Good Tacks Start With the Release
Good Tacks Start With the Release
A fast tack boils down to the basics; pro trimmer Tom Burnham gets us releasing the jib right. "From the Experts" in our May 2008 issue
A decade ago in Key West I was on Vim III, a custom IMS racer, tailing the genoa through the tacks. Ed Reynolds, a founding partner in Quantum Sails, was in charge of releasing. He was in the midst of writing for this magazine an article on how to release the genoa, so he spent a lot of time thinking and talking about how to do it properly. In fact, he spent so much energy pondering his technique he had a hard time actually doing it. Of course, the rest of us on the boat gave him endless grief about his struggles. Fortunately, we had a good regatta on a very fast boat and won our class.
When I was asked to provide an updated look at releasing the jib, I considered Ed's experience. After all I was just weeks away from heading to Key West on a Melges 32. Since I wasn't slated to be releasing the jib, however, I figured I was in the clear.
The common element that connects all good racing maneuvers is spending as much time as possible at full speed. In many competitive classes, all of the good boats can sail close to their potential much of the time. One place where boats can pick up time is in the turns. Because they seem simple, tacks are often overlooked in favor of sets, jibes, and douses. However, the average raceboat will do more tacks than any of those other maneuvers during an average race, often by a factor of two or more. Improving your tacks by 2 or 3 seconds can save you 30 or 40 seconds around the racecourse, and in a tight one-design or handicap fleet, that much time can be the difference between finishing in the top three or the bottom three.
|The forward hand is ready to take off the final wraps while the back hand is there to let the sheet run through. Look forward to watch the rate of turn and the backwinding of the luff. The release will depend on the conditions.|
"Releasing the jib may seem the easiest part of a tack. However, just because it doesn't require the same strength as grinding or tailing doesn't mean it should be dismissed. The release is one of the most important parts of the tack. A good release makes the rest of the mechanics of the tack easier, from tailing and grinding to turning the boat. It is commonly overlooked by teams placing a premium on the tailing and grinding. When a tack doesn't go well, one of the first places to look is the release.
One of the biggest ways to make tacks faster is by minimizing the flapping of the sail, which creates a tremendous amount of drag. An early release, which allows the clew to move away from the centerline and the sail to flap as the bow passes through the wind, is very slow. Holding the release to get the correct amount of back wind in the headsail is the way to a good tack. A proper back allows the sail to blow smoothly through the foretriangle, which makes it easier to tail on the new tack. It will also help the helmsman steer through the tack efficiently, and allow them to quickly find the correct exit angle on the new tack. The ideal tack is one during which the sail never actually flaps, it just goes from full on the old tack to full on the new tack. It may sound difficult, but it can be achieved with proper timing and technique.