Gems From the Notebook
Gems From the Notebook
Andy Horton shares a few of his most lucrative tips for optimizing speed in just about any boat. "Boatspeed" from our April 2012 issue.
Approximately eight years ago, as I was starting to sail a lot of different boats, I began sitting down after each event I sailed, evaluating what worked and what didn’t, and then writing detailed notes. Today, I simply e-mail notes to myself. To organize them, I’ve set up folders for different boats. One of my most important in-box folders, though, is one that’s full of ideas and concepts that I find apply all the time and to almost all boats.
1. In waves, keep the bow moving in a circular motion to windward
When you’re sailing upwind in waves and heeled, you want the bow to come out of the water on the top of the wave and to move slightly to windward before landing in the water. If you are on starboard tack, for example, the bow would be making a clockwise circular motion.
2. In waves, stay attached to the water
Snowboarders and motocross racers know that if they’re going for speed, they need to avoid catching a lot of air on the jumps. There’s more drag created by popping up in the air and then coming back down. The same is true for boats. The more you can keep the hull in the water, the faster you’ll go.
3. Stay in the right gear
The area to which you sail on the jib (or genoa)—lower, middle, or upper telltales—determines how much power you’ll get out of the jib. When underpowered, sail in first gear, which means sailing so the lower telltales flow correctly. This is when the jib will be most powerful, and because the bottom of the sail has the most area to work with, you really want to keep the lower telltales working.
As you start to get overpowered, shift to second gear and focus on making the middle telltales flow correctly. You’ll notice that when the middle telltales are streaming straight back, the lower telltales will be floating up.
When you’re well overpowered, shift to third gear and sail so the front few inches of the jib are luffing. The maximum amount of luff you’d ever want to carry is where the luff extends back to the telltales. Third gear is basically a way of depowering without changing your jib, such as on an Etchells where you have two jibs and get caught with the wrong one, or on a boat with a genoa, such as J/24, where you might sail with six inches of your genoa luffing in 18 knots of breeze.
4. Anticipate the puffs
In marginal hiking conditions, hike before the puff hits. Think of swinging a racket at a tennis ball—you don’t start the swing when the ball is at your racquet; you start as the ball is approaching. Similarly, don’t wait for the boat to heel before you begin to hike.
5. Maintain a constant angle of heel
Watch the headstay angle against the far shore or against the horizon, and do what you can to maintain that angle.
When the wind lightens, the person who has the job of making the boat go faster at that moment should always come in off the rail first. He or she can go down and get a better look at the jib, and that will make it better. The last one to go in should be the helmsman. Conversely, as the wind increases, the helmsman goes out first, and the trimmer last.
6. Stay on the low edge of the plane
On planing boats, the best VMG is found by sailing as low as you can while still maintaining a plane. You might be able to sail higher and go faster, but your progress to the leeward mark will not be as good.
7. Vang sheet in puffy conditions
The more puffy and/or shifty the conditions are, the more you should play the mainsheet. If overpowered, tighten down the vang so the main does not get deeper when you ease the mainsheet (aka vang sheeting).
8. Listen to the jib trimmer in light air
In light air, the jib trimmer should ease the jib when lifted, then coach the helmsman back up to the new course as the jib trimmer brings the jib back in to full trim.