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merlin2375 05-20-2008 11:46 AM

Trying to improve in 2 areas: puffs/gusts & gybing
I've been trying to improve my skills in two specific areas/conditions:

1) Dealing with the main sheet during a puff/gust. On last Saturday I was out and was dealing with some really strong gusts. Sustained winds were 10-15 knots and gusting to maybe 25 knots or so. We were single reefed (only one set of reefing points) and had the jib 20% furled or so.

So, when traveling upwind when getting a major gust I have been immediately letting out the mainsheet to dump wind and control my heel. If that's not enough I'll try and head up towards the wind to further control the boat. The question I have it often times when I do both of these things the mainsail is simply not happy and can luff or flog a bit. Obviously this is very noisy and bad for the sail.

What can I do to depower a bit, control my heel, and have the mainsail be quiet?

2) Gybing is still somewhat of a pain for me. I am wondering what your procedure is for gybing. Here's what I've been doing:
1) switch sides of the boat
2) sheet in the main sail
3) use knee to slight push tiller
4) as soon as the boom goes over immediately release the main sheet to avoid rounding up, etc.

What do you think? Any smoother way to do this or is all in the practive.

sailingdog 05-20-2008 12:07 PM


What kind of boat are you doing this in...what sail controls does it have. Flattening the main sheet, using the main halyard, cunningham, boomvang, outhaul and backstay tensioner are a good way to help depower it and make the boat heel a lot less, using the traveller can also help a good deal.

A lot of getting a smooth gybe is practice and repetition... It would help if you said what kind of boat you're gybing, since some boats have different requirements than others. For instance, a sonar, which often has a self-tacking jib, has less for you to do than a soling would, which usually doesn't have a self-tacking jib...even though the two boats are relatively close is size and setup otherwise. Also, do you have crew or are you talking about learning/practicing all this singlehanded?

merlin2375 05-20-2008 12:14 PM

Sorry about that, I should have mentioned. This is done in a modified Soling (about 27') Keelboat.

It's a club boat so I don't know how much I can mess with but:
main halyard, yes
cunningham, yes
boomvang, yes
outhaul, not sure
backstay tensioner, yes but I don't know if I can mess with it
traveler, yes

nolatom 05-20-2008 12:22 PM

Upwind, the traveler suggestion may be the best one. Ease the traveler, keep the sheet fairly tight, and you may be less overpowered by the puffs and hence can react a little less with both sheet and helm. Or try easing the traveller in the puffs, see if that keeps the main quieter while still relieving the heeling pressure.

Jibing, I get down to a run, then trim the main to get a minimal "slam" arc; I tend not to cross over too early, stay in the middle and duck, I may steer with my knees, then once the boom rushes over, ease real quick, cross over, and make sure you keep the bow downwind (without re-jibing of course) so you don't round up and broach.

Your jibe routine sounds basically okay, might just need a little tweaking. Lots depends on the type of boat.

After a while, both maneuvers become so instinctive, you have to think hard and replay it in your mind in order to describe it in words.

sailingdog 05-20-2008 12:27 PM

Trust has an outhaul.. :)

merlin2375 05-20-2008 12:50 PM


I trust ya! Ok yes, it does have an outhaul. Just thought about it and looked it up:

So let's say I'm overpowered in the gusts what should I do with each of these and why? I tried to fill in what I know (some of it is a guess as to why to do it)

main halyard
I don't know on this one. Assuming the sail is already reefed. Should I tighten the main halyard until it's extremely tight to help keep the sail flat?


Let the boomvang entirely loose?

Tighten outhaul?

backstay tensioner

Let the traveler go all the way to its maximum to keep the boom as far away as possible from the center of the boat

Thanks a bunch, that's good advice. I've already had one of those round ups last year, that was fun but once is enough :) I'll have to keep practiing

sailingdog 05-20-2008 01:19 PM

Basically, if you tighten/tension the main halyard, cunningham, outhaul and backstay tensioner, you will flatten the mainsail. The backstay tensioner will also tend to flatten the jib or genoa as well. All of this will help depower the boat quite a bit. Ease the boomvang and tighten the boom brake (if you've got one).

The heavier the winds, the more tension the boombrake line will generally need... this doesn't de-power the sail, but does de-power the boom when you accidentally gybe the boat. :D

Easing the traveler to windward will help too.

Plumper 05-20-2008 01:34 PM

I agree with tightening the mainhalyard (moves the draft forward and flattens the sail), tightening the cunningham (does the same thing), tightening the outhaul (decreases draft in the lower part of the sailsail), and tensioning the backstay (bends the center of the mast forward flattening the main and tightens the jibstay), but I don't agree with tightening the vang. In strong winds you want the sail to twist off at the top to minimize the heeling force. To do that you ease the vang, depowering the top of the sail and lessening the heeling force. With the vang tight, easing the sheet doesn't have the same effect as when the vang is loose. Easing the sheet with the vang loose lifts the boom and twists the head of the main off, depowering the main sail.

chucklesR 05-20-2008 01:52 PM


In curiosity, upwind when puffed you say you ease the sheet first, then head up if that isn't enough.
I work that backwards - head up (because that helps me get where I'm going, and immediately reduces heel.
I only dump the main if for some reason I can't head up.
Other comments;

I've found the traveller to be my #1 tool for reducing average heel (not puff's, just constant). Keeping the boat as upright as possible lets me keep the top of my sail in the best wind and keeps weather helm at bay.

Tight flat sheets are better working to wind in heavy winds, fuller sheets for lighter winds, outhaul, cunningham, vang and halyard all have parts to play. I do the outhaul last because I need to maintain power to tack, speed is not normally an issue on my boat but power is (multihull's are different). If you sail in chop you'll want the power over speed also.
The only time I adjust my backstay is when flying my screacher in light air, for a fuller shape I'll ease it, or tighten it to point higher, otherwise it stays set for my main keeping draft working for me to provide power not speed.
I use the traveller to correct twist, as I don't have a vang - I've considered them and decided not to install one as I have enough going on with dual centerboards and such.
Gybing is all about the boat, I've never worked a Soling so have not one word of useful advice except watch your frigging head.
I sail broad reaches rather than dead down wind, it's faster (and safer) for me by a long shot.
Crew for someone in your club and ask questions.

sailingdog 05-20-2008 02:04 PM

I'd agree that if you're sailing close hauled, that heading up to ease the pressure on the sails makes some sense, since you'll reduce pressure on the sails and gain a bit of distance towards your goal.

While depowering a multihull is very similar, as Chuckles points out, a multihull often needs more power to punch through chop and such, since it doesn't have the inertia to do so.

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