White sails to keep it sim­ple

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD -

Once we are off the wind and head­ing for a broad reach with the wind on the quarter, we need to make the sails fuller and more pow­er­ful. In essence, we want to hang all the ‘wash­ing’ out to catch as much wind as pos­si­ble. The trick is to do this in such a way that we min­imise the risk of accidental gybes and in­crease power while re­duc­ing rolling.

1 Main­sail setup

In a mod­er­ate breeze, when we want the power, we need to put the kicker on to get the top bat­ten to lie along the boom, let off the clew out­haul to al­low the foot of the main to curve to give the sail some bag, and ease the main­sheet. This gives a full sail shape that won’t spill wind. If you are over­pow­ered, ease off the kicker to spill power.

2 Head­sail setup

We need to ease the sheet for the head­sail and move the genoa car for­ward to close the leech and power up the sail. With­out this, the top of the leech will twist and spill wind. The tell­tales will tend to be jumpy but as long as we have the luff of the sail at 90° to the fore and aft line of the boat, we should be fine.

3 dead down­wind

Un­der white can­vas alone, the fastest route may well be dead down­wind, where boats with cruis­ing chutes might find it faster to ‘sail the an­gles’ and gybe down­wind. The more di­rectly down­wind we go, the more we need to ease the main­sheet un­til the main is rest­ing on the shrouds. Even­tu­ally, the main will blank the head­sail and you’ll loose power.

4 Goose wing­ing

At this point and dead down­wind, we can set the head­sail on the op­po­site side to the main and run ‘goose winged’ or ‘wing and wing’. This will need a steady hand on the tiller to keep the head­sail full while avoid­ing a gybe but it gets the head­sail out of the main’s shadow and can give a sur­pris­ing boost in speed.

5 Pol­ing out

To help us keep it set on the side op­po­site the main, pole it out with the spin­naker pole. Keep the pole hor­i­zon­tal and pulled to wind­ward as far as pos­si­ble. You may need a down-haul, a top­ping lift and a guy to keep the pole level. Use the pole height to con­trol the ten­sion on the leech and there­fore how much twist the sail has.

6 Preven­ter

It’s worth­while at­tach­ing a preven­ter to the main to stop it ac­ci­den­tally gy­bing across if you end up run­ning by the lee. Run a line from the end of the boom to a block at the bow at­tached to the rail or a D-ring, or take the line through a bow cleat and re­turn it to the cock­pit so you can ad­just it as you ad­just the main­sheet.

7 Po­ten­tial is­sues

Run­ning by the lee is when you’ve gone past dead down­wind but haven’t gybed the main. The air­flow is re­versed so it flows from leech to luff. You’re very close to a gybe at this point, but it can be fast. Some boats will have a ten­dency to roll dead down­wind, par­tic­u­larly as the wind picks up. To make life more com­fort­able, tighten the kicker and lower the spin­naker pole to re­duce twist at the top of the main and the genoa, which will re­duce lat­eral forces. Se­condly, sheet sails in slightly, par­tic­u­larly the head­sail, so it doesn’t bil­low around the forestay to help sta­bilise the sailplan. Also con­sider re­duc­ing sail area as this will lower the cen­tre of ef­fort.

Many cruis­ers are happy to run un­der genoa alone. Sim­ple, yes, but you could be get­ting much more from your boat

Eas­ily ne­glected, the out­haul has a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on sail shape down­wind

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