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Ok, not for every sailor.



On a glassy, smooth Penobscot Bay last season, we could easily hear the distant Sabre 38 approaching under power. So still was our air on the water, the banter between the two sailors was as clear as a bell.

“I don’t think their motor is on",Sabre sailor 1 said. “ But, but, their sails are filled”, Sabre 2's retort. “No way!!” Sabre 1 ended the converstation as they powered off.

Yes, 'way'! And I was nearly as surprised as they were. We’d motored through a race that was postboned for lack of wind. Encouraged to experiment with our new main, I raised and set sails-then set the boats heading to take advantage of the NOAA forecast:"Today- 0 to 5 knot SW". I took a shot in the dark.

After a looong engine assisted coast, we,…were...sailing. NOAA was right! There was wind moving, between 0 and 5 knots, but you could hardly sense it.

The Sabre is a faster boat, but light air sailing isn’t about the boat. Any reasonably designed sailboat, with a clean bottom, decent sails, that is not overly burdened with extra weight, can sail in light air. Sailing a boat in light air is up to the people onboard. Boats have been doing it forever(there was no option for centuries).



And there's all kinds light air sails and other science to consider, but I'm talking about regular boats, regular sails; they will sail in light air.

Sometimes, to get your boat sailing in light air-like the opening scenario, just takes trying. I do love the whole quiet experience of light air sailing. It's a process of discovery. Propulsion, if only 2 knots, under nearly no visible means can be quite satisfying.

‘Light-light air’ for me these days is between 0 and 5 knots of breeze. At 5 knots(light air), I can usually sail our boat, at 0 knots(light-light-light, air), I can’t...sail.

It's the stuff in between that makes it fun. Or rather, it's having the time to go no where, that makes sailing slowly, fun. We set aside time to sail in light air. Instead of "miles to cover", I think "hours to sail'.



Yeah, that's not going to work if you're enroute to a destination, or you have to get home. That's why I use my motor often. Light wind - wrong wind- dead batteries, I never feel embarrassed to be under power. You have to make the time and have the desire, to sail in light air.

Another thing that helps is flat-flat water. Early morning in a protected bay or backwater is perfect on the coast of Maine. Being able to see, feel, sense the lightest air on a stable boat, you're more able to try to attach a wisp of breeze to your sails. Your boats gentle way is one of your light air senses. It tells all.

One last trick I've learned; patience. Light-light air, is fickle. There one minute -- gone the next. Don't start the engine, yet. Take a breather, you've got time. The calm and quiet can be a real surprise. And then the lull ends(they all end), and you're off again.

One more tip; Everybody has to be 'all in', to sail in light air. If not, start your engine. :)



So, light-light air sailors, have any tips or tricks(art or science) to sail light - to sail more?
 

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Some of the long distance light air passages have been the best. Mexico to Galapagos 10 knots or less, 14 days of bliss. Palawan in the Philippines to Pulau Tioman in Malaysia, 10 knots or less, 10 days of heaven, days and days of outrageously pleasant sailing. I'll take a light wind passage any day.
 

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So, light-light air sailors, have any tips or tricks(art or science) to sail light - to sail more?
Great stuff as usual, Tom...

But for me, sailing in very light air means going beyond the use of white sails... Except for sailing DDW wing and wing, my spinnaker or Code 0 are what makes sailing in light air work for me, amazing the difference they can make on a boat like mine...

As you say, patience (and having the TIME to be patient) is the key... Obviously, many folks out there seem to lack one or the other...

:))





It is rather striking, how many of my most memorable and rewarding passages ever have been in light air... Perhaps tops on my personal list, was crossing the Cabot Strait under a Code 0, and ghosting into the Squid Hole, my first-ever anchorage in Newfoundland...


 

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Captain Obvious
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The only tip I have is that in light air you better know what the tide is doing. I've had the wind and tide going the same direction at almost the same speed. That can be frustrating, you turn down wind and ..sailing becomes.....drifting.
 

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Shape to the sails, and a very light hand on the tiller/rudder.
A lighter set of sheets for the Genoa if you have them
 

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Corsair 24
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light sheets and attachments make a difference...

that and enjoying the moment

depending on boat a light air trick is to get the sails full by shifting weight to leeward

loosey goosey too

cheers
 

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Agree with John. Nothing like a code zero. I think someone else said get light weight sheets. Definitely. We've got a code zero that the sail maker told me to furl above 12 apparent, if I didn't want ribbons. The other side of this is that the sail material is so light it can fly when there's hardly a ripple.

Another trick is, the closer hauled you are, the more apparent you are generating....if you're just out to sail, who care's what direction you are going, make the sails work! Listen to the silence.

On Vineyard Sound this doesn't work as well as say Penobscot Bay because of wave action caused by small power boats. But early or late in the season when all the sea ray drivers head back to NY, it can be terrific. Sometimes we commit to not using the engine at all in theses conditions. Ghosting up to moorings and sailing close to shore to see, hear, and smell what's going on. But more often than not, a calm morning in Maine, with wisps of fog burning off, and barely a breeze, and just the sound of gurgling water as you ghost...

Great Thread...you brought me tack to summer:)
 

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I agree about the "all-in" comment.

You need to keep the crew movement to a minimum, and very cat-footed when they do move. When people get impatient and go stomping up and down the companionway for beer, and head breaks repeatedly, it just kills your boat speed.
 

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Oh yeah reminds me of these videos I took years ago.
I apologize for the heavy breathing sounds due to using a smartphone (microphone facing me) after having recovered from an asthma attack (it was a bad allergy season).

How bad is it when the camera picks up the drone of the outboard from 1/2 mile away?

These were both on my Capri 22.
 

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Hey,

If you are SERIOUS about light are sailing you definitely need a spinnaker and LIGHT weight sheets.

This summer I sailed in the Around Long Island Regatta. Lots of air at the beginning and end of the race (like WAY too much at the end, but that's another story). A few periods of no wind in the middle. At one point we were becalmed off my home port. We sat there for an hour with the chute collapsed, wind meter showing 0.0 kts wind, etc. Eventually we got little puffs. The boat owner took the standard sheets off the sprnnaker and tied on the light weight sheets, which were little more than strings. We were able to sail in 1-2kts of wind. Not quickly, but enough to have steerage and get the boat moving. When we had consistent wind of 5kts we put the regular sheets back on.

On my boat (no spinnaker) if the wind is less than 2 kts and I want to sail, I will roll up the headsail and just drift until I get more wind. My boat does great in light air, but under 2 I just can't go.

Barry
 

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no if you are serious about light air sailing you should probably ditch every single cruising accessory you own, and probably want to go to an ULDB...

Couldn't hurt to go on a starvation diet, ditch the extra crew, and change all your sails over to mylar, get a massive spin, and go into scout mode for puffs of wind across the water.
 

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no if you are serious about light air sailing you should probably ditch every single cruising accessory you own, and probably want to go to an ULDB...

Couldn't hurt to go on a starvation diet, ditch the extra crew, and change all your sails over to mylar, get a massive spin, and go into scout mode for puffs of wind across the water.
That depends on the boat. If the boat is a light-weight racer, then I'd reduce her weight to a minimum. If it's a heavy, full-keel boat, then I'd take on extra crew weight to use for movable ballast. On a heavy boat, it's important to be able to induce her to heel to leeward. Excess weight on a ULDB can prevent her from getting on a plane, but, what's a few hundred extra pounds to a heavy, full keel boat? She'll never plane in light air in any event. What matters to her is that you get her to heel, so that gravity causes her sails to hang smoothly to leeward in that aerodynamic shape that drives the boat, instead of like a limp sheet hanging on a clothes line. It takes more movable ballast to induce a heavy, full-keel boat to heel, especially if she has a narrow beam. Light air techniques should be tailored to the type of boat.
 

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Here in western Long Island Sound in summer sure can get "quiet" at times.
so out comes...
large wire luff (think is 1.5 oz) Genoa
lightweight sheets
whisker pole
bottom is cleaned every 2 weeks
with Flex o Fold folding prop, lot of patience
and some movable ballast find ourselves
sailing when others are motoring back to marina.
Don't really know min wind speed but thinking as little as 2-3 knots.
With no rudder movement if possible.
Problem arises with wave action caused by power boaters and barges/tugs entering/leaving
East River as LI Sound is most narrow here, 1-2 miles wide.
 

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If you want to sail the Windward and Leeward Islands, you'd better be proficient at light air sailing. Fluky, light air sailing, with the occasional near gale force wind funneling down the deep valleys. That's sailing the lees of the West Indies. Most don't bother, but the satisfaction of sailing, actually sailing, from Portsmouth to Roseau, Dominica or Rodney Bay to the Deux Pitons, St Lucia to name just two, is grand.
 
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When above a beam reach, get all the weight to the leeward rail to heel the boat, then slowly 'pump' the mainsail ... slow out, moderately fast in to the centerline. Do this 'fanning' a few times in quick succession until you build up your apparent wind through increased boat speed and then sail-on in the artificially increased apparent wind. Sail in the strongest apparent wind direction.
Dont 'pump' more than once per tack in a race or you'll get an instant DSQ.

Flatish set to the sails with minmum for the 0-5kt range - so you dont have separation stalls on the leesides of the sails as you watch your tell tales.
 

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It isn't 'Light air' sailing down here until there's not even enough wind to fill your lightest spinnaker...

http://www.sailnet.com/forums/racing/154458-flat-calm.html

...but the old gaffers love it, because there's usually enough wind around 40 feet up to fill their topsails. Grrr!!

One memorable 90-minute race saw us parked at the top mark in the center of the rest of the fleet, whilst a certain 1905 gentlemen's racer who started half an hour late (they were doing a photo shoot) sailed right around the outside of us and went on to win the race by 10 minutes!!!

Yes, patience is a virtue.. and not all of us have it.
 
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