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That Drunk Guy
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I had a dream last night that I hanked a jib onto my backstay, ran the sheets forward, and sailed downwind backwards. Why would I do that? Is that even possible? :confused: I wonder if it's been tried.... (I realize that there would be no purpose other than to freak everyone out who was sailing around you). Someone should try it and get back to me.
 

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you improv'd a "backstaysail" and I suppose you could use it to sail backward. But I've heard it puts an undue strain on the rudder (and the helm). I can see doing in short-term if you overshot a crew-or whatever-overboard, and just needed to back down a little.

Actually sailing backward is on some check-off sheets for basic keelboat. But to me it's strictly a light-air lark, someone's got to hold that boom out and without a preventer that means light air only, or a hugely strong person. And your pivot point is right back over the rudder it seems, so "handling" is squirrelly

Plus, it gets tricky as to what tack you are on and who has right of way. Does the stern become the bow?? ;-)

But these boats were designed to sail forward, not backward
 

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When we were racing our one-design 24 footer we routinely sailed backwards before each race to ensure that we hadn't trapped anything on the keel. Simply go into irons with main only, crew pushes boom out to weather and the boat starts going in reverse. We ended up going pretty well backwards which often confused those trying to decide who was on starboard!! :eek:

One feature of this boat that helped is that we were able to spin the rudder through 360 degrees, so we flipped the rudder backwards for this move - avoided the 'heavy load unbalance' that plagues so many rudders going backwards fast.

One time we docked this way.. got the boat going backwards at 90 degrees to the lay of the dock, just before the reverse turn into the finger we doused the main and drifted backwards into the slip.. a quick scull with the rudder turned back around stopped us nicely... smiles all around! ;)
 
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Picture a three masted schooner with all her sails filled perfectly, sailing past Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor, backwards! If it wasn't for the current pushing the vessel backwards, the sails would be hanging lifelessly in the rig. Ah, how one works so hard to give the tourists a great 2 hour sail on a windless day.
 

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There was vid posted here, some time back, of a fella that docked by sailing backward into their slip. I threw out a youtube search on 'sailing backward' and got so many hits, I didn't bother watching them to see which it was. However, if you're inclined, you can apparently go watch a few.
 

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Before I had an engine in Thane sailing often entailed rounding up off fisherman's wharf , dropping everything but the mizzen (250 sq ft) and backing down between the slips . Only in a light north wind mind you.
 

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When tacking, my catamaran always sails backwards just a bit using jib, until the main catches wind from the other side. Pretty much the only way to tack with a cat.
 

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Yes, but my new Swan wont be ready for 10 months.:(
Oh lord won't you buy me a 40 foot Swan,
My friends all have Irwins and I haven't one.
I've worked, so hard, my whole life long,
oh lord won't you buy me a 40 foot Swan.
Sung to the tune of Me & Bobby McGee, on a dark and stormy night, somewhere in the SoPac, but not on a Swan.
 
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In his official report, Capt. Stewart described the battle's beginnings, at 6:05 p.m., "…commenced action by broadsides, both ships returning fire with great spirit for about 12 minutes, then the fire of the enemy beginning to slacken, and the great column of smoke collected under our lee, induced us to cease our fire to ascertain their positions and conditions."

When the heavy gunpowder smoke that enclosed the three vessels cleared, USS CONSTITUTION was sailing parallel to HMS LEVANT, and delivered a broadside that prompted HMS LEVANT to disengage for repairs. At about that time, Capt. Stewart noticed HMS CYANE coming up on USS CONSTITUTION's stern. To avoid being raked, Captain Stewart ordered his men on the masts and the yards to "back sails," or sail the ship backward into a position where he delivered a crippling broadside to HMS CYANE. Capt. Falcon attempted to disengage, but after being raked again, had little choice but to strike HMS CYANE's colors at 6:45 p.m.
USS CONSTITUTION - America's Ship of State
 

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When tacking, my catamaran always sails backwards just a bit using jib, until the main catches wind from the other side. Pretty much the only way to tack with a cat.
Try to make a U-turn when tacking instead of throwing the helm hard over. You can sail through the tack. Once through the eye of the wind, be sure to release the main (it will vane you back up head to wind), head down just a bit, sheet in the jib first, then head up as you bring the main back in.
 

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Sailing backward can very occasionally be useful, but keeping the rudder centered is tricky; it can get away from you very fast as the leverage is working against you, and if the rudder gets slammed too hard against a stop or against the hull, that might not be a Good Thing.
If you get in irons, backing, then going off to one or another side as you back, then catching some air, trimming, and going forward is one classic means of getting out of irons.
In racing, backing or braking can sometimes be useful to keep a boat from going over a starting line prematurely, but the caveat is that a backing boat loses all right of way to other boats.
And then there are proas....
 

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Backing a sailboat under motor during light or no air in order to dry out a spinnaker can produce all sorts of entertainment and confusion for others on the water... but maybe isn't the best thing to do among a bunch of intoxicated speedboaters and jetskiers.
 

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When the Navy base in Long beach CA. was active; they had several catalinas that you had to sail backwards to depart from that boat's slip. Interesting technque in doing so. But it worked every time as long as you had wind.
"Wind", a minor detail needed in order to sail. ;)
 
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