Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: New Orleans
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It's both of what you described, pointing ability and speed. you need both to have a boat that "performs well upwind". And on any boat, it's a compromise: if you try to point too high (in slang it's called "pinching"), that airfoil sail shape starts to invert (and your inside jib telltale lifts off of horizontal)--if you bear away too much (called "footing"), you go faster, but give away too much angular distance towards your destination (and your outside telltale lifts). keep this up and soon you're on a close reach instead of close-hauled, ease your sails so the jib telltales are both horizontal. Faster, but will take you much longer to get 'there' because you're point 60 deg off the wind instead of 45.
Your last comment I'm not sure about, but no wind= no speed, on any point of sail. Or if you mean really strong winds, yes, you may get to where the wind and seas push you back as much or more than the airfoil lift of your sails pull you ahead, so you're sailing in place making no progress. At say 35 knots wind and above, not many sailboats can make progress to windward under sail alone. That's when it's time to reach off, you may do better parallelling the seas than punching into them all day, and wait for the wind to ease up (or head downwind into port if it's there, and if yo can get in safely). Or heave-to, or set a sea anchor. All this assumes you have ample searoom to leeward. if you don't, and you can't get away from a leeward shore, or at least hold steady, then you definitely have a problem. This age-old problem is why there are shipwrecks, then and now.
In general, for monohulls, the more slender boats with the taller rigs point better, while the fatter boats with shorter rigs point worse (but carry more cargo and may be more comfortable in a seaway).
It's a "big" question you've asked. Hope this of some help.
Last edited by nolatom; 03-05-2010 at 01:09 PM.