Frank's Corner: Chapter 7 - Sail Trim

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    Chapter 7 - Sail Trim

    Ever wonder why a similar boat out sails yours? The answer could be that the captain is a better sailor by using the correct sails and trimmed them for the sailing conditions.

    I have been in a few races where I had too much sail for the wind conditions (150 genoa) and other boats left me in their wake. I could not trim the sails to be effective even though I was on a faster boat. I heeled too much and had to bleed wind to stop the boat from rounding up. This condition can be handled by knowing the forecasted weather conditions or having the jib on a furling system and reef points on the main. The key point is using these to improve sailing performance.

    The time to reduce sail area is when you first think you should. Early sail reduction will make sailing more comfortable. Reefing the main can be accomplished by furling into the boom or mast and jiffy reefing to the boom. Most boats I have sailed had a jiffy reef system. This is where you have a leach and luff cringles and reef points. You luff the main, take up on the topping lift to support the boom, ease the main halyard so the luff cringle is at the boom’s goose neck and secured, set the halyard and secure the leech cringle to the boom, use lacing or reef ties to secure the foot to the boom, ease the topping lift, and trim the sheet. Reducing the head sail with furling or exchange the current sail with a smaller one.

    Sail trim is the most effective skill to getting the most from a boat. I was in an open handicap race and would have won with my handicap but won as the first boat across the line. Other boats in the race were J24, Flying Scots, to name a few significant ones. The reason we won was sail trim and paying attention to the way we set our sails as we rounded each mark. We were sailing S2 6.9 wing keel. The J24 should have ruled, along with the Scots.

    Controlling the sails through adjustments not only improves performance but provides an enjoyable sailing experience. Some sailors can make these adjustments by feel and looking at the sails while others need a little help. This comes from installing telltales on the main and jib sails. These are installed on the jib approximately 12" from the luff at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 positions on the sail (dividing the sail into four parts). Telltales may also be installed on the shrouds and near the battens on the leach of the main. Other adjustments to the jib sail are made with the sheets and the location of the cars on the jib tracks. The adjustments of the main are made with the sheets, cunningham, outhaul, boom vang and main sheet traveler. Some boats may not have all these adjustments. If a boat is very competitive, an adjustment can also be made by raking the mast and using a back stay adjuster to put pre-bend in the mast. A lot of boats are designed to have some rake. A rake mast can cause a boat to have a weather helm. If your boat has a high weather helm, check the design specifications to see if there is too much mast rake.

    This is all taking into consideration that the standing rigging is tuned for the best performance, which is no precise science.

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