Formal Sessions Dedicating separate practice time to the goal of getting faster is good use of your timeóthat is if your practice session is set up and conducted in the correct way. If it is not, it can turn into a waste of your time with little to nothing learned. The most important thing to know about two-boat tuning is that you have to minimize all the variables between the boats so what you learn regarding differences in performance can be understood and quantified. You donít want one boat using its racing sails and the other using its practice sails.
In order to make the best use of your time youíll need to make the following preparations:
- Get a team to sail against that has similar goals as yours. Usually this will be a competitor, but occasionally you may be able to find a good sailor and get access to a boat for them to sail against you. If possible you want to practice against someone sailing with equipment that theyíre accustomed to. This will increase the chances that they will be able to go full speed all the time. You also want to make sure it is someone you have a good relationship with and who will be honest regarding boat speed and heading information. Itís critical that there be open sharing of information sharing between the boats.
- Both boats need to know the details of how their rigs are tuned prior to the session and what sails they will use. By knowing where your rig tune is prior to the session, you are better prepared to make changes, and more importantly, understand the result of those changes. The boats need to share some or all of this information so that everyone knows what the starting point is. Also, make sure both boats have clean bottoms and dry bilges, etc.
- Ideally, you can arrange to have someone who knows something about your boats observe from a motor boat, and even better, have that person take pictures or video and make notes. This is not critical, but if possible this can really enhance what you learn during the session.
- Have radios or some other means for easy communication between the boats.
Once you are ready to go, with the equipment set up as identically as possible and both boats in racing shape, have a discussion with everyone involved to explain what you are trying to accomplish. One boat may be having trouble pointing, the other may be having problems accelerating in waves. Make sure both boats know what the other needs to get out of the session. In a good session, both teams learn something about their weaknesses, and each will want to come back and practice again. If you go into a two-boat tuning session looking only to achieve your own goals and you ignore helping the other team, you will learn less yourself and will develop the reputation of being a bad boat to tune against.
Once you get out on the water have both boats sail together in a straight line upwind to get warmed up. Before you work on anything else, the initial goal is trying to get the boats going roughly the same speed, which means putting the crew weight in roughly the same position on both boats and trimming the sails in a nearly identical manner. If one boat is clearly faster, that boat should then keep their trim and tune static while the other boat makes changes to catch up. That means making sail-trim adjustments as well as weight adjustments.
When lining up to speed tune, make sure the boats are evenóbow-to-bow and about three or four lengths apart. If one boat always lines up with its bow forward and to leeward they will probably pinch off the windward boat most of the time and you wonít end up learning much. And if the boats are too far apart, you may end up sailing in different winds and again not learn much.
Once you get going, itís important that you spend at least 10 minutes going in a straight line. This will allow you to sail through any puffs or lulls and the gains from the conditions should average out over a longer period of time. If one boat gets a clear advantage quickly, that boat should slow up so that the two boats can line up again and start over. Donít spend a lot of time sailing along when one of the boats has clearly gained and is giving the other boat bad air. There is little value in that.
|"Donít spend a lot of time sailing along when one of the boats has clearly gained and is giving the other boat bad air. There is little value in that."|
Itís also important that both boats switch sides and each one takes a turn being the weathermost boat on both tacks. You may find that on the day you are practicing, the boat on the left, for example, usually gains because the puffs are coming from that side. So switch things up to ensure that you really know what is going on. Here are some additional prescriptions to ensure that you get the most out of your time spent tuning with two boats:
- Keep the crew in racing trim, with everyone hiking at the right times. If one boat has crew off the rail and the other doesnít, you wonít learn much.
- Have someone on each boat be responsible for watching the other boat full-time. Pay attention to how they are trimming sails and where the crew weight is. This person should frequently call out how you are doing relative to the other boat. Try to keep the language simple. All comments should be about your boat, rather than the other one, and use simple, clear language such as "higher and slower right now," "speed and height are even," "even height and faster," etc.
- As you should in any practice session, take a few breaks to keep your mind fresh, it is really easy to get zoned out when tuning. It can also be boring, particularly for the crew on the rail, so try to keep it fresh and fun.
- Take the time afterwards to write down what you think you've learned.
These principles apply to downwind tuning as well. Most often racers spend their time tuning upwind and forget about what might be learned downwind. There are gains to be made by focusing on both. Typically, if you are planning to be out for a long time, go upwind for a while, and then head home while sailing downwind.
Given the circumstances, you may not have as much open discussion about setups prior to getting out on the water, but once youíre out there, get together right away and start sailing upwind. The same procedures for lining up still apply: get your bows even, about three lengths apart, and switch sides occasionally.
Among your crew, you should use this tune up as an opportunity to get into race mode, and try to sail as fast as you can. If one boat appears to have a clear advantage, try to figure out why. Have someone on your crew who has a good eye look at the setup on the other boatótheir trim, their weight placement, etc. How hard are they sheeting? Do they have full or partial flow on their top telltales? Where are their jib leads? How tight are their halyards? Where is their main traveler? How much are they heeled? How hard is the crew hiking? The answers to questions like these will tell you something definitive about any differences between the boats. Even if you are the boat with the speed advantage, it is important to understand why you have that advantage, so pay attention to the other boat and analyze.
|"Don't forget, a pre-race tuning session is also a good time to collect information regarding the racecourse."|
Of course, throughout your tuning session youíll want to keep an eye on your watch and not get too far away from the starting line. And be sure to leave some time for downwind tuning and boat-handling practice. Because of that, you'll want to make sure that all of this happens early enough so that your crew has a few moments to get set up for the race and catch their breath once youíre back at the line before the guns start going off.
Regardless of whether you conduct your tuning on a dedicated day or simply before a race gets going, you should attempt to make the best use of your time. Keep your eyes open to what is going on around you and the changes being made on each boat, and get in the habit of writing down everything you learn. Attention to detail is the cornerstone of two-boat tuning, and it will make you a faster, better sailor over time.
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