Quick Hits for Performance

September 30, 2003

Keep an eye on the masthead fly. The wind changes aloft before it does on the water.

Anticipate wind changes by watching to windward. Try to guess in advance what the wind will do next. If you were correct, make a note, and remember what you saw for the next time.

A sudden gust, unless accompanied by a change in direction, will move the apparent wind forward. Your first reaction should be to ease sails, then turn the rudder to bear away.


Before maneuvering, always sail at full speed. Wait until the crew is organized, then make your maneuver in a puff of wind.

When tacking, start your turn slowly. Increase the rate of turn once the boat is head to wind. Don’t allow your jib to back, as this will slow you down.

After tacking, sail a few degrees low to build up speed before sailing up to and trimming for your new course. When sailing downwind, reach up to gain speed after a jibe or any time you feel the boat has lost momentum.


During times of action, assign every member of your crew a specific job. On a well-sailed boat, everyone works in his or her assigned area and stays low.

Keep your crew off the foredeck. Weight forward slows a boat.

When steering with the wheel, stand up so you have a greater height of eye. Angle of heel is your most important performance indicator. While helming in light air, never sit to leeward.


To reduce weather helm and keep rudder drag low, do one or a combination of the following: Move crew weight to windward, shorten sail, ease the traveler, ease the sheet, or flatten the mainsail. Your objective is a balanced helm. Too much heel also creates weather helm.

Are you sailing in clear air? Disturbed wind or water dramatically affects speed on boats of all sizes. If your wind is blanketed or you’re sailing in choppy water, maneuver away.

In light wind, keep the crew still and quiet to allow the trimmers and helmsman to focus on performance without distractions.


Check to see that the telltales on your jib are breaking evenly when you luff. On the mainsail, the top telltale should be just on edge at all times.

When trimming sails, remember that shape is more important than the amount of projected sail area. A sail works at peak efficiency when its draft is 40- to 50-percent aft of the luff. To point higher, move the draft aft. To sail faster, move the draft forward. G.J.


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