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WOW - Greg Gust: Heeling to windward upwind and other tactical situations.

12/23/2022 6:11 pm

Greg Gust WOW: Heeling to windward upwind and other tactical situations.

Posted December 23, 2020

First let’s start out with how I sail the boat with heel and sheet tension. The sunfish is a unique boat to sail because of the lateen rig... it's like sailing two different boats on the different tacks. The sunfish has a small sail which is offset at an angle because of the gooseneck. I like to have the sail rig straight up and down because I'm trying to get as much power out of the sail as possible. So, on port I heel the boat to windward about 15 */ keeping the windward chine in the water at all times. I believe this will keep the sail straight up and down relative to the wind...keeping the sail powered up. Also, if you heel the hull to windward the underwater shape of the hull is more asymmetrical ...and heeling reduces the wetted surface.


A very good sailor noticed I was heeling to windward on port and after the regatta we talked about it...he pointed out that other class boats do the same thing. He thought that a sail rig that was heeled to windward actually changed the flow of wind over the sail, in a way that helped speed and pointing. Whatever the reason, I know it's fast. If you are sailing in light wind/2-4 it is important to sheet out quite a bit /6-10in while sailing heeled to windward on port. Once you get good forward speed ,ONLY THEN can you sheet in farther. This is a technique that you need to practice because it feels unnatural. On starboard I sail flat or a little bit heeled to windward ( but not heeled to windward as much as on port).In addition to keeping the sail rig straight up and down, the helm will go neutral/ no weather helm. And we all know pulling on the tiller because of windward helm, slows the boat.


Many boats I sail in the same way...I sail in a serpentine path through the water. I always go for speed forward and then and only then do I try to point. I see a lot of boats going high and slow, which might be good at certain times, but generally it's better to get good forward speed then point. I try to carry the speed while I'm pointing high until I feel the boat slow down, then I fall off a few degrees to gain speed and then start pointing again. The cycle of gaining speed then pointing then slowing last anywhere from 10-30-seconds. I don't like going slow ever!!! Fair Winds, Greg Gust


Greg’s Corner - sailing conservatively by projecting yourself slightly ahead of your own boat


I feel this topic is so important that I will go through a few examples.


One good way to sail yourself clear of traffic is to “duck and tack.” Let me explain...when you are sailing in traffic you are always being slowed down by the other boats around you. In other words, you are always tacking too much or someone else is lee bowing you, either way you are going slow. One slick trick to get yourself out of this situation is to duck a starboard tack boat, go one boat length farther and tack onto starboard tack immediately. You should end up to weather and approximately 2 boat lengths behind the other starboard tack boat. This does two things for you: (1) it pins the other starboard tacker, (2) an port tacker will have to lee bow the other starboard boat instead of you. Thus, you can travel faster without tacking or being slowed by a boat on your lee bow.


Another thing you should be aware of when sailing upwind is the location of the new wind or puffs. When you were on port, has a starboard tacker waved you across? He wasn’t being polite, he probably wanted you to keep going in the wrong direction (away from the puff). You must think far enough ahead of yourself so that you know where the new wind or puffs are coming from. Example: if you are on port, on a collision course with a starboard tacker and you already know that there is a puff on the right side of the course. Do you lee bow or duck the starboard tacker? You must duck the starboard boat in order to get to the puff “first”. Remember, look ahead and think ahead. Don’t let other boats force you in the wrong directions. Sail smart.


The last point I want to make is to avoid the little battles while racing. I see this happening all the time. Sailor “B” and sailor “C” are way back in the pack, luffing each other to China. All they are doing is hurting themselves. While they are luffing each other, the rest of the fleet is sailing away. Don’t lose touch with the big picture. Don’t fight the little battles and lose the war. When I get behind in a race, I concentrate on finishing the race well, not fighting little battles in the pack.