The Racing Sailor's Checklist
Categories for Checklist
B. Close and Beam Reaching
- 1. Drifting
- 2. Light air, 2-7 mph
- 3. Medium air, 8-14 mph
- 4. Medium to heavy air, 15 mph+
C. Broad Reaching and Running
- 1. Main
- 2. Headsail
- 3. Stay-sails and Spinnaker
D. Tall Boy
- 1. Light air
- 2. Medium and heavy air
UPWIND - Drifting, 0-2 mph
1. Boom out - this is so that slatting provides forward motion rather than leeway.
2. Drifter sheet eased, even when attempting close hauled sailing.
3. Point boat in direction you want to go and let slatting carry you that way.
4. Downwind, drifter can be more effective than % oz. chute in 0-2 mph conditions. It is steadier and
accelerates boat better without stalling via tight leach.
5. Keep weight well-forward; do not drag aft end of boat.
6. Keep rig relatively stiff.
7. Keep weight low.
LIGHT AIR, 2-7 mph
1. Main reasonably trimmed varying from high traveller (above midships with eased sheet) to lower traveller
with trimmed sheet as boat reaches top speed.
2. Headsail trimmed as far inboard as possible with sheet eased as much as possible.
3. Sheets must be eased to keep sail pressure forward as much as possible - leeway is major killer in light air,
especially in seaways.
4. Main leach should not be tight.
5. Cunningham and out haul eased.
6. Genoa lead should be forward so that upper half is closer to the main than the lower half. This helps to
accelerate high air, which is of more value than low air, between sails at a more rapid rate.
7. Genoa halyard tension should be eased so that draft is aft rather than tight forward.
8. In heavy slop, vang should be used to steady the boom.
9. Weight should remain forward as much as practical except in slop when it should be more aft to help lift the
bow over seaway.
10. If double head-rig, do not attempt to take traveller to windward to completely fill main, as you will probably
stall the boat. In light air, the staysail usually has to be slightly over trimmed to avoid sucking the Genoa
into it, and this makes many people over trim the main. The result is that you hurt pointing ability and speed.
11. In the 2-7 mph range, it is usually variable, and this requires constant traveller change, (Leave the main in
loosely trimmed position, adjusting traveller only), constant halyard tension adjustment, and constant sheet
adjustment. If all of these things are not being done properly, somebody will be taking you to windward.
MEDIUM AIR, 8-14 mph
1. Main - heavier Cunningham is now necessary, to hold draft forward and to assist in dumping the leach for air
2. Out-haul should probably be near max, but that depends on how full the sail is to start with.
3. Traveller should be moved further to leeward, with main sheet trimmed harder. It is fatal to keep traveller
up because you are trimming from inboard Genoa leads and the main is luffing. Let the forward third luff as
it will, and concentrate on setting the leach with the air flow coming off the Genoa.
4. Head stay tension should be relatively taut.
5. If you are using all-purpose number 1 headsail, halyard tension should be getting near the maximum, and as
air increases, the lead will have to be moved aft.
6. If you are still trimming on the inboard lead, be sure you are not over heeling the boat by over-trimming. If
you find that she is over too much, move the lead more outboard.
7. As you go outboard, move the main traveller down to correspond.
8.. Weight should be coming aft, especially if seaway is developing.
MEDIUM/HEAVY AIR, 15 mph+
1. Main - close to maximum Cunningham should be in effect. All lace foots or zippers should be "all in". Donot over-trim the main. If the boat is driving and the main is luffing, let it luff or shorten it. "Do not try to
trim the luff out; you will stop the boat."
2. Traveller should be well to leeward so that the helm is almost neutral, especially in heavy seas so that the
helmsman can literally steer the boat over the seas (this, of course, is dependent on hull design and
accessories such as trim tabs).
3. Genoa - luff tension on no. 1 and no. 2 should be maximum.
4. Lead should be well aft so that the head is more open than the foot, which as a measure the foot should
probably be right in on the upper shrouds.
5. Lead should in most cases be outboard, unless Genoa is particularly flat. In this case, the lead can be inboard
with the sheet slightly eased to drive the shape into the sail.
6. Heel angle on most modern boats should not exceed 25 degrees so that shortening main and headsail is
probably in order. Get an inclinometer.
7. Headstay tension should be max.
This brings us into the area of stay sails, but first, let's check off simple main and Genoa positions.
1. Cunningham should be eased, probably off all or 3/4 off.
2. Outhaul should be eased.
3. Lace foot and zippers should be out.
4. In some cases, the boom should be uphauled to bag the main some.
5. The vang should be set starting aft on the boom on close reaches for leach control and moving forward as
reach broadens. Pull should be directly down, Do not over-vang or main distortion will occur.
6. When vanging, main should be eased until it starts to luff in the forward third. Vanging will then remove
that luff and the main will be close to the right trim. Keep it loose!
7. Traveller should be set as far to leeward as possible.
8. Backstay should be eased to get rig forward and transfer sail pressure forward rather than sideways to
prevent heeling and leeway.
1. Ease halyard tension as much as possible.
2. Move lead to the most ourboard position possible.
3. Adjust leach and foot cords so that they are firm.
While on this subject, the leach cords in Genoas are usually in the wrong tension position, This occurs because the
Genoa lead and clew Tensions are improper. Very often, the lead is too far aft, and one more click on the winch will
set the leach
On reaches, all kinds of staysail combinations are possible. For instance, a regular reaching staysail can be
set with the tack about 2-3 feet aft of the headsail on the average size boat (25-40 feet). Inside this a tall boy can be
set in the centerline of the foredeck maybe four feet in front of the main so that it parallels of "slots" with the main, In
effect, you have a triple head rig.
The new boats have large fore-triangles so that larger and more stay-sails can be set.
On beam reaches, all of these stay-sails may be set with the spinnaker flying as well.
The key to flying a reacher, or a Genoa and a chute together, is to keep the Genoa in maximum eased position.
The collapse of spinnakers on reaches with the Genoa up is mostly caused by over-trimming the Genoa, moving the angle
of the wind forward of its normal angle and as such, collapsing the leading edge of the spinnaker. If the spinnaker does
collapse, let the Genoa run free, and you will recover much more quickly.
BROAD REACHING WITH SPINNAKER AND RUNNING
1. Always carry a spinnaker pole as far aft as possible to keep maximum extended spinnaker area to the wind.
2. Carry the pole low to keep the spinnaker from its natural tendency to drift around behind the boat.
3. Keep the boat as upright as possible, even heeling to windward if conditions allow.
4. Use as light a sheet as possible to allow the leach to lift. A heavy sheet in light air can pull a spinnaker to leeward and cause distortion.
5. Do not over-trim the spinnaker or you will stall the boat.
6. In sloppy seas, move the after guy as far forward as possible to create downward trim angle which will form
double down-haul with fore-guy to keep pole steady.
7. You may want to move the sheet forward also to get spinnaker out in front of the boat as much as possible.
1. Get pole as high as possible on inboard and outboard end. Most good spinnakers will want to lift in this
condition. If the pole is too low, while the luff wants to lift, it will cause luff to continue to collapse prematurely.
You will think the pole is too far aft and end up setting the spinnaker improperly.
2. You may want to ease halyard slightly to get spinnaker even more up in front of the boat and away from the
other head-sails flying.
3. Keep spinnaker spread as wide as possible, as a deep chute in heavy air and sea conditions will tend to oscillate
the boat more than is desirable.
As air moves farther aft, you will want to move the tack of the tall boy aft and to windward, so that it literally
forms an extension of the mainsail.
Most of the aforementioned hints are basic rules which, can vary from point to point, but if observed, will
provide you with better speed and solve some of the problems you have been encountering.
One of the most important and least observed facets of tacking is the mains-ail. Most everyone is concentrating
on getting the jib around and trimmed.
The main must be eased on the come-about and trimmed in as the Genoa comes in. If the main is left trimmed
hard, it will take you twice as long to regain boat speed.
On the come-about, the Genoa should be released precisely at the moment the forward third starts to fill on the
other tack. If you let it go early, it will get hung up in the rigging. If you are late and allow it to fill completely, you
chance damaging the sail on the spreaders, and your bow will be forced over too fast, thereby being way below course
on the new tack and requiring that the rudder be pushed hard to bring the boat up. This creates unnecessary drag which
slows the boat even more.
Over-trimming the Genoa on the new tack will also slow you down in regaining speed. As rule of thumb, leave
the Genoa about one foot from the spreaders for the first thirty seconds of the new tack. Keep the boat 5-10 degrees low
and let it get up speed before going back hard on the wind. Remember, your speed is less, right after a tack, so that the
apparent wind is not so far forward. Therefore, until you resume speed, your headsail can be eased while you are still
pointing fairly high.
The helmsman is 1/2 of a good come-about. If he's slow, the Genoa will get caught in the lee shrouds. If he's
too quick, it will get caught in the weather shrouds.
The proper way is to move through the eye of the wind quickly so the Genoa comes across fast, then slow down,
so that the trimmers can get the headsail in while still slightly luffing rather than with a full load, which will be pulling the
head of the boat down and making it more difficult to resume your windward course. If the boat gets too low on the new
tack, ease the main more to bring the head up quickly.
Most of the aforegoing will help improve your boat performance and are starting points from which you can
develop your own systems.
The other vital ingredient is 100% concentration by helmsman and crew.
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