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Tips from the Top

Practise your Tacks

Wed, 2nd May 2012
By Chuck Skewes

Tips from the Top Practise your Tacks

Tacking can take you from 20 seconds up to 2 minutes to get back up to speed depending on your boat, wind, and sea state.  Having better tacks will increase your time to the weather mark by several boat lengths especially in light air.

Here are a few trick for you to get the most out of your tacks.

  1. Have a designated tailor and grinder.  It should be the same person both sides to add consistency to the maneuver.
  2. Release needs to be a 3 step process.
    1. As the boat turns up into the wind you ease the sheet out just enough so the leech passes in front of the spreader.
    2. As the boat passes head to wind hold the sheet with one wrap on winch until the sail back winds to the mast.
    3. Completely release the sheet when the sail backwinds to the mast.
      These steps allow the sail to blow past the leeward shrouds without hanging up, which in turn allows the person tailing the sheet to bring the sail in further without grinding.
  3. Have bow person skirt sail over the life lines as they come across every tack.  It is important to make sure your bow person does this without prompting. They should be going under the foot of the genoa in the tack.
  4. In winds under 10 knots the trimmers should bring the sail to about 1’ from the spreader right out of the tack, wait until the speed is climbing and then bring it into just touching or 2” off.  The entire time the trimmer needs to be communicating with the driver at what the distance off max trim is.
  5. The driver during the tack should look forward at the genoa the entire time.  Stop turn when genoa is drawing.  If the sail comes in smooth you will be at the correct angle to build speed.  In light air you will have to sail lower longer.  In heavier air you will be able to bring the sail in fast and sail a much higher angle.
  6. The crew needs to stay on the rail hiking until the rail starts to drop down.  Often crews get up much too early and the boat heels and slows before the tack.  It is important to stay as long as possible and hurry across.
  7. Have each spot on the rail pre-defined for each person or position.  The first person to get off the rail needs to be the person releasing.  The last can be the grinder.  Plan the hiking on your rail accordingly.
  8. In light air keep weight low out of the tack.  Roll tacking is critical in very light air.  It helps propel the boat forward, helps the sails set sooner and makes it easier for the helmsman.  As you go into a light air tack everyone should stand and lean out on new leeward side as soon as the sail passes head to wind.  Hold the weight down until the boats starts accelerating and producing apparent wind.  Then have a set order that crew members go to the high side.  This prevents the entire crew from going across at once and over flattening boat or shaking wind out of sails.
  9. Once a tack is completed the person that was tailing the sheet needs to leave the grinder to fine tune the sail and go up and hike.  On the way up it is important to load the new winch so it is ready for a new tack in case you have to do one with little notice.

This article was posted on Wed, 2nd May 2012