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post #1 of 21 Old 09-09-2013 Thread Starter
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Teaching sailing

I did get my ASA teachers certificate but didn't get a chance to use it officially this summer.

I have been unofficially teaching a few people and have run into a problem.
I know their are several experienced instructors here so this is my question.

What do you do with someone who always seems confused as to which way to turn the wheel.

I have had three people this summer that all do the following.

1. Over steer instead of 10 to 20 degrees they go 50 degrees every time.
2. Can't decide which way to go to make the sails stop flopping.

I've tried the standard stuff:
  • The wind has to be coming from the side of the boat the boom isn't on.
  • Turn your head and feel the wind in both ears to have your nose point to the wind.
  • Turn the wheel away from the sail to head up
  • If the wind dies you may have fallen off the wind.
  • If heading upwind and the jib luffs fall off.
  • If heading downwind and the jib luffs head up.
  • Check the compass for course
  • Check something on land for a course.

It seems to help for couple of minutes then they get all confused again.

What is the secret to teaching this?

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post #2 of 21 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

For oversteering you might remind them that they aren't in a car and they have to give the boat time to catch up.

It's quite possible that they reached information overload and not much is going to help at that point.
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post #3 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

I'm not an instructor, but something that really sunk home for my cousin when he was aboard for his first time was for me to lock the wheel then walk away. I kept us on course by reaching back and nudging the wheel. We'd wait 30-60 seconds (or more) for the boat to overcorrect from the nudge, then bump it in the other direction. That seemed to really help him understand that small changes would be fine most of the time.

I actually ran into the same problem with my dad this weekend, too. What worked better with him was to have him make a small correction, then count to 10 before doing anything else.
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post #4 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

I know nothing about the ASA system, but I've found the easiest way to keep people from over steering is to have them keep their hand on the same place on the wheel. This should only enable them a limited range of motion on the wheel thereby lessening the over steering problem. If they still have difficulty I'll have them place their hand on mine (keeping my hand on one place on the wheel) while I'm steering so they can get a feel for how it should be done, yet being able to see and feel what happens as I steer, without their having to concentrate on actually doing the turning.
As for steering with the wind, perhaps setting a compass course for a particular wind and getting the feel of that, without having to split their concentration between the helm and the sails would be less confusing for them. Every time they get off course, when they turn back toward the compass course, they can feel the boat begin to move again as they get close to the sail set and not have to worry, at the beginning, which way to turn, while searching for an indicator. As they get the feel of what they are doing, then they can begin to set their visual cues farther afield.
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Last edited by capta; 09-10-2013 at 12:32 AM.
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post #5 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

David, ...I've found that students have more difficulty adapting to which direction to move a tiller than a wheel. With the wheel you just steer where you want to go. For oversteering it often depends on the course and the conditions.

For close hauled, I explain that the boat ( most) will want to head-up into the wind and stall itself. So, get close hauled and have them let go of the wheel and then let the boat head up into irons to demonstrate. Then explain that the boat takes a little time to respond to a course change, so they just need to make small changes. Light air, always makes it harder to get them to feel the boat.

I also try to find something they can relate to. Don't laugh..but often I compare it to walking a dog, that wants to pull on the leash and sniff every tree. But if you just nudge it a little it will come back, then relax ..don't choke the dog. ;-) (oversteer) It's a feel thing. Let them feel the boat, it will slow if pinching and, if they fall off too much. If they ride horses, same thinking... eventually they'll feel where the sweet spot is, understand that the boat wants to stall itself, and we just want to nudge it a little to keep it from doing so.

And of course, as boat speed increases it moves the apparent wind forward..so they need to sail the wind....I don't typicaly don't follow compass courses in a basic sailing class..

For other points of sail. If you have tell tales on the shrouds I find that helps them a little

Close hauled - tell tale points toward the leech of the mainsail
Close reach - center of the main
Beam reach - tell tale points to the mast
Broad reach - tell tale points to the jib/genoa etc.

Beginners are not typically ready to understand all the fine points of sail trim until they get the basics. ( like where is the wind coming from !! ) So they're not comfortable steering and looking to see what the genoa tell tales are doing at the same time . Looking up at the masthead is also distracting. Once they get the shroud tell tales..which are in their line of sight, you can slowly work in the other finer points.

They have to be allowed to make mistakes..and try to find the wind again. If an instructor is constantly grabbing the wheel or the tiller they'll never "feel" boat.

There's no secrets...some will spend all day just trying to figure out where the wind is coming from..( and it hasn't changed) Others will get it right away .. and most are somewhere in between.

Each student learns in a different way. The key is finding out what they can relate to..and how they learn.

I'll probably get in trouble for this, but women seem to be more intuitive, they feel the boat..and focus better... Men seem to want to know right away .what all the parts are, how everything works....( mechanically and theoretically.) but everyone is different. Teach the student, not the material.
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Last edited by tempest; 09-10-2013 at 02:08 AM.
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post #6 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

What's worked for me is to move the wheel with the target, either the compass or a landmark. If you want to go about 90 from where you are, turn the wheel about 90 and as you see that landmark or compass point come around turn the wheel to follow it so that you're steering less and less and by the time your mark comes around you've already centered the wheel. I'm sure there are more efficient ways to steer, but this is an easy to teach method that's worked for me.
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post #7 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

' "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" [Miller] is one of the foundation papers in cognitive psychology (and, incidentally, the specific reason that U.S. local telephone numbers have seven digits). It showed that the number of discrete items of information human beings can hold in short-term memory is seven, plus or minus two.'
---Eric S. Raymond,
The Art of Unix Programming

Information overload is probably a good part of the problem facing your students. It's not just making the boat go where you want. They are experiencing a plethora of new sensations, most of them unfamiliar. Wind, waves, sails and the boat are all making noises, any one of which might signal trouble in your students' minds. The boat is wiggling around in three dimensions, possibly making them *really* regret the huevos rancheros and home fries they had for breakfast. They are *outside*, exposed to new, distracting sights, and new, unseen dangers. They worry about making mistakes and being laughed at. They worry about their responsibility for the safety of the crew and the ship.

Have you looked at the sailing simulators on the web? Could they help your students?
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post #8 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

For oversteering.....I learned to look far into the distance for my reference point....not the compass or bow....thanks Dad!!!
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Re: Teaching sailing

I'm not "certified", but I have taught a few people the basics of sailing.

I admit that I've never really seen "steering dyslexia" on wheels, usually that's reserved for tiller folk. Oversteering...yeah, lots of that.

For jib trim: "Give cloth to the telltale that is misbehaving."
Meaning, If the inner telltale is lifting, trim in. If the outer telltale is lifting, ease out.

Oversteering: First of all, you should mark the wheel at 3 points, with tape or colored shot line. Mark the rudder amidships point, then 45 degrees port and 45 degrees starboard. This helps identify when you're dragging the rudder like a brake. Also explain the concept of "meeting" the boat.
Meaning, after tacking, only turn the wheel back enough to stop the swing of the boat. Use the Windex tabs to determine the proper amount of course change for a tack. Keep the Windex tail on the red tabs. It only takes a glance up. A wheel really robs the helm's feeling, which only makes teaching more difficult. A tiller is easier, then step up to a wheel.

Steering a course:
For newbie daysailing, I recommend against using the compass (at first). Newbies get spellbound, chasing the compass card and tend to lose situational awareness of what's happening outside of the boat. Tell them to use a reference point on land to drive a course. "Drive towards that radio antenna" or "keep that crab pot just to port of the bow, and drive towards it".

Some students don't understand the "side of the boat that the boom isn't on" to determine their tack. Instead, tell them "The side of the boat that the wind is striking".

If the wind is hitting the starboard side of the boat, then you're on starboard tack. (The boom will be on the port side). This can be less confusing than explaining the contradictory method of the boom being on the opposite side.

Are you teaching people on their own boat, or on your personal boat, or on a school-owned boat?
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post #10 of 21 Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Teaching sailing

Being an engineer by training, I suffer from a propensity to teach something simple in the most complex way. For example, I tried to teach someone to drive a standard by explaining how the clutch and gear synchronizers in the transmission work.

What a dummy I am.

You gotta keep it simple. Put tell tails on the jib. Sit the driver someplace where he/she can see em. Demonstrate pointing too high and what happens, pointing too low and what happens to the tell tails. Give the driver the wheel or tiller and tell them to keep the tell tails straight back. Then let them mess up for a while till they get it, without saying too much.

Whatever you do, don't give a lecture on Bernoulli fluid dynamics, laminar flow, the details of sail shape, how to adjust the vang, when to tighten the Cunningham, mast bend, rudder stall, etc...

Save that for day 2
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