Two Easy Speed-Moding Drills

Two drills to test your high-mode and your fast-forward setup

You know how to make your boat go fast in all upwind modes. Here’s a drill to help you do that. It can be done with 2 to 3 boats and with or without a coach.

First, the three general types of upwind modes:

  1. VMG (Velocity made good): The fastest way to sail to windward in the given conditions.
  2. Fast mode: Used when you need to go forward on a competitor for tactical reasons, get to a favored side of the course, you are on an easy lay-line, or when you have overstood a mark.
  3. High Mode: Used to get rid of an attacking boat to weather, force a competitor to the unfavored side of the course, hold a lane, make room so you can tack, or try to cross a fleet or boat.
Speed mode lineup
The line-up: This is somewhat weather dependent but generally start by lining up 2-3 boat lengths apart (depending on the conditions). This can be done with 2 to 3 boats.Courtesy Grant Spanhake

For this drill, boat positioning is somewhat weather dependent, but start by lining up 2 to 3 boat lengths apart, depending on conditions. Too far apart and you risk having different conditions. Too close together and you risk interfering with the other boat. Ideally, you need pretty stable conditions. Each drill starts with boats sailing the VMG mode, which works as baseline from which we can switch to either the high mode or the fast mode. As you focus on each mode, make sure your crew is not only involved in sailing the boat well but gives feedback about gains and losses relative to your tuning partners. Often only small adjustments are needed. A half-inch of mainsheet change can work wonders. If you have a coach, they can help by taking photos or video of each boat’s set up.

high-mode test
The high-mode test is successful if the first leeward boat forces the windward boat to tack.Courtesy Grant Spanhake

High-mode test

The object of this drill is for the leeward boats to slowly work up on the windward boat. Start by sailing for 7 to 10 minutes in the VMG mode to establish that all boats are going equally well in that mode. With the windward boat in VMG mode, have the two leeward boats change trim so they’re sailing in the high mode.

You’ll know the drill is successful when:

  • The first leeward boat forces the windward boat to tack.
  • One of the leeward boats can tack and cross the windward boat.
  • The leeward boats close to windward of the windward boat.
  • The crews feel comfortable in this mode.

You’ll know the drill has to be repeated when:

  • The windward boat sails over the leeward boats.
  • There is no or little gain to windward on the weather boat.
fast-mode test
The fast-mode test is successful if the first leeward boat moves forward on the windward boat and does not lose height.Courtesy Grant Spanhake

Fast-mode test

The object is for the two leeward boats to move forward on the windward boat. Start with all boats in the VMG mode, as you did in the high-mode drill. With the windward boat continuing in that mode, have the two leeward boats change trim to sail in fast mode.

You’ll know the drill is successful when:

  • The first leeward boat moves forward on the windward boat and does not lose height.
  • One of the leeward boats moves forward enough to be able to tack and cross the windward boat.
  • The second leeward boat rolls over the third leeward boat.
  • The crews feel comfortable in this mode.

You’ll know the drill has to be repeated when:

  • The windward boat sails over the leeward boats.
  • There is no or little gain forward on the weather boat.