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Old 07-24-2012
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Re: Dinghy sailing - tacking

Good advice from Tom. Backing the jib gets you around in light air and chop -- but it can cause trouble in heavy air unless you have really quick crew on the sheets who can blow & re-sheet in about half a second. You do NOT want a 17kt wind to yank your bows to leeward & get caught beam-to-wind on the new tack.

Our Bucc 18 can be tricky to tack thru in strong winds, esp. with any chop. Bows are the tallest part of the boat, and one wave can knock you back out of the tack or stall you in irons. Coming up to a tack, we crack the mainsheet, fall off a few degrees to pick up speed, then leave the main sheeted out as we choose a flat spot between waves. Crew should have both jib sheets in hand, if crew you have; if not, keep them both draped across one thigh.

We really snap the boat into the tack; you ain't 'shooting' very far on a crew-ballast boat. Crew should wait, wait, wait, until the boat passes thru the eye of the wind, then bail off the rail or bench and get across FAST. Helm may want to stay low side for a couple more seconds. Or you get helm across first and crew can stay on the new low side to cleat the jib, tho on all dinghies I've sailed, jib trimming is easy from the opposite rail. Anyhow, putting both people across at once risks rolling the boat back to windward & knocking the air out of your sails. (In v. strong winds, go earlier & go together.)

You should end up on a close reach, new tack. Jib sheeted home for power, and as the bow starts to dig in, helm sheets the mainsail back to close hauled as his/her bottom hits the rail -- which will bring your nose back up to it correct heading and really give the boat a kick in the fanny. It's like roll-throttling a motorcycle out of a corner. Racers don't like to oversteer cuz it loses them ground, but for singlehanders on a daysail, going close-reach to close-reach gives you more time to do what needs doing before powering on.

Marking close-hauled positions on your jib & mainsheets is good practice & lets you pre-set things before power comes on on the new tack. Sharpie permanent markers work well.

& some day, in light winds, try sailing backwards, manually backing the sails, spinning circles with the rudder and without, steering the boat by moving around the cockpit ... whatever occurs to you. Think it, do it.
. Next time it doesn't want to tack thru, you'll have a repertoire of tricks to call on. One amazing thing about windsurfers is the education they give you in that regard, and the whole bag of freestylin' tricks you can do on them. Not all of them translate to sailboats, tho I did dunk my rig in the water a few weeks ago. Oh well. Sail's clean on one side....
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