Hav­ing sailed with and against many sail­ing greats, I’ve learned a lot of solid lessons, and I’ll share a few fa­vorites.

Sailing World - - Contents -

Steve Hunt shares point­ers he’s gleaned from those who taught him well.

The longer we race sail­boats, the more we re­al­ize how true it is that we never stop learn­ing. That’s what makes the sport so fas­ci­nat­ing. I have note­books full of lit­tle nuggets of knowl­edge that are now in­grained in me when­ever I’m on the race­course or coach­ing. Let’s start with Karl An­der­son, who al­ways preached the im­por­tance of de­liv­er­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage to the team, es­pe­cially af­ter a tough day, let­ting them know the team is still in good shape and all is well. Make every­one feel like they’re still in the re­gatta. This goes a long way, es­pe­cially if you are re­spected on the boat.

From Moose Mcclin­tock I learned that twings down on a spin­naker sheet or guy is sim­i­lar to ap­ply­ing vang ten­sion on a main­sail; it closes the leech and sta­bi­lizes the kite. He taught us this while sail­ing on Farr 40s with the kite up in big breeze and waves.

Ed Adams long ago ex­plained to me the im­por­tance of set­ting the foot of your jib — ide­ally, the ma­jor­ity of the foot — so that it kisses the deck. The seal formed be­tween the sail and the deck forces wind aft rather than al­low­ing it to es­cape un­der­neath the sail. Cap­tur­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing the wind gives you in­creased power and lift.

Jonathan Mckee once sim­pli­fied this one for me: The far­ther away the jib clew is from the lead, the more you have to move it to make a change. An Etchells jib clew al­most touches its lead; there­fore, small changes make a big dif­fer­ence. On the other hand, a Melges 20 jib clew and lead are much far­ther apart, so your range of jib- lead move­ment is greater from light to heavy air.

Dave Ull­man is a mas­ter of rig tune, and he ex­plained to me that rak­ing your mast for­ward will give you more power be­cause the wind flows over your sails closer to a 90-de­gree an­gle. It also closes your leeches. Rak­ing back gen­er­ates more up-flow, from front to back, de­creas­ing power. It also twists the sails and ef­fec­tively moves the jib lead aft (be­cause your jib clew low­ers to­ward the lead), which also de­creases power.

Skip Whyte, now coach of the Univer­sity of Rhode Is­land sail­ing team, knows a lot about sail­ing dinghies. He preaches sit­ting up­right with good pos­ture so that you can bet­ter see the wind and the sails. When you need to scoot in, slide your butt and hips in first. Do­ing so keeps your head out­board, again help­ing vis­i­bil­ity. Slouch­ing in to­ward the boom is un­com­fort­able and less ef­fec­tive.

In his book, Sail­ing Smart, Buddy Melges says to prac­tice tacks and jibes be­cause they can pro­vide mas­sive gains in short amounts of time. Es­pe­cially if you are prac­tic­ing by your­self, spend a lot of time on both. Now get out there and do it.

Larry Suter greatly im­proved my start­ing tech­nique by ex­plain­ing how, when the pin is fa­vored by 10 per­cent, it takes about 10 per­cent longer to get to the line (com­pared to a square line) from a given dis­tance be­cause your ap­proach an­gle is more par­al­lel to the line. If the boat is fa­vored by 10 per­cent, it takes about 10 per­cent less time to reach the line from the same dis­tance be­cause you are sail­ing more di­rectly at the line. That’s why there are more on course sides and gen­eral re­calls when the boat is fa­vored. It’s crit­i­cal to fac­tor in line bias when set­ting up for the start.

Vince Brun’s valu­able les­son was that while sail­ing up­wind in flat wa­ter you can pinch and get away with it be­cause noth­ing is dis­turb­ing the flow over your sails and blades. But as the chop in­creases, you have to put the bow down to keep speed. The chop­pier it is, the lower you have to sail. Chop throws the boat around and makes it pitch fore and aft, caus­ing ev­ery­thing to eas­ily stall, es­pe­cially when you slam into waves. Make sure you ease your sails to in­crease the twist and de­crease helm load. This bow-down twisty mode is more for­giv­ing and keeps the boat mov­ing fast.

James Lyne, coach to many top teams, em­pha­sizes the lifted tack. In an os­cil­lat­ing breeze, he says, if you sail a header out of the gate or off the start­ing line, you end up miss­ing the first shift and of­ten end up miss­ing shifts later up the beat. As you sail a header early in the leg, you rapidly get near the lay­line. If you get to the lay­line early in the beat you have painted your­self into the corner. Later up the leg, if you get headed, you don’t want to tack be­cause you are al­ready on an edge, with not much dis­tance to sail the other way. You have a dilemma be­cause you are still on the long tack, but you are also headed. You end up sail­ing through a header or two later in the beat, com­pound­ing your losses. Those who sail the lifted tack more of­ten are po­si­tioned in the mid­dle of the course and don’t mind tack­ing on head­ers at the top of the beat. Q


Sail­ing coach Skip Whyte preaches the im­por­tance of sit­ting in­board when needed, and us­ing good pos­ture to bet­ter see what’s hap­pen­ing up the course. PHOTO : JE­SUS RENEDO / SAIL­ING

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