On Deck

SAIL - - Contents - with Tom Cun­liffe

Tips t o im­prove your sail­ing game


In wa­ters where cur­rents are this strong (above), a boat isn’t usu­ally go­ing where she’s point­ing. When a buoy is mak­ing a bow wave, and you are shap­ing up any­where near it, the ques­tion of whether you are go­ing to hit it is a lively one. It’s no use not­ing that it’s 20 de­grees off the bow as you sail along at 5 knots. In any sort of cur­rent you might eas­ily be drift­ing 30 or more de­grees from where you’re head­ing. The only sure-fire an­swer is to ob­serve whether the ob­ject is mov­ing against its back­ground. If it is, you’re OK. If it’s not, al­ter course in good time. Where there’s any doubt, go down­stream of it. One more thing: never lis­ten to folks with a sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion telling you this doesn’t work. It does, and it has since Noah beached his ark.


This skip­per has set up his rig per­fectly for the mys­te­ri­ous “twist” that makes boats go so much bet­ter (right). The heads of both sails are trim­ming far­ther from the boat’s mid­line than the lower parts, yet they are driv­ing well all the way up. There’s more wind aloft, so its ap­par­ent di­rec­tion is af­fected less by the boat’s progress. Less wind bend means the ap­par­ent wind up there is freed. By twist­ing the sail to use this, more for­ward drive is ac­com­plished. It also re­duces heel­ing. The in­ter­ac­tion of the two sails ex­ag­ger­ates the ef­fect. Start by check­ing the genoa tell­tales. If the up­per ones lift be­fore the low­ers when you steer above the course with the sail trimmed right, move the sheet lead cars for­ward. If the low­ers lift first, shunt it aft un­til they all fly to­gether. The twist built into the sail will do the rest.


This lit­tle sailor­man

hal­yard onto a pi­rate flag his par­ents must have bought for him. He’ll be opt­ing for a sheet bend, and he’s obvi- is set­ting up a doll’s clothes line. She’s clove-hitched it around the back­stay and backed up her knot with a sin­gle half-hitch. When that yacht docks, the pair of them are in charge of fen­ders. They are proud of be­ing a gen­uine part of the crew, and they will want to come again. Tak­ing the chance to teach a hitch or a bend when it’s ob­vi­ously needed is much bet­ter than sit­ting kids around the ta­ble for a bor­ing “ses­sion on knots.”


Watch­ing the sky to wind­ward is al­ways meat and drink to us sailors, but when a deep de­pres­sion has passed and the cold front is trail­ing un­sta­ble air in its wake, it re­ally pays. The first sign of a heavy squall is of­ten a long, slightly arched black cloud. A minute or two af­ter the a merry do­mes­tic scene of what a great time I was hav­ing as it spoiled cloud and was al­ready reefed down to the head­board! s

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