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Learn to Sail for Newbies - Balance Your Sailboat for Performance

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 153

If you want to learn to sail like a pro, practice the art of yin and yang. Remember those old Kung Fu movies where the wise master talks to the "Grasshopper" about having balance? Yin and yang? Wax on, wax off? Discover these secrets of balance to sail with more speed and power than ever before.

Think of your sailboat as a huge wind vane, just like the weather vane you see on the top of a barn. A long shaft is mounted on the roof with a figure of some sort on top of one end of the shaft. The other end of the shaft has an arrow.

Let's convert the parts of this weather vane into your sailboat.

* long shaft = sailboat hull from bow to stern. * figure on one end = the mainsail (because it has the most surface area). * arrow = the bow of the boat.

Go back to the weather vane. Now we will have the breeze pick up. What will you see happen? The vane will turn so that the arrow faces the wind and the figure on the other end will be furthest from the wind. The wind blows against the figure because it has the most surface area. This causes the arrow to pivot up into the wind.

Use this analogy to understand how to balance a sailboat in any wind. Hoist the mainsail up your sailboat mast. This puts most of the surface exposed to the wind on the far side of the boat. Your boat will want to "pivot" her bow up into the wind. In sailing, this "weather helm" becomes apparent any time you let go of the sailboat wheel or tiller. Your sailboat will want to "head up" or "round up" into the wind, just like the weather vane.

So how can you balance your sailboat to the point where she almost steers herself? Hoist other sails near the bow. On a light to moderate wind sailing day, use a large headsail like a Genoa sail. This will help to balance your sail plan and lessen weather helm.

Control Sail Draft First!

Sails are soft foils, unlike their close "rigid foil" cousins--the airplane wing. Airplane wings don't require a lot of shaping and tweaking to maintain their shape. But sailcloth tends to change shape with wind strength. Your sails are built by a sailmaker with their draft (deepest part) about 40% to 50% aft of the luff in a mainsail and about 35% to 45% aft of the luff in a Genoa. Your objective while sailing will be to keep draft at these locations.

As the wind gets stronger, draft will begin to creep farther aft than it should. Move the draft back into position with tension. Use the mainsail or Genoa halyard. Sight up the sail as you tension the halyard to move the draft back into place. Take care not to over tension the halyard. Look for a faint vertical crease just begin to build along the luff. When you see this, ease off on the halyard just a bit until that crease just disappears.

Make this the #1 step you take before you move to any other part of sail trim. It's fast and easy, and proper draft placement will provide you with better balance, power and speed on all points of sail.

Use Your Other Sail Controls

When close hauled (beating), you will have the mainsail boom sheeted close to the center-line and the Genoa sheeted so that the Genoa leech lies within a few inches of the leeward spreader tip. Off the wind on reaches, you will move the boom off the center-line and ease sheets to match the sail to the new apparent wind direction.

When close reaching, ease the mainsheet until the end of the sailboat boom lies just over the edge of the boat. Ease the Genoa sheet until the luff just begins to flutter. Then tension the sheet just a bit until the flutter stops. Repeat this technique with the mainsheet to fine tune the mainsail. Use this trim technique on reaching points of sail for fast, easy trim.

When beam reaching, ease the boom out about halfway between the center-line and shrouds. Repeat the trim technique described above. When broad reaching, ease the boom out about three-quarters of the way between the center-line and shrouds. Repeat the trim technique described above.

In a future article, we will discuss how to balance your sailboat in heavy, gusty winds by reefing or changing sails.

Learn how to sail like a pro when you understand the secrets of balance. Practice these sailing tips to become confident and boost your skills to new heights--wherever in the world you choose to go sailing!

================ Captain John shows you the sailing skills you need for safe sailing anywhere in the world. Sign up for a FREE issue of the highly popular "Captain John's Sailing Tips" newsletter and learn how you can get instant access to over 425 sailing articles, sailing videos, newsletters and more at SkipperTips.

Source: EzineArticles
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