Bal­ance, con­trol and plan­ning are key to sur­prise-free, ef­fec­tive down­wind sail­ing, says Duncan Wells

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

How to tame your down­wind sails. Ex­pert tips and tricks to run with the wind with bal­ance and con­trol

Last month when sail­ing to wind­ward, we were us­ing the sails ‘aero­dy­nam­i­cally’. This month, sail­ing down­wind, we will use the sails ‘stalled’. So how should we trim our sails to get the best out of them when the wind is abaft the beam?

With some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, many yachts­men are ner­vous about sail­ing down­wind. At the front of their mind is the fear of an accidental gybe and the rig fail­ure that can re­sult from it. For some though, it’s light­weight down­wind sails that cause anxiety, en­sur­ing they rarely see the light of day, re­main­ing buried un­der a berth for the du­ra­tion of own­er­ship. The drama that of­ten un­folds on the fore­deck of rac­ing yachts does noth­ing to help with our per­cep­tion of what fly­ing the most colour­ful item in our wardrobe ac­tu­ally in­volves. The end re­sult though, is miss­ing out on some of the most sat­is­fy­ing sail­ing there is.

Tak­ing the fear and anxiety out of go­ing down­wind is about first con­sid­er­ing how dif­fer­ently us cruis­ers ac­tu­ally go about ev­ery­thing on deck. Specif­i­cally, we have time on our hands. We can be me­thod­i­cal, re­duce the risk of it go­ing wrong and set up on one course for a longer pe­riod of time.

Down­wind sail­ing is an ex­er­cise in bal­ance and con­trol. We are go­ing in the di­rec­tion the wind wants us to go, so a lot is al­ready to our ad­van­tage. How­ever, this means we must bal­ance our sails care­fully so we’re not over­pow­ered and don’t start to roll con­stantly. Prac­tice makes perfect, and ex­per­i­ment­ing will de­liver sat­is­fy­ing re­sults.

A bal­anced sail setup is at the crux of mak­ing good progress down­wind Duncan Wells is prin­ci­ple of Westview Sail­ing, au­thor of Stress-free Sail­ing and cre­ator of Moblife­savers.com

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