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An Experienced Sailor Still Needs A Coach

Sailing is an activity that brings together both physical and mental skills. The feeling of the wind on your face, the sound of the waves, and the thrill of the adventure are what attract many sailors to the sport. However, even the most experienced sailor can benefit from the guidance of a sailing coach. Below I’ll explore the reasons why an experienced sailor should use a sailing coach.

1. Improve technique and skills

One of the primary reasons why an experienced sailor should use a sailing coach is to improve their technique and skills. A sailing coach can help you identify areas where you need to improve and provide guidance on how to do it. They can also help you refine your existing skills, allowing you to sail more efficiently and effectively.


2. Expand your knowledge

Even if you’ve been sailing for years, there’s always something new to learn. A sailing coach can help you expand your knowledge and understanding of sailing. They can introduce you to new techniques, share their own experiences and knowledge, and provide you with insights into the sport that you may not have considered before.

3. Build confidence

Sailing can be a challenging sport, and it’s not uncommon for even experienced sailors to experience moments of doubt or uncertainty. A sailing coach can help you build your confidence, providing you with the support and guidance you need to overcome any challenges you may face. They can also help you develop a positive mindset, which can be essential when it comes to achieving your goals.

4. Set and achieve goals

A sailing coach can help you set and achieve your sailing goals. Whether you’re looking to improve your skills, compete in a regatta, or simply enjoy sailing more, a coach can help you develop a plan to achieve your objectives. They can also provide you with the motivation and accountability you need to stay on track and achieve success.


5. Save time and money

Using a sailing coach can actually save you time and money in the long run. A coach can help you identify the most efficient and effective ways to sail, allowing you to make the most of your time on the water. They can also help you avoid costly mistakes that could damage your boat or equipment.

In conclusion, even experienced sailors can benefit from using a sailing coach. A coach can help you improve your skills, expand your knowledge, build your confidence, set and achieve goals, stay safe, and save time and money.

Whether you’re a competitive sailor or simply enjoy sailing for pleasure, a coach can help you take your sailing to the next level. So, if you’re looking to improve your sailing, consider using a sailing coach – it could be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Why Heel Angle Is Important


Why Heel Angle Is Important. Don’t worry about the instruments (unless of course it is showing heel) just keep the heel angle steady.

One of the biggest mistakes crews make is letting the wind push the boat around. It is easy to look around the fleet on a puffy or windy day and work out who is fastest. The boats that have the most consistent angle of heel through the puffs and lulls will be the quickest.


Key Things for Keelboat Helmspersons and Trimmers to Aim for.

One of the key things for a helmsperson to watch is keeping the angle of the forestay consistent with the horizon. In a keelboat, it is important to find the fastest angle of heel and then to keep it there.

Yacht designers use computer programs which predict the target speed for an angle of sail, wind speed and the target heel angle. For the sailors it is simply a matter of creating a chart matrix for their boat and using it. This should be displayed prominently so all team members can have input in keeping the correct heel angle.

It is important to have a crewmember allocated the job to call the puffs and lulls. This ensures that the helmsperson can anticipate changes in wind strength and steer accordingly.

To control the angle of heel on a puffy days you can play the sails but steering can also play a part. If hit with a puff the helmsperson can feather up into the wind a little while the sails are being adjusted. A keelboat will carry way while adjustments to sails are made which is a luxury not afforded to a dinghy.


Heel and Dinghies

The goal is different on most centreboard and sports boats. They sail fastest with little or no heel. On a puffy day in a dinghy you have to use a lot of kinetics when sailing upwind.

There is an expression often used in dinghy sailing which is “Ease, Hike Trim”. The end result is that the boat doesn’t heel when a puff hits but moves forward.

A dinghy sailor must be super sensitive to angle of heel and has the ability to adjust the sails quickly to maintain the desired angle.

Wind Shift Rules Of Thumb

Excerpts from an excellent article on “Wind Shift Rules of Thumb” written by by good friend David Dellenbaugh of Speed and Smarts – https://www.speedandsmarts.com

Playing the shifts is all about minimizing the distance sailed around the course. Whether it’s light or breezy, keep your eyes on the compass and identify the type of shift before reacting.


Windward Legs

Is the wind oscillating (phasing back and forth), or is it shifting persistently in one direction? Your strategy will be very different in each of these conditions. Here are some rules of thumb.

  1. Tack on Headers

    In an oscillating breeze, your goal is to stay on the lifted tack so you sail the shortest distance to the weather mark.

  2. Keep off the laylines

    Laylines are a dead end when the wind is shifting. If you get lifted, you will overstand and boats to leeward may fetch the mark ahead of you. If you get headed, the boats to leeward and ahead will tack across your bow. You have very little room to tack on the shift.

  3. Stay on the tack that takes you closer to the mark

    If you are not sure whether you are on a lift or a header, get on the tack where your bow is pointing closer to the mark.


  1. When in doubt, sail the longer tack first

    There are two benefits to sailing this tack first. 1) It is more likely that it’s the lifted tack. 2) It will head you toward the middle of the course, where you’ll have more room to play the shifts.

  2. Go in the direction where you look good

    Watch the boats all around you and sail in the direction where you begin to have a relative gain. When a wind shift puts you ahead of another boat, you should take that wind shift across the bow of the other boat to consolidate your gain. If other boats are suddenly crossing your bow, tack to leeward of them. Then wait for the next shift in your favour.

  3. Sail toward a persistent shift

    When the wind is moving steadily in one direction, you can’t simply tack when you get headed. You have to keep sailing deeper into the header so you get as much benefit  as possible. Be sure that you don’t get to the layline too far from the mark. If you do, you will likely overstand as the wind continues to shift.

  4. When you get close to the mark, play oscillations like persistent shifts

    In an oscillating breeze, there is a point near the windward mark where you have to play any shift like a persistent shift.  Let’s say that on a given day each oscillation takes about four minutes. When you get within four minutes of the mark, you’re only going to have one more shift, so you must play this like it is a persistent shift. This is because by the time it shifts back the other way, you’ll be around the mark.

Downwind Legs

  1. Downwind, Gybe on The lifts – The object on a run is to steer a course that keeps the boat going fast and aimed close to the mark. Stay away from the downwind lay lines and keep on the gybe that points you closer to the mark.
  2. Sail toward the puffs and stay in them as long as possibleThere is nothing that will let you sail lower and faster than a good puff. Someone on your boat should always be looking behind to see how you can get to the best air. This will this let you steer more toward the mark and it will keep you in the puff longer.
  3. Sail away from persistent shiftsOn a run, you should take your first gybe away from a persistent shift. This allows you to sail on both gybes in relative headers, which will bring you to the leeward mark faster.



  1. Sail up and down in shifts and puffs You should sail low in the puffs and high in the lulls to maintain speed. Keep track of the wind and try to maintain roughly the same apparent wind angle down the reach. Sail slightly high of the mark when you’re on a lift, and slightly low of the mark when you’re headed. In shifty and puffy winds, a  zigzag course can get you there faster than sailing a straight line.
  2. Sail a low arc in breeze that’s dying or persistently liftingWhen you have a dying breeze, get low while you have breeze and save your higher heading angle for the second half of the leg when the breeze is lighter and you need more speed. The second time to go low is when you’re being continuously lifted. Sail low early (in a relative header) so you can head higher later and maintain speed even though you are lifted.
  3. Sail a high arc in breeze that’s building or persistently headingIf it looks like you will be headed or if the breeze will increase as you sail down the reach, go high and fast early in the leg. Changes in the wind will help you get down to the mark later.

Develop a Pre-Race Routine

“Every Battle is Won before it is fought”. SUN TZU, Philosopher, CHINESE GENERAL and  MILITARY STRATEGIST and in sailing that means develop a Pre-Race routine.

Success in sailboat racing is based on many factors – better mental and physical preparation, reliable equipment, making better decisions and having perfect execution.


Before Leaving The Beach or Mooring

  • Get your mind, body, and boat ready to race.
  • Check the notice board for any changes to SIs or start time.
  • Check the weather forecast, and that includes expected wind velocity, direction and trends.
  • Tune your rig for expected conditions.
  • Pick the sails that will be most effective for the expected wind.
  • Check your boat for common issues that you have experienced in the past.
  • Warm up your body, using stretches that are necessary for the type of sailing you do.
  • Organise a fellow competitor to line up with to do speed checks.


Heading Out To The Course

  • Get out to the course at least 45 minutes prior to the start time.
  • Check all on board systems again, tidy the boat and adjust things like swinging straps.
  • Take note of the wind and wave conditions and set up accordingly.
  • Get on to the course proper and note whether the wind is oscillating, there is a persistent shift or a combination of both.
  • Work out whether there is a favoured side of the course, current and whether the course orientation will take you towards land or other obstacles that will influence the wind.
  • Work out and record the mean wind on each tack.
  • If you are sailing in waves, set the boat up on each tack according to the angle you will be striking them on each tack.

Plan A Race Strategy

  • Work out a strategy for the first work
  • Determine which end of the line and where on the line you would set up on.
  • Think about the boats that you need to be aware of and plan accordingly.


Relax and get Your Head in The Game

  • Have a snack and a drink to get fully hydrated
  • Stow all gear.
  • Set the race timer and start observing how and where other boats are setting up.
  • Check the wind direction often to make sure that nothing has changed and that your strategy does not need changing.
  • Work on your time and distance and acceleration techniques in preparation for the start.
  • If you don’t have the benefit of distance from the line instruments, establish transits so you will be right on the line at full speed when the gun goes.
  • Visually locate the windward mark.
  • Say either on the line or to windward of the line, all the time looking upwind for clues about what may happen at start time.
  • With 2-3 minutes to the start, set all sail controls for the conditions you are experiencing.


All sailors must learn how to tackle lulls. Changes in wind pressure are a constant in sailing and lulls tend to be the area that many of us struggle with.


Keep it up in the lulls

One thing that we must do is maintain the proper angle of heel and be quick to shift your weight to maintain that heel before the boat flattens. Anticipate lulls and adjust controls (vang, Cunningham and even outhaul) in anticipation of the changing pressure. Don’t really ease or bear off.

Fight your instinct to bear off, and instead, allow the jib tales to stall while the boat decelerates over the next few boat lengths. Then ease both the main and jib sheets just a little to keep both leeches from hooking in with the decreased pressure.

Wait until you are down speed before I readjusting your steering angle to match the new lighter wind. You are now able to keep your height as you transition into the lull with little loss.

Your telltales will mislead you until both the hull speed and true air speed adjust.


Connecting The Lulls

The heading is a “tongue in cheek” comment by a blogger by the name of “Yarg” who wrote in 2012 the following words of wisdom.

“Sailing in the puffs was routinely 10% faster and occasionally 50% faster than sailing in the lulls. Although it was difficult to stay in a puff for very long, even downwind, those who connected the puffs the best were consistently ahead of those who didn’t.”

“I think connecting the lulls was caused by a combination of impatience and confusing lulls with headers. When other boats were sailing higher and faster in the puffs, it was hard to accept that their puffs might soon subside or their wind might shift and remember that the best we could do was sail to the next puff within our own reach.

The lull started to feel like a header (a boat going slowly can’t point as high as a boat going faster), so there was an irresistible temptation to tack. That subsequent tack in the lull was very laborious and after completing it, the sailors found themselves still going low and slow. Having completely lost sight of finding a puff, they thought, “It must be another header!” and they desperately tacked again.

Instead of sailing through the lull toward more wind, they ended up spending needless time in the lull. With a little patience and clarity, they might have spotted the next puff and sailed toward it.

The idea of connecting the puffs and maintaining your angle of point in the lulls to get faster to the next puff is one sure way to win races.


Bearing off in a lull to get your luff telltales streaming is a bad idea for 3 reasons.

  1. Unnecessary steering will slow you down. If you are patient, the boat will slow down due to the lull, moving the apparent wind back closer to its direction before the lull. If the lull persists, your final heading heading might be only a touch lower than your original heading. If you steer down initially, you will then need to steer up again as the apparent wind comes back to its original direction.
  2. Avoid losing distance to windward. When you bear off, you are losing distance to windward. If you don’t bear off, you can use your boat speed to coast forward on your original heading and gain distance to windward.
  3. Get to new wind sooner. Following the lull, you can often expect new wind from the same direction. If you hold your heading, you are “pinching up” to this new expected wind.


The Elements Of Sail Trim

The elements of Sail Trim. On a sail boat, one of the key people in the team is the sail trimmer. They take responsibility for optimizing sail performance.

Sail Trim

Power from your sails comes from three sources: Angle, shape, and twist.

Angle – Pull the sail in to add power and ease the sail out and to reduce power.

Shape – deeper sails generate more power. Flat sails generate less power and also create less drag. Depth is adjusted by sheet tension, forestay and backstay tension and jib lead/car position.

Twist – A closed leech generates more power where as a twisted, open leech spills power. Control twist with lead/car position and sheet tension.


Replicate Fast Settings

Record everything, either using a China graph pencil on the boat or using wet notes. If that’s not possible, use a notebook when you return to shore about what was fast.

Record rig tune, and sail trim, and be sure to include true wind speed and angle for reference. This will give you a foundation to base your settings for race day. The notes will help you remember what changes you need as conditions fluctuate.

Every control line or sheet that can be adjusted needs a mark. Use the marks as a reference to re-create settings that were fast.

Other things that need marks are jib car position, in-hauler, outhaul, Cunningham, halyards, traveller and backstay.

Best Practices – Elements of Sail Trim

The headsail trimmer should be constantly monitoring performance.  They do this by comparing your boat to other boats, target boat speeds and angles. A good trimmer can feel a loss of power in the boat before it shows up as a loss of speed.

The trimmer must communicate the current state of performance to the crew, and report progress as adjustments take effect. Constant communication will keep your team attentive and working together.

An example of this is, if you encounter a lull in pressure, the trimmer would call for the backstay to be eased. The mainsheet trimmer then knows they need to ease the sheet and the jib would be eased too. The helmsperson then knows to put the bow down to get the boat going again. This is also a signal for the crew to move their weight to windward to help bear off.


A trimmers job 

Wherever possible don’t cleat the sheet and certainly don’t stay to leeward once the sail is trimmed correctly. The jib trimmer will be the last of the crew to the rail, so only stay to leeward if conditions allow.

Once the crew is fully hiked out, the trimmer should hike too.  They take the tail of the sheet with them so they can ease quickly without leaving the rail.

Keeping the boat flat in pressure allows the foils to do their job to provide lift and stop the boat from slipping sideways.

Avoid Wind Shadows

One of the biggest tactical problems that you need to consider when fleet racing is how to avoid wind shadows. Avoiding other boats on the course is really important and you must be constantly aware of the significant effects of bad air.

In any race with a large number of competitors, you will normally sail in disturbed air for at least a part of each upwind leg. It is your aim to get to clear air as quickly as possible because whenever you are affected by another boat’s wind shadow, you are going slower and losing ground to most other boats.

Wind shadows on a beat is one obvious reason why the leaders keep getting farther ahead and the tailenders farther behind. So one of your main tactical challenges on any beat is figuring out how to keep your air clear as long as possible.

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I have listed below some ideas on how to do this:

Know the location of bad air.

Dirty air extends to leeward of a boat in the direction opposite to her apparent wind.

A great way to work out the direction of the wind shadow is to observe the other boats’ masthead wind indicator.

How Bad Is the Bad Air You Are Experiencing?

In light wind it’s very slow to sit in another boat’s wind shadow. When someone tacks on your breeze, you must almost always do something to clear your air, even if this means putting your strategic plan on hold.

In heavy air, bad air is much less harmful, so you might decide to keep sailing in a boat’s dirty air for a period of time for strategic reasons.

How valuable is clear air?

In a small fleet, clear air is easy to find. So make sure that you are in clear air almost all the time, and don’t be willing to give up very much such as sailing in the wrong direction in order to find clear air.

In a large fleet it can be very difficult to avoid other boats’ dirty air, especially on the first beat. Therefore, it might be worth finding your own lane of clear air by sailing to the unfavourable side of the course.


Keep clear of your competitors.

It’s always better to keep away from other boats if possible. Every boat leaves behind an area of disturbed wind and water that will make you go slower.

Don’t make a habit of tacking on other boats, and they will tend to leave you alone as well.

Wave a port tacker across when you’re in a good lane on starboard tack, it’s better to duck a port tacker than to have them lee-bow you.

Use other boats to help you

When you’re on starboard tack, use a ‘blocker’ on your leeward side to keep port tackers from tacking on your lee bow.

When you’re in a good lane on port tack and you’re almost crossing a starboard tacker, ask them if you can cross.

The above are Excerpt’s from David Dellenbaughs’ Speed and Smart Newsletter SpeedandSmarts.com.



If You’re Slow – Ease For Speed

Sails require airflow across the leeward side. A sail stalls when airflow detaches from the back of the sail and is indicated when the leeward telltales fly forward or upwards.

Generally, the top part of the sail will stall first and by the time that you are visually aware of it, you have already lost the sails optimum sailing angle.

Knowing the right time to ease the sheet when sailing through a lull, gust, pinching or footing off through waves will give you superior speed to fellow competitors.

Ease after Pinching

If you sail into a header and are not quick enough to react, it doesn’t take long to luff the front of your sail and slow you down.

The initial reaction is to sheet on tighter but once you’ve established that your course is too high and make the adjustments back down to your optimal upwind angle, your boatspeed is slower than a boat that didn’t pinch.

Easing the sheet will momentarily relieve the stall induced by being slowed. Then trim your sails to the new apparent-wind angle until you’re back up to speed.



The two components of drag are:

1. underwater drag from hull friction that can be increased by chop and swell, and

2. drag that comes from a sail setup that is too deep and has excessive leach hook.

In moderate wind, it’s useful to keep some hook, as it helps to power through chop.

When you have reached top speed and your apparent wind moves forward, trimming your sails to have less leach hook will decrease drag in some conditions.

Sheeting out before the boat has slowed will maintain force in the sails and help you stay at speed.

In windier conditions, this stalling is perceived in the helm as a lift. When your bow hits a wave, the apparent wind moves aft, heels the boat and gives you the feeling of heading up.

In bigger swells, it’s OK to steer up to keep your heel angle consistent. However, in most conditions, extra weather helm tells you that there is extra drag.

Again, easing the sheet for the new apparent-wind direction is a crucial part of re-acceleration.

Ease In The Gusts

Ease the main when a puff hits, thus trimming the sails to the new apparent-wind direction.

A puff causes the boat to heel as true wind force increases and pulls the apparent wind aft so resist the urge to treat this as a lift.


Entering a Lull

You can generally see a lull coming by noticing the lighter shading on the water.

When sailing into a lull in a boat that carries momentum, momentarily sheet on, blading the sail to reduce drag. Your apparent wind moves forward so avoid the temptation initially to bear away.

After slowing, the apparent wind shifts aft and requires a more forgiving sail setup that provides more power.

On dinghies where mainsheet changes mast bend, sheet out to increase camber in the top of the sail.

On boats where the mainsheet affects leech twist, easing to open it increases the velocity across the leeward side of the top of the sail.

Stay active with the mainsheet, easing for optimal sail force and apparent wind direction changes.


The importance of effective on boat communication. I have just returned from an Australian Championship and after speaking with a number of fellow competitors, it became really evident that the best crews have a communication hierarchy.

On board communication when racing is a key factor for performance. No matter what type of racing you do, when the number of crew increases, it becomes more and more important.

In order to cover as many types of boats as possible I have outlined below communication necessary for different crew members on boats with different crew numbers. Pick out the ones that are relevant for the type of boat you sail.


The helmsperson/skipper

The helmsperson must talk to the trimmers about how the boat feels, the fact that there is too much helm or even negative helm. This feedback enables them to ease sheet or trim on to remedy the problem and keep the boat fast.

The advantage of a boat with a speed indicator is that the helmsperson and trimmers can see that the boat is not sailing at the right speed for the conditions. The skipper can suggest more or less sheet, or for the vang, jib car position or Cunningham to be adjusted to get up to the desired speed.


The Trimmers

Good trimmers should ask the helmsperson frequently about how it feels to make sure the boat is sailing at its full potential.

When sailing upwind, the main trimmer, who is usually the only other crewmember besides the skipper facing towards the middle of boat and sitting next to the helmsman, is constantly talking with helmsman about how the boat feels

When sailing off the breeze, the spinnaker trimmer takes over, keeping the boat in the groove.

They can advise when the kite has plenty of tug or has gone soft and can instruct the helm to heat up or bear off at the appropriate time.


The Tactician

If your boat has a crew big enough to have a separate tactician, they are the one who gives the overall plan. They talk to the whole crew and communicate directly with the helmsman in close quarter situations, such as the start and mark roundings.

The tactician is responsible for where the boat sails through the water, and how it sails, telling trimmer what type of mode is best for the boat.

The Middle Of the Boat – Effective On Boat Communication

Included in the middle are headsail trimmers, grinders when you have them and the pit, which can be multiple people. Communication from this part of the boat is non stop and travels both ways.

The crewmembers on the bow need to know in plenty of time, what the next manoeuvre is going to be.  There needs to be instructions from the middle boss so that they have plenty of time to prepare sails or equipment.



This is the member of the crew who operates at or in front of the mast and who deals with the hoisting and lowering of all headsails. They are also responsible for clipping on and helping to douse spinnakers and are instrumental in Gybing spinnakers on symmetrical boats.

Communication coming from the middle or afterguard is crucial, so that there are no crash tacks or gybes without everything being ready.

In really challenging conditions on larger boats hand signals are better than yelled instructions and these are talked about and practiced when training.

Too Much Communication is nearly always better than not enough.

Prepare and Execute a Race Series



There is a sequence of actions required to prepare and execute a race series and you must focus only on what’s important.


Plan logistics well in advance and make sure everything on your boat is in working order. If you have a trailer or transport vehicle make sure that all maintenance is up to date. This includes the pesky wiring and wheel bearings.

Make a check list and when it comes to getting logistics ready, lists are your best friend. Carry out a comprehensive check early giving you enough time to fix any problems.


If you’re sailing with a new team or new team members, practice will be extra important to ensure that you can work efficiently together. Practice to prevent boat handling mistakes and practice like you are racing.

Take the time to practice each manoeuvre in as many conditions as possible. Make a list of each type of mark rounding (both top and bottom turns), make a short windward-leeward course, and cycle through them so there’s no confusion come race day.


Make sure your crew is on the same page with regards to logistics and schedule and ensure everyone knows the rules. It’s each crew member’s responsibility to read the race documents (SIs, NORs, and class rules) so there are no surprises.

Before the event, point out anything that might be unique to that regatta.

Early in the Regatta

You can’t win the regatta on day one, but you can lose it. Important points to make your team aware of.

  1. Focus – Have a pre-race briefing on the beach or dock before the day’s first race for any last minute questions or reminders.
  2. Get on the water early – conduct a few warm-up manoeuvres, test boat speed against a fast boat, and review pre-start homework. Sail all or a fair part of the first leg to get settled and note the numbers and settings.
  3. Practice like you are racing –
  4. It’s always great to win – but sail for the best average and not to win races.
  5. Set small goals – keep the goal manageable and prevent it from overwhelming you.
  6. If you find yourself back in the fleet early in a race, work on picking off boats one by one rather than going for a flyer.


Reassess your goals compare them to reality and see how you stand.

Are you still in striking distance of your goal, or should you make a new one? If there’s a big gap to your ideal outcome, it may be time to take a few calculated risks to step up a spot or two.

Look for opportunities that maximize your potential gains on the fleet with the least amount of risk.

Last Day

Going into the last day, understand how the scores play out and which scenarios will get you the best result.

Knowing the point totals will dictate if you can focus on the boat next to you in the standings or if you need to keep an eye out on a number of boats.

Focus on what you can control. You can’t control other boats, the wind, or the weather, but you can control how you respond, so focus 100 percent on your own boat.




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