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Light wind sailing


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Sit far enough forward to lif the transom out of the water. In drifter conditions I get all the way onto the foredeck, in front of the front beam.

For more information than your brain can handle on sail trim and handling, check this out:


To summarise though;

Upwind: if the water's glassy you need a very flat sail; outhaul tight, downhaul tight, with the traveller centred and mainsheet eased to allow twist. Steer off the lower tell-tales and sheet to keep the upper tell-tales flowing.

Going the right way scores better results than being the fastest; look up at the clouds. Wind is pushed in front of clouds and dies off behind them.

Wind is funnelled by hills, stay well away from lee shores and go for the channels between them.

When you sail into a hole, the apparent wind will swing forwards, as if you've sailed into a knock. It may be best to hold your course, and glide through the hole with momentum, as opposed to bearing off and losing speed.

Lose weight; if you're really keen, chopping off a leg could be a huge advantage.
And sit forwards.

Once there's enough wind to ripple the water, you can ease the outhaul and downhaul a little (not too much), to increase power. Try get your weight leewards so you can lift the windward hull as soon as possible. You might do this by doing the wild thing; sailing from the leeward side of the sail. This can be very fast, if you manage to see where you're going and what the sails are doing.

I like to sit by the mast step, with legs on the leeward side, leaning forwards. Oversheet a little lift the hull, then ease it to maintain sail flow.

And did I mention moving your wegiht forwards?

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And practice.........find yourself a few inland lakes.............paddle out to the start line sit around for an hour or so...then paddle back to shore..


Get a 1 knot gust, zoom into first place, park, then finish up last............


Teaches you patience but is still better than mowing the lawn...........


Oh yes and sit forward...............you may need a longer tiller..........

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+1 on both of those responses.  Frank Bethwaite's other book shows a photo of streamers that had been hoisted up a mast, about one every 250mm.  In very light breeze the ones at the top were twisted off compared to the ones at the bottom.  What this means for sail set-up is that you pull the boom into the centre and let the top twist off.  Your tell-tales should also show this effect.  It means that if you pull the sail in normally (for standard breeze) then the top half of the sail will be stalled and only the lower half pulling.


I used a short piece of conduit on my tiller extension (about half a metre) then a length of agricultural pipe (blue stripe) 25mm for the rest (actually very light), then, for light weather I had another piece of conduit that fitted into the end of the extension - an extension extension.  Allowed me to get right up on the front bow.  Downwind if you then use an elastic to hold the boom out (clip it to the end of the front beam), raise the windward rudder and then sit right at the front then the leeward rudder is only just in the water, you can rock back a little to get it further in for steerage.  


Then as Rodney says, you pick the wrong side and watch everyone else fly past in their private gust!

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At Manno, the sharks seem to keep the skiers away - one light wind race Rimmo and I were battling for last place going downwind (the rest of the fleet had had their private gusts and were a long way away) - we were about six boat lengths from each other, me on the front trying to do all the right things and a large shark swam along between us!  Don't know what type it was but it was nearly as long as the Mari.  I was happy at that point that I was on a boat, not skiing or paddle boarding etc.

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Was up at LakMac the other week checking out a boat for a friend and mentioned to the locals that I would love to get my cat up there sometime and maybe even frequent a club up there. They then proceeded to tell us of a legendary great white that inhabits the lake and spends most saturday arvos cruising around Mannering Park.


back on topic... love "fast handling technique" I've read it 4 or 5 times and absorbed maybe a 10th of it. Thought I must have had it upside down the first time through. Makes a lot of sense though, especially after you actually try the basics out on the water and see what works for you and your boat. Coolest new word for me, and appropriate to a light air conversation, is "laminar". Use it all the time and annoy the crap out of my sailing buddies.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes, Bethwaite's first book "High Performance Sailing" is like a PhD thesis on wind patterns and sailing boats. The quality and detail of the information is mind-blowing, and I found I had to read a section then go and watch the wind, clouds and sail in it, to put the information into context. It takes months, or years, to truly understand the content. The later books are only slightly more friendly.
A sailing mentor suggested that on first read, not much will make sense, as you don't yet have the experience to put the knowledge into context. As you gain more experience, questions arise in your mind; "when does the wind form consistent shifts?" or "how flat should my sail be in strong winds and choppy water?", when you have the questions, the book has the answers.


Another tip for light air sailing, or possible sailing upwind in ANY wind, is to pull your sail flat enough that the leech ribbons flow. That is, the wind should be flowing cleanly all the way along the sail to the back edge, so a ribbon tied there will flow as if pointing at the sail.

The alternative is that the ribbon gets pulled to the leeward side, which means that the wind is parting from the sail before reaching the leech (back edge). This causes turbulence and drag, so while you think a fuller sail is providing more power, the excess curve means you are pointing low and the drag means you're not going very fast.
I'm reminding myself of this after being beaten 5-nil at the Kembla Klassic, by a boat with a flatter sail that pointed higher and went faster upwind. His leech ribbons flowed and mine was typically curled behind the sail.
Having the knowledge and applying it remain two different things!

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