Shift Into Your Point Gear
Shift Into Your Point Gear
There’s no trickery to attaining that elusive point gear. It’s all about the flow across your foils and the trim of your sails. "Boatspeed" from our September 2010 issue.
The ability to point is an important part of any boatspeed toolkit. In many cases, having the ability to point is just as important as having great speed through the water. There are many instances when being able to outpoint the boats around you is incredibly helpful, especially in executing your tactical game plan: We all appreciate how critical it is to be able to clear out the boat to windward at the start in order to have the opportunity to tack, or to hold a lane as long as possible when a boat has tacked close to leeward.
Most sailors recognize that sailing in point mode, or point “gear,” puts the boat in a fragile, somewhat demanding trim and tune. If the boat is sailed too high or too long in point gear, it can easily stall, and you’ll slip sideways. When conditions make it challenging to steer and maintain speed (for example, when it’s choppy, wavy, or very light or very windy), your ability to maintain a point mode is significantly shorter than it would be when sailing in flat water or medium winds. Sometimes, you may only maintain point mode for a matter of seconds, sometimes it may be as long as a minute.
The characteristics of the boat, and how it handles this critical trim, must be taken into account. Some boats, like a few of my favorites, the J/22 or Thistle, can carry longer and further in point mode when compared to boats like the Flying Scot or Lightning. It’s important to recognize, however, that superior height is generally obtained at the expense of speed. The key is compromising as little speed as possible.
The old adage, “foot then point,” says a lot. The boat must be moving well so there’s flow over the blades, preventing the boat from stalling. The bottom line is, make sure the boat is sailing at top speed for the conditions before trying to pinch.
When sailing in point gear, the boat should be sailed near flat. While it may seem contrary to what many profess—that sailing heeled will encourage the boat to point—a flatter, balanced boat is key. When the boat is flat, the blades will be vertical for maximum efficiency, and the boat will be balanced. (Of course, there are some exceptions like Scows or some bigger boats.) But for all boats, top speed through the water comes when there’s a neutral or very slight windward helm. When the boat is trimmed and steered into point gear, we will see an increase in windward helm, but it’s important that the boat be re-trimmed to a neutral helm—quickly and easily—in order to accelerate and maintain speed.