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post #4 of Old 02-01-2004
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looking for help up wind

When I hear a relatively new sailor complain that the boat won''t sail to windward, my first thought is that the sails are not trimmed correctly. It is good to adjust your standing rigging correctly, but I''ve never seen a sailboat whose rig was so far out of adjustment that it was mechanically incapable of sailing to windward. If you are dragging seaweed on your rudder or keel, or have something else causing drag, that certainly could prevent the boat from going to windward, and you should check for that possibility, but it is probably not the cause.

I watched my son the first time he learned to sail a dinghy. He sailed downwind at first, because it was easy to do. But, when he got close to the lee shore, he had to turn around and beat to windward. The boat speeded up and it began to heel, and it scared him, so, he was afraid to trim the sail in close to the centerline of the boat, because he felt that would make the boat go even faster and heel even more. But, if you don''t trim the sails correctly, a sailboat can''t beat to windward. If the mainsail is not pulled in close enough to the centerline of the boat, and if the jib is not sheeted in until it is fairly flat, the boat will not sail close to the wind.

Try sheeting in the mainsail until the boom is close to the centerline of the boat. Then trim in the jibsheet until the jib is about 6-8 inches from the mast spreader. If the boat heels excessively when you trim the sails that way, then put up a smaller jib, and reef the mainsail. If you have the correct amount of sail area raised, the boat won''t heel excessively, and if the sails are trimmed correctly, the boat will sail to windward.

Trimming the sails in that way should also help the boat tack. I think the reason why it won''t tack across the wind is because you are trimming the sails very loosely, and, when you try to tack, the sails stop driving too early, and the boat doesn''t have enough speed to enable it to continue coasting until the bow crosses the wind. Remember, when you tack and the sails are fluttering loosely, they are not driving the boat, and you have to have enough speed to enable the boat to coast until the wind can catch the sails on the other side and start driving again.
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