Tag: Sail Trim

Brisk wind

The high today was 53F, the same as the historical average for the day, which combined with wind and clouds felt cold!  I sailed sometime between 2:30 and 4.  Winds were 10 gusting to 25 kts shifting from W to NW.  When I got there the wind was west, pretty much blowing down the length of the basin with enough fetch to build up some waves.  By the time I left it was more solidly from the NW and the waves had calmed down considerably.

CBI flag pole
Red flag day

I killed some time after I arrived, eating some lunch I brought with me and watching to see who else was sailing.  I watched a few people go out and maybe missed some chances to sail with others, but finally was ready to go out – singlehanded.  I rigged a centerboard Merc reefed main only.  I’ve had fun other days with reefed main and jib but for one I didn’t want to work that hard today and for two I still wanted to practice some of the official techniques from shore school.

Underway, the immediate problem was that I had the outhaul way too tight.  Strong wind with crazy gusts and I worry about performance tuning?  Yes!  A Merc with main-only is hard enough to maintain headway on, but with strong wind there’s more windage pulling back and reefed there’s less power pulling forward.  I’d stretched the sail like a drum before I went out and it was too much.  There was no pocket and the leech was even falling off a bit.  I was still able to get the boat going forward and get enough headway to tack but it took finesse and was a disaster waiting to happen.

I’d tied it with a snug two half hitches and adjusting it on the water wasn’t a good option.  In to the Longfellow dock, loosen and retie, right back out, and the boat was much easier to sail.  The sail had a nice shape now and pulled well.

Sailing was still work.  I thought if sailed to half river and then came back, that added to the first time out would make a whole lap and be a nice unit of sailing for the day.  But then there were other boats…  I wasn’t done comparing my sailing to theirs.  Then well, there were only a few boats between me and the Mass Ave bridge and I thought it would be nice to continue until I was the farthest boat from the dock.  Then they turned back, but, I’d come this far, I wanted to go the rest of the way to the bridge.  When to turn back?  I wanted to leave a little extra buffer.  One more gust to power through.  Then the tack.

On the way back I got to practice a few more gybes in the official shore school way.  A surprise here was discovering that my gybes were often already pretty close to school technique.  A number of the steps taught in class sounded questionable at the time, but on the water I realized that they were just about what I do already.  I just hadn’t realized that that’s what I was doing.

One lap to the the Mass Ave bridge and back was enough for me though.  The final lesson coming in was to plan a little more and take a little more distance in dropping sail for a wind-on-the-dock landing.  I tried one landing with the sail up but couldn’t kill enough speed.  I made a tight circle and dropped the sail this time, but I was right on the dock and couldn’t choose my landing spot.  Oh well, it was soft enough landing with the sail down, just not quite where I would have picked.

The sailing was fun.  The reef was the right call to keep things manageable.  “ease, hike, trim” worked well in the strong gusts.  With the biggest gusts I would have to ease a lot, but still just to the “verge.”  The boat would make a surprising leap of acceleration even with the little reefed sail.  I would hike, start sheeting back in right away, and sail to the next gust.

Oh, one more thing I focused on was not pinching too much.  Somehow in the past I’d learned to deal with being overpowered by pinching above a normal close-hauled course.  I think that might work on some boats, in some conditions, but might not be good in general.  With the over-tightened outhaul and super-flat sail for example, the boat would just make leeway if I headed above 45°.  To keep the boat moving I had to watch the true wind ripples on the water pretty closely, hold a 45° course, and ease the sail out pretty far to keep it from stalling.  After loosening the outhaul to have better sail shape, I could pinch but tried to hold the 45° course anyway.  It was more fun moving through the water faster and I think I was making better VMG to windward.

A few more pics: