I hear that having an inhauler can help you point closer to the wind. What is an inhauler and how does it work?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. If you've been around racing sailboats for a while, you're probably familiar with something called a barberhauler. That device simply deflects the headsail sheet, pulling it outboard to open the slot between the leech of the headsail and the front area of the mainsail, and it also helps trim the upper leech of a headsail when reaching. An inhauler works in the same way only it is fashioned to deflect the headsail sheet inboard to close down the slot between the two sails.
You'll find inhaulers are standard issue on board a number of relatively new racing designs like the Farr 40 and the 1D35. Here's how they work: Once on the new tack, the headsail trimmer on board these boats will usually get his or her sheet tensioned in the ballpark for speed. If the wind is moderate, this person is likely to start out with the headsail slightly eased, say three to four inches off of max trim to help the boat build speed. Then as the speed builds, he or she will sheet in slightly on the headsail and follow that by pulling the inhauler so that it brings the clew of the headsail to weather slightly and closes down the slot a little. This has the effect of narrowing the sheeting angle of the headsail, thus allowing the boat to point slightly higher. Conversely, if the boat is overpowered, you can ease the inhauler to open up the slot and spill some of the power.
An inhauler is essentially a fine-tune adjustment, and thus learning how to use one properly comes with time and experimentation. Now if that seems like another way of saying that I'm just unable to impart those nuances to you in written form, you're right. Good luck in your sailing.