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Old 09-20-2013
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Noob question: sailing upwind

Please excuse my ignorance. I've only been sailing for a few weeks.

I've been sailing a bit on J24s at my club. One of the skippers was telling me about steering by the jib telltales. My understanding is that, when sailing close hauled, you have to adjust your course so that the angle of attack is optimised.

OK I get that. But doesn't that mean that the classic points of sail diagram from the textbooks is a lie? You can't sail a reasonable speed in any direction from 45' to 315'. You sail any angle 90' to 270', adjusting the trim appropriately, but when in comes to sailing close hauled, there is only a single sweet spot angle at which you can sail efficiently - any further up and you luff, any further down and you stall.

So my questions are:
(1) Is this right?
(2) What determines the angle - is it fixed for a particular boat, or does it depend on crew weight and wind speed?

Thanks!
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Your point of sail and angle of trim work together. When you are close hauled you can find a sweet spot probably within a few degrees depending on how your sails are trimmed. If your point of sail feels right but your sails aren't trimmed right you can sheet in to fix that. Take my advice with a grain of salt (I'm newish to sailing) but I believe your point of sail and your sail trim all work together, and each can take corrective action to compensate for inefficiencies in the other.
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Thanks for your prompt reply Matt!

I get what you say - that makes sense for sailing on a reach or downwind. But I've read that when sailing close hauled, you should have your sails pulled on as hard as possible - which means you can't use trim as a variable?
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

I believe trim should always be viewed as a variable, and as such a control that can always be adjusted to change how you are sailing. More experienced skippers will have better things to say about this. But I think when faced with an inefficient trim to point of sail configuration, steering and trim (or both) can be used to gain efficiency. There is not usually a one-size-fits-all sail trim for wind direction and point of sail. Wind is fluid and messy and will require improvisation for maximum efficiency. I do not yet know how to get that efficiency. So I normally use the textbook angles, but there are often times where it is apparent that the textbook angles do not suit the weather.
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Oh, as far as your telltales go, move your sail to the bad telltales. If your inner telltales are fluttering, sheet in. If your outer tales are fluttering, sheet out. You can also head up or bear away.
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

There's an ideal trim for every direction you'd want to go (except for directly into the wind). When you're truly close hauled, you're at max trim and actively trying to point as high as you can, so yeah, the only thing you have left to change is your heading.

If your boat goes close hauled at 45° off the wind and where you want to go is 55° off the wind, you can point the boat at the destination and ease the sails a little so that they are trimmed correctly. At that point, you're not really close hauled--you're close reaching. So no, the basic points of sail diagram is not "a lie" but it is meant to imply a smooth continuum of trim from close hauled to dead downwind.

How high a boat points depends on several things, like the design of the boat, the conditions, the sail choice, the sail condition, etc.
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikey tiger View Post
Please excuse my ignorance. I've only been sailing for a few weeks.

I've been sailing a bit on J24s at my club. One of the skippers was telling me about steering by the jib telltales. My understanding is that, when sailing close hauled, you have to adjust your course so that the angle of attack is optimised.

OK I get that. But doesn't that mean that the classic points of sail diagram from the textbooks is a lie? You can't sail a reasonable speed in any direction from 45' to 315'. You sail any angle 90' to 270', adjusting the trim appropriately, but when in comes to sailing close hauled, there is only a single sweet spot angle at which you can sail efficiently - any further up and you luff, any further down and you stall.

So my questions are:
(1) Is this right?
(2) What determines the angle - is it fixed for a particular boat, or does it depend on crew weight and wind speed?

Thanks!
(1) No
(2) The optimum angle depends of a lot of factors - read my long explanation below

To put this into a context.
When racing (or cruising) we often have to get the boat to a mark (position) directly upwind from where you start. In this case the we aim to get the boat moving towards the mark as fast as we can (the speed towards an upwind target is called VMG).
-If we sail as high into the wind as we possibly can we loose speed but shorten the distance
-If we sail to low we increase the speed and distance to go
-The sweet spot is somewhere in between

The optimal angle depends on lots of factors
-The boat (including crew weight, sails and other factors)
-The conditions (wind, waves)
Some instruments can calculated the VMG, we use this to find the optimal close hauled angle.

So the normal procedure when going upwind towards a windward mark is to adjust the sails for the optimum angle and steer the boat using the telltales.
If you have small changes in the wind direction while going upwind you adjust the course (using the telltales) or tack depending on the situation.

If we are going upwind but not aiming for a point directly upwind (not sailing close hauled) we adjust the sails to the course we want to sail. You can still use the telltales to steer.
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Good explanation. Just to clarify, VMG stands for Velocity Made Good. As knuterikt said, that means the speed at which you are approaching your ultimate destination, even though you are tacking back and forth and not going straight at it.
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikey tiger View Post
Please excuse my ignorance. I've only been sailing for a few weeks.

I've been sailing a bit on J24s at my club. One of the skippers was telling me about steering by the jib telltales. My understanding is that, when sailing close hauled, you have to adjust your course so that the angle of attack is optimised.

OK I get that. But doesn't that mean that the classic points of sail diagram from the textbooks is a lie? You can't sail a reasonable speed in any direction from 45' to 315'. You sail any angle 90' to 270', adjusting the trim appropriately, but when in comes to sailing close hauled, there is only a single sweet spot angle at which you can sail efficiently - any further up and you luff, any further down and you stall.

So my questions are:
(1) Is this right?
(2) What determines the angle - is it fixed for a particular boat, or does it depend on crew weight and wind speed?

Thanks!
If I understand your question correctly, the design geometry of the boat and sails limit the boat's theoretical close hauled sailing angle. Many variable factors, such as your helmsmanship, sail selection and sail trim will determine how nearly you are able to achieve the boat's theoretical close hauled sailing angle.

When sailing close hauled, there is only a single theoretical optimum sweet spot angle at which you can sail, but whether you achieve that perfect angle depends on your overall sailing ability. It's very difficult for a helmsman to get the boat into the sweet spot and to keep it there, because the wind is constantly lifting and heading, puffing and lulling. If you can keep the boat in the sweet spot for a higher percent of the time than your opponents, you'll achieve a higher average boat speed. For a helmsman, it requires tremendous focus, and an ability to anticipate wind variations.
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Old 09-20-2013
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Re: Noob question: sailing upwind

I think this is a basic sailing concept that a lot of sailing classes let students get confused. Anything short of close hauled, you hold your course steady, and trim the sheets. When close hauled, you leave the sheets alone and adjust course. That is why it is a good idea for the forsail trimmer person to tell the skipper when they are close hauled, because the task of keeping the sail efficient has passed from one person to another on the boat.
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