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Sailing Upwind

The most important part of a yacht race after the start, is to pick the first two wind shifts correctly then to settle into the longest tack on the upwind leg of the course, this will generally position yourself with a loose cover over the bulk of the fleet and will leave you closest to the top mark.

To sail this part well you have to reach your best boat speed for the wind and sea conditions, note this can only be achieved in clean air. To reach your best boat speed there are a number of adjustments that can be altered "on" and "off" the water to make your boat go faster and also easier to sail. It is very important that all these controls are easy to use and strong enough that they will not break under load.

These Include

  • Batten weight.
  • Boom vang tension.
  • Mainsheet tension.
  • Traveller position.
  • Cunningham.
  • Outhaul.
  • Mast rake.
  • Centreboard position (movement fore and aft).
  • Mast bend (stiffener), hounds height.
  • Sail size/shape.
  • Gooseneck position.
  • Hiking.

The most important part of making the boat go fast upwind comes back to the person holding the tiller. It's all very well coming in after a race and blaming your sail/mast/rudder, where nine times put of ten it's your fault! The minute you realise that you are at fault, you will begin to improve.

"Realise you are at fault, you will begin to improve."

Points to Remember

  • Sail the shifts.
  • Remember tidal influence.
  • Play the middle unless one side is clearly favoured (remember one side gives a 50% chance of leading or losing).
  • If possible avoid lee bow tacks. Dip if you can't, this keeps your options open and avoids potential protest situations.
  • Clear air is vital.
  • Do not get to the lay lines too early (you lose the option to tack on wind shifts and you lose clear air as boats tack on the lay line ahead of you).
  • Do not leave your approach on port tack to the windward mark lay line till the last 2 or 3 boat lengths also be prepared to dip, losing a few is better than losing 20, 30 or 40 if you don't lay the mark.
  • If in front stay between the opposition and the top mark.

Sail A Race
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