When you see a puff approaching: First off, even if it’s not your job to call puffs, it’s always good practice to run through the motions in your head; it’ll help you stay sharp the next time puff calling is your job. When you see a line of breeze rolling down the course, there are four important pieces of information about the approaching wind that will make a difference to your helmsman and trimmers.
1. Is it a lifting or heading puff? If it approaches from 45 degrees or forward of your course, it’s a heading puff. From 45 to 60 degrees, it’s a median puff. From aft of 60 degrees, it’s a lifting puff.
2. How much more wind is it? This helps the helmsman and trimmer know how much to adjust their trim and angle for the new wind.
3. How long will it last? This tells the helmsman and trimmer how long they’ll sail with the new trim.
4. When will it hit? A countdown helps the helmsman and trimmer time adjustments they’re making.
Calling puffs downwind is just as, if not more important than spotting incoming breeze upwind, as you have more flexibility to sail higher or lower to meet the approaching puff. When calling puffs downwind, ask yourself the same questions as you would sailing upwind: (Lift or header? How much wind? How long will it last? When will it hit?).
Make sure to converse with your trimmer and/or driver beforehand to determine the language that will be most helpful for them. You have to remember that while you are looking up course, your fellow crew trimming the sails will likely be looking down course, or up at the sails. Saying “puff coming on the right” might be confusing – your right, my right, course right, downwind right? A good general rule is to call the puffs where they fall over the shoulder of your forward-facing crew members. For example, say”puff over your right shoulder,” this makes it easy for trimmers or helmsmen to look back over their shoulder to see the incoming breeze and react accordingly.