller: Eased progressively down the track from full power position. (see depowering sequence).

Mainsheet: Keep easing it when the gust hit to keep boat upright. Often you find you can't do this quick enough so pinch a little at the same time.

Vang: Pull on to take up downward component of mainsheet as soon as boat starts to heel and luff up. This means that when you let the mainsheet out, the boom does not move up but simply out parallel with the deck.

Outhaul: The first adjustment you make whenever you feel as if you are constantly overpowered; pull hard on so that creases appear in the foot of the sail.

Cunningham: Look at the sail shape after other adjustments and trim to optimise max. draft at 45%. The last sail adjustment you make after pulling on the outhaul and the vang.

Centreboard: Move from trailing edge vertical progressively to 3/4 up. (See de-powering cycle).

Downwind

Body: As full-power but further back in the boat.

Outhaul: On - no need to ease it.

Cunningham: On for the reach. Off for the run.

Vang: Use less than you would for fully powered.

Mainsheet: Over trim slightly by sheeting to the top tell-tale.

Focus For Over Powered

Keep the boat upright, anticipate changes in wind speed, up and down. Trim through the cycle 1-10 to depower the boat, reverse the order to add power to the boat as the wind speed drops.
Focus your attention on how the boat feels. You are trying to create a power level from the variables under your control that matches the available power with in your own body. If you feel strong add a little power. As you get tired trim the boat to match that feeling. Always plan to be in control. Set the boat up to work within your own physical capabilities AND HAVE FUN!

Sailing Downhill

by Harvey Hillary

Having been asked by numerous people what the secret to my speed was last year, I thought it about time I let you all into a few secrets. Downwind speed is the big difference between the top ten and the rest of the fleet and if you can hang on up the beat you will find that the majority of place changes occur on the reaches and particularly the runs. The key to speed on the sea is surfing and the guy who catches the most waves will almost certainly be the fastest no matter what equipment he uses.

Now, I know you are all saying that you've heard it all before but there is far more to surfing than just bearing away down the wave. The most important skill is to try and keep your average speed up. The faster you are going the easier it will be to catch the next wave, which means wallowing in between waves will simply not do. When you feel the boat falling off the back of the wave steer up to increase your speed and go looking for the next wave instead of letting it come to you!

Another important skill is being able to pick a path through the wave in front. This requires you to look ahead for any gaps which you can plane through and therefore jump the wave. In slower boats like Solos this is sometimes the only way that you can overtake a wave as the boat is not fast enough to plane over the back of it. In these conditions most boats are only separated by one wave and the people on the move are just better at finding the gaps.

OK, so you are still finding it difficult to catch those waves. Well that's probably because you're not pumping enough. "Arrrr he mentioned the P word". Now I am sorry to bring up the forbidden subject but the fact is that one pump per wave is legal, so make full use of it. Just as you feel the transom being lifted by the wave give the mainsheet a pump and throw your weight out and back in the boat. This will increase your boat speed enough to catch those tricky little waves in intermediate conditions.

Right, now something for all you hot shots out there. In Looe the problem downwind was that the waves were small and close together; this meant that as soon as you caught the wave you planed straight into the one in front. I managed to cope with this by Zig Zagging. This is a technique of getting on the wave and bearing away hard so that you slide across the wave rather than down it. On the runs this will mean that you will sail by the lee in one direction until you feel yourself falling off the wave, then head up sharply so that you broad reach back which can increase your speed so much that it puts you back on the wave that you have just come off. To do this you will need to let your kicker right off so that the top of your sail twists out in front of the boom. One warning though, it really is tippy!

Pre-race Preparation for the Nationals

Charlie1

There is a lot you can figure out about a venue and what side of the course may pay before you even set foot in your boat or sail to the race area.
Common things to research are:

  • Forecast - Is there a weather system that will effect the days breeze, increasing/decreasing, backing/veering.
  • Rain fall - head right into the cold air from above...?, clouds - head towards them.....thunderstorms etc etc
  • Localised topography - hills, headlands, narrow channels causing increased current, dark land matter that will warm up quickly and start a thermal seas breeze, water temperature, you only need 2-3 degrees of difference between water and air temp to start a thermal system going, assuming the gradient breeze is offshore.
  • Current - tide times, flow direction and probable location of the race course in relation to this.

All these factors you can research before you even go afloat so you can have a picture of which side of the course you would likely be favouring before any localised wind shifts are thought about, in reality 75% of the time I already know which side of the course I want to go before I hit the race area, whether I am correct or not is another matter!


Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the race area, the big sea champs are often held a lot further offshore than regular events/club racing so don’t be afraid to get out there and start learning about the race area. I have a routine I stick to for all my event races. firstly I get to the committee boat, often if you are close hauled or running to the race area you can get some compass headings pencilled into the brain. Once at the boat I sail upwind for 10-15 mins tacking every couple of mins to get the variance in headings according to the shifts. This also allows you to get the setup dialled in for the first beat, I then bear away and run back to the committee boat, by this time there is usually a start line laid so I get a good transit, if there is no land behind the pin end then try and get a reverse transit
from the pin end to the committee boat, anything to help get your bearings on a long line. I always get a transit and if there is a general recall repeat the process so its just part of the pre race routine.


Once I have the transit I check the line bias, then I can firm up the first beat strategy, if I want to go right but there is pin bias or vice versa how do I deal with it, take the bias and hope I nail the start and can tack early? (high risk) or start at the unfavoured end and tack immediately? or trust my transit and start in the middle, usually ahead of the fleet around you if you nail a transit and there is always a midline sag and then work my way to the side I want? decisions decisions.....!!!

Charlie2

 

In the final minute before the start it does not matter if its a 100 boat fleet as you are only racing the guy to windward and leeward of you, these are the 2 immediate boats you need to nail to get off the start line, its all about jockeying for position keeping as close under the boat to windward to make their life hard whilst opening a nice gap to leeward to accelerate into, but beware to protect this as if you open a nice gap someone will see it and come and join the party!

Then you just have to be aware of rogue elements, usually early on in a big event there is some idiot reaching down the line with their boom banging off your forestay oblivious to any rules (don’t be that idiot!!!)
“10-15 seconds to go its about accelerating whilst watching your transit”, be confident in it, and as long as you have done it correctly, ignore the calls from around you saying you are over! Their loss, your gain! having said that in 7 nationals i have done I have had an OCS in every one! You could argue you are not trying enough if you don’t get one! Once off the line its about putting your pre race strategy into action, stick to your guns and what you think should work, as there is nothing worse, getting frustrated as the boats heading the way you wanted to cross you miles in front after you got distracted and went the opposite way to your plan!

North BerwickCharlie3

As a venue it provides fantastic sea conditions, often mixed in with some unpleasant conditions for a day or so but fantastic for the rest of it, it will likely provide big waves and a decent breeze so you need to be on your game with setup and sailing style to make the most of it.


If its breezy it will be wavy so upwind you need to hike hard and be able to steer around the waves, DO NOT PINCH, its fine to do this on an inland flat water venue but you will get munched in the waves. depower, ease the main and foot, FAST, rake the rig back and raise the centreboard to balance the boat. a balanced boat is a fast boat, too much helm and you wont be able to go fast, the only way to remove this helm is flatten the sail and raise the board.

At the top mark the reaches should be fun! Ease the cunningham, inhaul, outhaul and power up the sail, raise the board up 2/3rds and get the boat planing. Downwind is not the time to rest and in the breeze is even harder work than upwind with constant sheet movements, body movements forward and back and steering, prepare to pant! Do what you can (legally!!) to keep the boat planing, heading up in lulls and bearing away on waves and gusts to keep the average speed up, now its time for the gybe mark. easy, if its fresh to frightening a big ease of the kicker as you steer in will mean the main will ‘auto depower' as the main fills on the new side due to the amount of twist in the leech so steer in confidently and get the boom over, you will survive!

Same down the next reach and prepare for the 2nd beat hike off.....once at the top mark its the run and where you can gain boat lengths over your competitors. Its all about steering, pointing dead downwind at the leeward mark is the slowest and rockiest way downwind, as the wind hits the sail and doesn’t know whether to flow to the leech or the luff, this unbalance creates the roll everyone hates, by heading up to a broad reach or bearing away so you are sailing by the lee the airflow is settled in 1 direction across the sail and is therefore very balanced, this is why you see sailors at the front steering through big angles as they go from reach to by the lee to get the optimum route through, round and over the waves.

Cross the finish line, grab some drink as you recover and get ready for the next one! Nationals day 1 done!
See you all there.
Charlie Cumbley