Twist – How Telltales Work To Get It Right.

Twist is when the top of the sail opens in comparison to the lower sections and twist gives us the ability to control the lift and drag created by our sails.

Twist is increased in light winds and progressively taken out as the wind increases, the reason for this is that fiction from the water slows the wind down on the lower parts of the sail relative to wind further up. 

In the lighter wind, the wind angles as you look up the sail vary greater than they do than when you are sailing in heavier winds so you need to twist your sails in light air to make sure they are trimmed correctly all the way up.

As the wind speed increases and the surface friction has less of an effect on the wind angle there ends up being less difference between the top and bottom of the sail so less twist is required.

How to Set Twist for the prevailing conditions.

Headsail:  The luff telltales tell you where the sail is in terms of power and car position, but, when sailing upwind, the leech telltales are absolutely crucial as they show how close you are to maximum trim.

You always want to be right on the edge, as close to stalling as possible and your leech telltales are the best indicator of this. Generally, the top leech telltale will stall first so trim the sheet until the top telltale stalls.

Once it stalls, ease the sheet slightly and in the case of the jib leech ribbons, the top one should flow 95% of the time.

As the wind drops the sheet should be eased and as it increases, the trim should come on.

Mainsail:

Trimming the mainsail is virtually identical for all boats, fractional, masthead, racing or cruising and the cunningham, backstay, outhaul and running backstays (if fitted) are all used for the same purposes.

On a cat-rigged boat, telltales near the luff can help and are sometimes known as steering telltales.

Set the mainsail with the maximum depth it can carry but without stalling the leech and as with the jib different amounts of twist are needed depending on the prevailing wind conditions.

When sailing upwind twist should be controlled using mainsheet tension, and the correct twist is determined using the mainsail telltales.

A word of warning – If your vang pulled on hard you will not be able to add twist by easing the mainsheet.

When you sail into a lull and the mainsail begins to stall more twist is needed – the main sheet is eased until the telltales eventually fly.

For correct trim in lighter air, all mainsail leech ribbons should flow, in moderate conditions, the top leech telltale should flow about 50% of the time.

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Using a Compass For Course Racing

 

                     

 

When racing around a set or fixed marks course, a competitive sailor uses the compass to plan and then implement their race strategy.

If you are sailing in a crewed boat, one crew member should be responsible to watch the compass to establish what the wind is doing and strategise tactics, leaving the helmsman to concentrate on boatspeed.

The compass should be mounted where all on board can easily see it from their normal sailing positions. 

If you are using a non-electronic compass it is easier to work out tacking angles without having to resort to arithmetic but with an electronic compass, it is generally easier to write on the deck when you establish a median heading.

Generally with a  coloured and segmented compass remembering headings seems to be easier.

Whichever type of compass you use, paint or Magic marker on the boat near the compass a large – sign on the starboard side and a large + sign on the port side, these remind you that when upwind on Starboard tack if the heading is going down you are being headed and if on Port tack upwind the heading is going up, you are being headed. 

Communication is paramount and when sailing upwind, the crew should read aloud the variations away from the port or starboard mean either up or down as the breeze swings, the skipper will know ahead of time if he may need to tack or continue on. 

These calls need to be evenly spaced at about five to twenty seconds so that an accurate picture of the swings or oscillations is established and the skipper always knows whether the swing is on the way “up” or on the way “down”.

Only if there were a tactical or strategic reason for giving away some distance, would you sail on when the reading is bad, examples are, you may be heading towards a shore where a known lift occurs through bending of the breeze or you may decide to give away ten to gain twenty later or tacking may put you the wrong side of the fleet or in somebody’s bad air.

Where a compass is particularly handy, is if the wind increases suddenly and you don’t lift, this means the true wind has headed and you should seriously consider tacking.

It is vital once rounding the top mark that you look for the compass angle to the gate or wing mark depending on the type of course you are sailing.

When heading downwind you tack on lifts and carry on when knocked, of course, this is assuming that the shift does not take you closer to the mark which can happen when the course has not been set true.

Your compass is a major contributor towards eliminating “guesswork” and once you have mastered it you will wonder how you ever sailed without it.

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Solo Training in these Unprecedented Times

Having a tuning partner is one of the best ways to get value from your on-water practice sessions but in these times of no racing, fewer boats out sailing and social distancing, keeping your skills sharp probably means solo training.

Before you head out, it’s important to have a plan but it is just as important to have a debrief when you hit the beach. The debrief is where you can go over what went right or wrong and what you need to do to get even better. Make notes and refer to them when you are planning further training.

Part of the planning process will be to analyse past races or regattas and to talk about problems that were encountered and then to prioritise what you will be practising and what will give you the biggest win.

If improving your downwind speed and maneuvers is your goal, put in a lot of gybes but make sure you have a few upwind goals as well so you can make good use of your time getting back uphill. 

The best practice sessions involve a variety of things but the majority of focus might be on,  sailing downwind where you concentrate on weight placement and the steps necessary to catch waves or practising sailing by the lee for those situations when you are in close proximity to another boat and need to stay clear or where you may want to lay a mark to avoid having to gybe twice.

If you are concentrating on upwind skills, shoot for a total of 10 to 20 minutes of really intense work for each skill you’re wanting to improve. If your tacks are normally around a minute apart, tack every 30 seconds, do that for 5 minutes, take a break and then do it again and again until you are comfortable with the result.

During your training session don’t be shy to stop sailing, take a rest having something to eat and drink before either going through the same practice again or if you are satisfied with what you have achieved thus far, go to the next drill you have planned.

Even though you may be practising tacks, gybes, powering up and down or something else, don’t lose sight of other skills such as keeping the boat flat, looking for pressure or watching the compass for shifts.

Another good way to cement the improvements is to keep in touch with fellow crewmates via email or text in the days following the practice. If you think of something afterwards that is related to what you were trying to achieve and was not covered off in the debrief, communicate immediately, as quite often by the time you get back to the boat it may be forgotten.

Other things that you can practice on your own could be time on distance for starting, mark rounding, timed spinnaker sets and drops, the list is endless and only you and your team know what it is that will give you the greatest gains for when we are allowed to race again.

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Improve Your Sailing While in Lockdown

If you are like me, you have been spending time away from the boat getting all things computer and home office up to date and in order, especially those jobs that have been carried forward in your diary for what seems like years. 

While this has been great, one downside from all this “office” work has been the gradual decline of fitness and the rapid increase of waistline which is even more worrying for those of us in the older age bracket. Youth seems to regain fitness and “fighting weight” much easier once regular exercise (read sailing) is possible again.

I am going to cover below a couple of tips to get us all ready for the coming easing of isolation and back to on-water activity.

FITNESS – 

Fitness is one thing but Sailing fitness is especially important, just because Gyms are closed there is no excuse not to keep your fitness levels up at home. 

There are apps available online which will enable you to stay focussed by putting a daily routine in place or there are plenty of trainers who understand the needs of sailing athletes that can put together a training routine for you to carry out in your home.

Exercise at the start of the day. When exercising first thing in the morning, your body will be more energised for the day than having a daily dose of caffeine.

KNOWLEDGE –

From the aforementioned computer or even your mobile phone, browse the internet and YouTube for videos or articles to improve your sailing.

Browse for articles that specifically look at areas of your sailing that you are weak in such as upwind speed, rules or the myriad of other things that go towards making our sport one of the most complicated there is.

There are sites such as https://sailingtowin.com  which have a wealth of tips and articles that are free to browse and download and a few minutes browsing Google results will give you a wealth of sites that will suit your needs.

Many of us have bookshelves full of books on sailing which we have promised ourselves that we will read someday.  That someday has arrived and there will certainly be better long term value to you in reading about sailing than reading the doom and gloom that is presented by the press every day.

If you don’t have a library or if there are holes in it covering subjects about your type of boat you sail, type of sailing that you do,  or skill you want to hone, go on the web to Australian site Boat Books https://www.boatbooks-aust.com.au,  or Google Amazon, Booktopia,  or one of the many sites on the web selling sailing books, many at a discount.

When we are finally allowed to get back on the water, you won’t be left flat-footed or get flogged out on the racecourse.

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