Tricks to tame the chute

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD -


The lower the tack, the straighter the luff. The cruis­ing chute will be­have more like a head­sail; this is what you need for reach­ing.


The fur­ther off the wind you go, the higher you want the tack so that the sail flies fuller and wider, which is what we need for run­ning. For op­ti­mum per­for­mance, we want the tack line to be ver­ti­cal. With the sheet trimmed, ease the tack line off. If it goes straight up then you can con­tinue to ease the line as you are sail­ing dead down­wind.

Too far To wind­ward?

If the tack line starts to go to wind­ward of the forestay then you are sail­ing dead down­wind and you need to sheet in and sail a lit­tle higher to get the tack line ver­ti­cal. As the chute os­cil­lates from lee­ward to wind­ward, it pulls the rig one way then the other, in­duc­ing un­com­fort­able rolling and in ex­trem­i­ties, caus­ing the rud­der to lose grip on the wa­ter.

Too far To lee­ward?

The tack line pulling off to lee­ward means you are sail­ing too high for your sail set­ting. Ei­ther bear away or, if this is the course you want to sail, pull in on the tack line to lower the tack un­til it be­comes ver­ti­cal, then sheet in. This will help to pull the luff for­wards and the sail will have bet­ter for­wards drive rather than pulling side­ways.

Gy­bing the cruis­ing chute

If you are put off han­dling the large sail area of the cruis­ing chute through a gybe, you can al­ways snuff the sail, set it on to the other tack and then un­snuff it. It’s a safe way of go­ing about things and there is noth­ing wrong with that. But you can also go for a ‘live’ gybe.

Start by cen­ter­ing the main. As you take the stern through the wind, gybe the main and ease the cruis­ing chute sheet, al­low­ing the sail to fly ahead of the boat. Then sheet in on the new lee­ward sheet. You’ll turn the cruis­ing chute out­side it­self ahead of the boat. You can of course gybe the cruis­ing chute by turn­ing it in­side it­self be­tween it and the forestay but you may need a mem­ber of crew to feed the clew and sheets through the gap. Al­low­ing the sail to fly ahead of the forestay is by far the eas­i­est way.

From a han­dling point of view, I find that the cruis­ing chute is work­able short­handed in any­thing up to 20 knots of wind. Af­ter that, the loads be­come too much and it be­comes harder to snuff the sail. If the snuffer does jam, you’ll re­alise how much power there is in that sail as you try to wres­tle it to the deck. Don’t panic though – you can still drop the chute with­out the snuffer. Head down­wind to put the chute into a good wind shadow. Ease off the tack line and then the hal­yard while tak­ing in on the sheet. Bun­dle up the sail, ei­ther on the fore­deck on into the main com­pan­ion­way hatch.

Watch out for ap­par­ent Wind

True wind is the wind you would feel if you were stand­ing sta­tion­ary on the ground. If the air was com­pletely still and you be­gan mov­ing, you would be mov­ing through the air and would per­ceive this as wind – we’ll call it mo­tion wind. Ap­par­ent wind, the wind you feel on deck, is the com­bi­na­tion of true wind and mo­tion wind and can vary de­pend­ing on your di­rec­tion, speed and the tidal cur­rent.

As soon as we come off the wind, the boat comes more up­right and our ap­par­ent wind re­duces. Close-hauled in 14 knots true wind speed with a boat speed of 6 knots, we may have had an ap­par­ent wind speed of up to 20 knots. Now run­ning down­wind at 6 knots, that ap­par­ent wind speed could be down to 8 knots. If do­ing 6 knots down­wind and the ap­par­ent wind speed is 20 knots (F5), that is a true wind speed of close to 26 knots (F6). Turn into that and start sail­ing close-hauled at 6 knots and the ap­par­ent wind will in­crease to 30 knots (F7) or more.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of se­cu­rity sail­ing down­wind. It is easy to get caught out with too much can­vas up, so keep an eye on true wind speed as well as ap­par­ent wind speed, and set your sail area ac­cord­ingly. Of course, if you’re not in too much of a hurry, un­furl­ing the head­sail on its own is not es­pe­cially tax­ing and it’s a peaceful stress-free way of go­ing down­wind.

The right tack line ten­sion is cru­cial to pre­vent ex­ces­sive heal­ing and rolling

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