SailNet Community banner
1 - 20 of 98 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
173 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here is a thought.

We have all seen and been on many boats and I would say of all the ones we have seen most don't know how to set their sails for the conditions.

I also include myself in this.

A sweeping statement I know but I am trying to be realistic.

OK there never is just one way to set sails. There are so many different ways to set sails which will get you somewhere but actually setting them properly for maximum efficiency is an art that is often beyond me.

As a cruiser I am in general a pretty lazy sailor and tend to set the sails as best I can and tweak them occasionally.

I have learnt a lot from racers who seem to be the best at setting them but there are so many combinations of things you can do and most sailors do not even contemplate some of them.

It is just not a case of trying to get the tell tails flowing out but main sheets, travellers, Cunningham, reefs, balancing sails, back stay tightness or slackness, setting the cars and several other things.

It is said that a boat will also sail better on one tack than the other depending on what hemisphere it is in (something weird from the back of my mind).

So we do our best to set the sails but more often than not they could be more efficient but knowing how to make them is an art form many including myself never fully learn or understand.
 

·
Mermaid Hunter
Joined
·
5,689 Posts
Go racing. Pick a boat to crew on that places well with a skipper who doesn't yell.

North U has some good sail trim books and courses.

Dave Flynn of Quantum Sails has a very good seminar on sail trim for cruisers.

Go sailing. Try to apply what you learn.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,433 Posts
Depends..controversial on the CF side. We had a racer type on board one time..just about tore up our sails... Cruisers tend to be more conservative in order to extend the life of equipment...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,833 Posts
Depends..controversial on the CF side. We had a racer type on board one time..just about tore up our sails... Cruisers tend to be more conservative in order to extend the life of equipment...
Funniest thing I ever heard a racer say, after we had been sailing for two days, and he had been tweaking the sails every thirty seconds of the trip, was when we found a little cove and I asked him to go drop the anchor, and he asked me "How do you do that?"

I said, "X, How many years have you been sailing (he is almost 60). He said, "About 50 years, but it's all been on race boats. I've never actually been on one when we had to anchor. When we race, we sail all night, and when the race is over, we pull into a marina and go home, or get hotel rooms." :D

He had to explain that one, to the rest of us, over and over again the next few days on the boat. We still laugh about it. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,456 Posts
Of course, there are always extremes. You can always find the ex-racer who is never satisfied and has to tweak the sails every 20-30 seconds. On the other side, you can find the cruisers who almost seem proud of the fact that they know almost nothing about sail trim and will insist that they can enjoy sailing more that way.

Here's how I look at it. I used to race sailboats. I sailed in small dinghies and Hobie Cats. I learned how to set a spinnaker, how to gybe in serious winds, and how to trim a sail to get the very most out of it. Nowadays I almost never get involved in races. I'm not the sort who feels like he has to try to race every other sailboat that comes along, and maybe wants to pass me. Let them pass, I say. I set my sails and generally leave them alone unless there is a serious change in wind. I've gone a whole day on one tack, without touching the sheets.

But the knowledge I gained from sailing small boats and racing, I consider invaluable. I don't HAVE to use it to tweak my sails every 30 seconds, but I could if I wanted to. When the wind dies down and most of the other "sailors" turn into motor-boaters, I know how to set the sails so that I can keep on sailing... if I want to. Or maybe I'll just turn on the motor too. I have the option. I can choose, whereas those who don't know how to trim a sail have no choice.

I like having the choice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,557 Posts
I became much better at trimming sails once I started racing. Different priorities than cruising but I still like to get the most out of my boat so I will usually do some tweaking when needed. I enjoy this and it is what makes sailing fun for me and my wife.
 

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
9,188 Posts
For us I don't think it's as much about knowledge as it is comfort and gear conservation. When beating between islands with winds 20 to 30 knots and seas 7 to 12 feet, I don't see any reason to strap her in and bash our brains out. The 10 degrees we loose by easing off is probably made up for by a better angle on the seas, keeping the boat moving at a more consistent pace.
In the lees and beating up into a bay in flat water, we will put a lot more attention into efficiency, but still Cunningham, balancing sails, back stay tightness or slackness, setting the cars and several other things, wouldn't make a great deal of difference in the last mile and a half of a 40 to 60 mile sail.
We reef early, preferring to keep her on her lines, rather than rolling her over on her topsides, something I seriously doubt is actually is profitable for VMG on something longer than a leeward to windward mark race course.
During the 8 months we sailed without an autopilot, we learned a great deal about sailing this boat, but she is not a racer for us (the previous owner did race her) and unless her very survival depends on maximum efficiency under sail, we will not push her or over tax her for fun or bragging rights. I haven't even seen the genoa in over three years and the days the full main has been up, in the same period, can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, but we still manage to keep our daily average above 6.5 knots and this includes sailing the lees of the islands.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
712 Posts
Provocative at best. What's realistic about telling the sailing community most of them don't know how to set sails for given conditions? According to who? Who cares? If racer X can sail with full canvas in a 30kt blow, and I can't (or won't) is someone going to look at us and say one is correct, the other is not. I've seen more than a couple of your posts have this provocative line of open questioning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
173 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Provocative at best. What's realistic about telling the sailing community most of them don't know how to set sails for given conditions? According to who? Who cares? If racer X can sail with full canvas in a 30kt blow, and I can't (or won't) is someone going to look at us and say one is correct, the other is not. I've seen more than a couple of your posts have this provocative line of open questioning.
Dave,
It is provocative.. I agree and also judging by the boats we see with the sails up it is also probably true.
I try to be honest to myself in my questions but also try to put them in a way that arouses discussion and interaction. By doing that I actually learn something rather than put something up because I know the answer and want to prove to others I know the answer.
Although I have done some racing with others I personally have never been a racer and have never spent enough time with one to really know how to set the sails properly in different conditions.
I know the basics but it is the finer points I am missing.
We do cruise so I too don't spend all my time trying to trim the sails but I still do get the red mist with boats going in the same direction and I am often trying to work out why they are going faster when they come past me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
60 Posts
Actually, I am convinced that proper setting of sails is mostly magic. It is only done right after you have collected the appropriate talismans and learned the correct incantations! Also the incantations must be done using the correct intonations. This takes a lifetime of sailing unless you can find a sailing Guru.:D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,566 Posts
I have seen racers who tensioned their sails more than I thought was necessary, but not often. Modern winches and winch handles can put alot of tension on a sail, but the wind can put a whole lot more of a load on a sail than you could ever hope to put on it with a winch and winch handle. In strong winds, the wind will put enormous pressure on a sail that is overly full in shape. Adding enough tension to shape it properly will actually reduce the load on the sail by reducing the wind pressure on it. In addition, when the sail is properly flattened, the boat will be able to point a little higher, and accordingly, the helmsman can steer a little closer to the wind. Feathering to windward also reduces the wind pressure on the sails. Thus, by easing the various tensioners and bearing off slightly in strong winds you are actually increasing the wind load on your sails.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
684 Posts
Here is a thought.

We have all seen and been on many boats and I would say of all the ones we have seen most don't know how to set their sails for the conditions.
So what? If they're happy with it and it gets them where they want to go, that's all that is needed. For many, sailing is about relaxation from normal day stresses....you know, rules, regulations, laws, standard procedures, etc. So why become obsessive about doing it just right...ok on your own boat if you want to play it that way, but fretting about how the other guy does it on his boat?

Then, who is to be the judge of proper set of sails?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,647 Posts
I'll agree with those who recommend racing. The OP asked if we really know how to "sail" the boat. Not cruise, anchor, drink, or fix a hull. Actually sail. Anecdotally, I am a lifetime sailor who raced in college, offshore between seasons, and after graduating, followed by 25 years "cruising". I found that my actual "sailing" skill had atrophied and some knowledge was quite dated. So I started casually racing again in 2008. I brought in a bunch of go-fast guys and they proceeded to tell me everything that I was doing wrong (e.g., making holes in the water while tacking, etc, etc). But I listened. I gained more knowledge in these last 6 years than the previous 20. Three years ago, I brought in a friend that is a great seaman and live aboard cruiser. When one race was over, he commented that he'd learned a bunch of new things.

Racing really does improve skill if one is willing to listen and get out of the way of their ego. You don't have to get crazy about it and abandon all the things that we love about cruising.
 

·
Tundra Down
Joined
·
1,290 Posts
The word sailors, needs to be in quotes.

We meet new friends and / or reconnect with old ones (I am working on the plans for my 50th hs reunion) and the topic of sailing often comes up. It isn't unusual for folks to claim they are "sailors". Sometimes it is true. More often than not it means they have been passengers on someone's sailboat. Making plans to invite someone to come along on a sail requires a bit of scrutiny.

Jibe Ho!

Down
 

·
Registered
Corsair 24
Joined
·
4,594 Posts
Ill just add that dinghy sailing can be as useful if not MORE useful than racing for those wanting to perfect their SAILING skills...

stuff like pointing into the wind, hovering, backing a boat by sail, heaving to...sculling, sailing with one sail, dumping wind, tacking efficiently, correct rudder movement...weight placement, quick reefing or how to deal with overcanvassed rig etc...etc..etc...

its very noticeable in cruising boats(to me at least) and those that use them whether they have dinghy sailing experience or not...

1. Id venture to guess and this is a rough guess on my behalf from the people I have cruised with and met around the globe that maybe maybe only 20-25% of cruisers have actually set foot on a sailing dinghy.

2. around half have never raced any sailboat.

3. around 50% have a real fear of boat handling under sail in tight or small areas...they really have a paranoia of being left without an engine under most routine circumstances...despite them being on a SAILBOAT.

lastly as both a racer and a cruiser I can switch that light on an off as I please...

while I prefer to cruise, adjust sails a few times and tweak things a few times, I do NOT let that get to me for example on any passage more than 1 day in length...

meaning I prefer to simplify while cruising and while racing I can switch the obnoxious, ocd nature that racing sailors have...the constant fidgeting and adhd symptoms a lot of racers exhibit is simply the nature of racing, especially dinghy racing...

anywhoo I think on other threads I have pointed out that dinghy sailing as well as racing and small boat handling will always make the average cruiser on a 30-50ft boat a MUCH BETTER sailior OVERALL.

the more you learn and do the better...

peace
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nostrodamus

·
Registered
Joined
·
652 Posts
Here is a thought.

We have all seen and been on many boats and I would say of all the ones we have seen most don't know how to set their sails for the conditions.

I also include myself in this.

A sweeping statement I know but I am trying to be realistic.

OK there never is just one way to set sails. There are so many different ways to set sails which will get you somewhere but actually setting them properly for maximum efficiency is an art that is often beyond me.

As a cruiser I am in general a pretty lazy sailor and tend to set the sails as best I can and tweak them occasionally.

I have learnt a lot from racers who seem to be the best at setting them but there are so many combinations of things you can do and most sailors do not even contemplate some of them.

It is just not a case of trying to get the tell tails flowing out but main sheets, travellers, Cunningham, reefs, balancing sails, back stay tightness or slackness, setting the cars and several other things.

It is said that a boat will also sail better on one tack than the other depending on what hemisphere it is in (something weird from the back of my mind).

So we do our best to set the sails but more often than not they could be more efficient but knowing how to make them is an art form many including myself never fully learn or understand.
If your on the boat with the sails up and going somewhere, they know how to sail. I would say a good 99.8% of sailors know how to sail. How many swimmers know how to swim?
 

·
no longer reading SailNet
Joined
·
2,309 Posts
Cruisers tend to be more conservative in order to extend the life of equipment...
I've watched a lot of cruisers who leave their sails over-eased and flogging (presumably to avoid overtensioning something). This is both slow and harder on the sails then using them properly.

I think the activities which have taught me the most about sail trim are light air racing and doing everything possible to keep our boat moving (while everyone around us drifts) while enjoying a beer on a zero wind summer day. As a result of those activities I'm pretty good at very light air sailing.

I've got more to learn when it comes to heavy air sailing. One thing that I've learned by racing in heavy air is how "blown out" most of the sails that I've used on cruising boats are. The more advanced than dacron sails used on racing boats allow you to get the sail a whole lot flatter when you need to.

2 of the 3 racing boats that I've sailed on are run on a tiny little budget. One of them is consistently getting top 10 results in the Seattle area. I think it's incorrect to assume that all racing boats are owned and run by folks with deep pockets.
 

·
Registered
Corsair 24
Joined
·
4,594 Posts
I remember back in my old club that one of the best racers had the oldest, ugliest lightest boat of them all...

but his trimming, and sails were impeccable...his focus was on that and not the rest...and he alwayys did pretty damn good if not win most of the time...

back in san francisco you could always tell the real racer from the flashy know it all impecable looking boat pretty easily...

and there were plenty in between these 2 extremes.

I think club racing and beer can racing is a great way for any sailor or cruiser for that matter to explore the tuning and tweaking aspect of sailing on a mild scenario...

hardcore racing can put many people off myself included...I really hate the life or death attitude a lot of the "hardcore" racers had in some clubs...

I also know some of these racers act like that while crusing the oceans...a lot CANNOT turn off that switch

and it destroys the pleasures of cruising

when you are arguing right of way and what tack and what rule someone broke on some beatiful anchorage in paradise you are not doing your cruising boat justice...jajaja
 
1 - 20 of 98 Posts
Top