Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Swarthmore, PA
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Re: Physics of Sailing
...Efficient sailing is not about maximizing sail power all the time. Efficient sailing is about using the available power efficiently, while minimizing drag. In light air, the boat is capable of efficiently using every bit of power that the sails can generate. In strong winds, the sails are capable of generating more power than the boat can use efficiently. In the latter case, the objective is to bleed off some of that excess power. Easing out the sails, reefing and heading more into the wind are techniques that you can use to reduce excess power.
This is traditional theory for displacement hulls, where any power in excess of what's needed to achieve "hull speed" results in loss of comfort and safety that most cruisers find unacceptable (but which racers may tolerate in the interest of getting a few hundredths of a knot extra).
However, your explanation does not necessarily apply for planing hulls, for which all power, if handled properly, could translate to more speed.
I believe the person who raised this question may have a planing boat.
As I said before, the correct answer depends on the boat, and the "correct" answer for displacement hulls may not apply to planing hulls.
Rick S., Swarthmore, PA
USCG Certified Captain, 50 Ton Master and OUPV
ASA Certified 101/103/104/105/106
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2001 Catalina 34MkII Tall Rig Breakin' Away, Universal Diesel M35B, Mantus 35 lb. anchor, sailing out of Rock Hall Landing Marina