Pointing Better - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 08-12-2013 Thread Starter
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Pointing Better

So...I did skippered our boat for the first time this weekend in a race across Lake Michigan (yay for the newbie!). All of the boats had to tack close to the wind for most of the race. We found that 90 percent of the boats could point better than us, and I'm wondering if it's a function of design, rigging, crew placement, or whatever. In other words, I'm wondering what we could be doing to get closer to the wind.

The boat is a Catalina 30 Tall Rig (1981), with fin keel, 155 Genoa. We were a crew of three in 10 to 15 knots winds, both sails fully out (not reefed or furled) and close hauled, crew on windward side. I have not heard that this boat doesn't perform well upwind, so I'm thinking it's me, not the boat.

Any input?
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post #2 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

How old is your 155? A big belly in either sail will hurt you although the genny in that boat is more important. Trimming the main properly can also gain you a little extra at a tighter angle. Proper genny car placement is crucial. Setting up your angle is also good. We always found that when tacking, build speed as you trim the sail and head up gradually.

Tim R.
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1997 Caliber 40LRC

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post #3 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

Once you get out of the dinghies and into the 6000-pound boats, it's more design, sail shape and condition, and technique, than crew placement or rigging as such.

Cat 30 is probably in the middle on upwind performance, a bit more cruisey than racey, so you may not quite point with the hotter boats, but you should be within say 5 degrees of them, 10 degrees or more doesn't sound right.

Sails are a big, big, deal. Condition and shape, since their your upwind airfoils. A 155 might move you better in very light air, but won't point as well as a smaller jib, say a 115 or 130.

And technique means a lot. Some helmsmen are "footers" (fall off and go for speed), some sre "pinchers" or Pointers (save distance, it's worth going a little slower). Try to be in the middle. Anticipate puffs and head up a little just before you get them, heeling past 10 degrees is slow and sideslippy (is that a word?).

I'd say, invite a sailmaker out and a good experienced racer (could be one person) to look at the sails, the jib leads, traveler settings, luff and foot tensions, tell tales and how to read them.

Also don't overlook "reading the wind". the folks that outpoint you may getting wind you're not getting. And your header on starboard is their lift on port, and (with some exceptions) lifts are better--way better.

Some if this is just helm time, and more races. But make sure your 'engine" (sails) are in shape (literally).
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post #4 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

Lots of sail adjustments to play with that will impact pointing on boty genoa and main. Car positioning, backstay in addution to sheeting, outhaul, halyards.
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post #5 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

The only boats to use for comparison are boats that are very near to you. And, a near boat throwing off disturbed air just ahead or windward of you will point differently than you if for no other reason than being in clean air.

As a newbie one of the best things you can do is get some tiller time while practicing reading the air. Become proficient at reading the shifts and responding to them. Try different settings on the sail tension and jib car placement. Playing with these setting will teach you how to get the most out of your boat.

Of course all the advice regarding you sails and their condition is something you need to know. Unless racing is going to be your thing you don't need to go out and invest in new sails. Just learn how to get the most out of what you have. That's just going out and practicing.

For years we held on regatta entitled Shifts Happen. It was on a large lake surrounded by high hills. Plenty of air on that lake, but the wind could shift 60 degrees on every gust. The boats that did well were the boats skippered by those who could best read the wind and anticpate the next move.
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post #6 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

If you have a 110% (or other smaller jib) you'll probably find that you can point higher with it. You can get a tighter sheeting angle and the sail is probably much less used, so it is in better condition. In 10-15 knots of wind you should be able to maintain close to hull speed with either size head sail going upwind.

I was really frustrated with the pointing abilities of my Catalina 25 when I first bought it. Now that boats point quite well. Sails made the biggest material difference, but the crew (including myself) learning good sail trim (how much outhaul to use, when to tension the backstay, etc) also mattered a lot. That boat now has nearly new headsails and a new main and points quite well. Not as good as some of the IOR boats with good sails (like a well maintained San Juan 24), but a lot better than it did.

Reading the wind is of course what matters the most. All of the pointing and sail trim in the world don't matter if you sail right into a big dead zone while the winning boats notice that and take a longer outside course.

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post #7 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better

Try tuning your mast, the forestay may be loose. Try tightening the backstay first and maybe rake the mast back just a wee bit. The front sail gives you more drive than the main on that boat and for 10 to 15knots of wind you had the right jib up. A little more wind and I would reef the main, actually right around 15 because a that point it is heeling you over to a point where you are losing speed and slipping off to leeward, but probably stay with the 155 up front.
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post #8 of 8 Old 08-12-2013
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Re: Pointing Better


One item that has not been mentioned is rig tune. How is your tuning and can you adjust it (do you have an adjustable backstay)? For years I complained that my boat just would not point. I have a shoal keel so I don't expect to be able to point like boats with deep keep. This year I had my standing rigging replaced and the guy did a great job tuning the rig. I am pointing significantly higher than before. I still can't point as high as fin keel boats but it's quite a bit better.

Before, when the wind picked up to 15 knots I had a noticable sag in the headstay. Now the headstay doesn't sag at all and I can feel the boat pointing higher.

Make sure that when you are hard on the wind that the headstay isn't sagging and the top of the mast isn't falling off to leeward.

Lastly, are you using the traveler to pull the boom to weather so it's on center? If you just leave it in the middle the boom won't ever be on center line and that will cost you a few degrees.


Barry Lenoble
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY

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