Now that you’ve made the proper preparations before the regatta, its time to take your first test run. While you may want to hop on the water right away, it can be a good idea to do a dry run on shore first.
Step 2: Dry run on shore
Boathandling and teamwork is just as important as sail trim and tuning. Running through the rough moves for tacking, jibing, hoisting and dropping the spinnaker, etc. on shore can smooth out the edges before you and your team take to the water.
After my first day of racing in an MC Scow, a handful of near capsizes (it was blowing all of 8 knots) and getting stuck in irons while tacking, I had the opportunity to watch an on-land seminar by one of the class hotshots. As soon as he demonstrated his first tack, the light bulb came on. I realized I had been doing it all wrong. The only way I knew how to tack was to put the hiking stick in front of the tiller. This technique doesn’t work on an MC because the mainsheet is too close to the end of the tiller. As soon as I flipped the hiking stick behind and over the top of the tiller, my tacks were much cleaner. Had I spent just five minutes going through tacks on shore before I put the boat in the water, my first day of racing might have been a bit less humorous. Here are some of the things to concentrate on during your dry run:
Practice the hand-off: The skipper has to become comfortable with switching hands between mainsheet and tiller extension while facing forward, both tacking and jibing. It’s a good idea to hook the main halyard on the boom and hoist it until the boom is at sailing height to simulate actual sailing trim. Obviously the same is true for the crew with trimming the jib from tack to tack. Dry land tacking will also help the crew determine if they should be facing forward or aft when trimming the jib from tack to tack.
Perfect your footwork: How often do you come out of a tack in a breeze fishing for the straps while the boat heels precariously, slipping sideways? As you become comfortable with your hands, practice the placement of your feet. During a tack, you want to land on the new side with your feet finding the hiking straps automatically – not digging around for them with your toes.
Test your spinnaker handling.Without question, much can be gained by simply running through the basic drill of setting the pole and play acting a hoist, drop, etc. Going through all the moves beforehand will make your first sail more productive, and probably generate some more questions to ask your fellow competitors.
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Greg Fisher has won championships in the Lightning, Flying Scot, Highlander and Thistle. However, he is best known for his dedication to helping others learn to sail their boats faster.