4 Steps to Fast Upwind Sailing
Author: Wiley Nautical
Good upwind sailing technique is an essential skill in yacht racing – and even cruising sailors will want to work to windward as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately it’s all too easy to misjudge how far you can point resulting in poorly set sails and a decelerating boat. In this article from the sailing book Mainsail Trimming, Felix Marks shares his tips on getting the best from your boat when the wind’s on the nose.
It’s extremely useful to think of sailing as you think of using gears in a car. If you try to accelerate from 10mph in top gear you will fail, or at least take a very long time to go faster. It's the same with sailing. Top speed trim is different from starting trim. You can only get to top speed by going through lower gears: starting and accelerating. Therefore there are three main gears, and there’s overdrive too if you’re sailing on flat water in a good breeze.
In order to be able to change gears, you need to know which gear you’re in at any given time. This will help you trim right immediately. As a rule of thumb if you’re in any doubt, the chances are that you’re overtrimmed.
1st gear: use when starting from scratch.
• You ease the sheet a couple of inches and steer sway from the wind until the middle telltales are flowing on the inside and the outside of the job
• Stay in this gear until you’ve built up some speed, perhaps for 15 seconds.
2nd gear: use after 1st gear or when you’ve completed good tack or after some waves that you’ve successfully footed through
• You trim the sheet a bit more and steered closer to the wind
• Stay in this gear until you’ve built up some more speed, perhaps another 15 seconds
3rd gear: use after you’ve accelerated from 2nd gear or after a very good tack
• You trim the sail on fully and the steer up towards the wind until the outside telltales on the jib are flowing evenly and the inside telltales are flowing upwards at around 45 degrees.
Overdrive gear: Use after you’ve made it into 3rd gear
• On flat water and in good wind you can steer even higher (closer to the wind) so the inside telltales are pointing almost vertically. The mainsheet can be even further tightened. However as soon as there’s a lull or some chop, you will immediately need to change down a gear to keep the boat speed up by easing out slightly.
• Whether you can reach 2nd, 3rd and overdrive gear depends on the wind strength and sea state. If the wind is very light, you will stay in first gear. If the wind is just light, you might make it to 2nd gear. Only if there’s enough wind, eg. over 10 knots, will you be able to get into 3rd gear. Overdrive is only achievable in winds over approximately 14 knots and on flat water.
This article is taken from the book Mainsail Trimming. Uncover the secrets of sailing fast while remaining in control