Join Date: May 2002
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Re: pointing, pinching, VMG
Barry, I'm a firm believer in steering with a very light touch. A sailboat with a well tuned rig will tell you how to steer it. If you're sailing closehauled and a little puff comes along, and the boat heels a little more, and you have to tug a bit more on the tiller to hold it's heading, that's the boat's way of telling you that it will be happier if you'll let it head up to windward 2-3 degrees. A happy boat sails faster and points higher. If you can let the boat come to windward 2-3 degrees while maintaining the same boat speed, your VMG will improve. If you don't let the boat head up 2-3 degrees in that situation, you'll have to hold it off the wind with the rudder, and that will cause drag and a loss of boat speed. When the puff subsides, you'll have to bear off the wind to keep your speed and VMG optimized.
I think your mainsail is slightly overtrimmed when it's trimmed to the centerline. When you let the boat come up to windward slightly, it takes a little pressure off the mainsail, reducing rudder drag slightly, so your boat pointed 2-3 degrees higher without losing boat speed, and that's why it produced an improved VMG.
My suggestion is, when you're closehauled, ease the mainsail off from the centerline until the luff just begins to lift, and then trim it in just a skosh. Then steer with a very light hand on the helm, and, when the boat tells you it wants to head to windward a bit in a puff, let it. That will maximize your boat speed, pointing and VMG, and reduce drag 100% of the time.