Tip of the Week – Sailing Downwind in Breeze

Sailing downwind in a breeze with the spinnaker up is fast fun and rewarding when we get it right. No matter what craft you sail, Opti to a maxi yacht the principles are the same.

Often teams can be hesitant in a big breeze  and this leads to wipeouts and crashes ,so if we stick to the key points our downwind rides will be amazing .

When Captain Cook discovered this great land, he had mastered downwind sailing, and this enabled him to discover the world. Most big regattas these days are won by the boats that are fast downwind, upwind generally most boats go the same speed, when we turn the top mark and put the big colored kites up this is when we make a move on our opponents and the great teams shine.

After we have the Spinnaker up the key points to great rides downwind are as follows.

Weight Aft

As Captain cook moved ballast around to keep the ship steady, we can move our crew members around to find best performance.

Moving the crew weight aft keeps the bow out of the waves in front and stops you from pushing to much water, the other benefit of getting the weight aft especially on planning boats is it places pressure over the top of the rudder keeping it in the water. Sometimes boats wipeout for no apparent reason downwind in a breeze this is often due to air going down the front edge of the rudder blade (Aeration)

Away in the Puffs

As the breeze increases it is critical to bear away as the gust hits ,bearing away keeps the boat flat and momentarily decreases power ,if the boat heels the boat becomes unbalanced and more rudder angle will be needed as the boat wants to turn up into the wind .Always have one crew member calling the pressure increase to the team .As the puff is called down this keeps trimmers and helmsperson ready to react as its hits .The conversation often sounds like this !  , pressure increase in 30 seconds ,puff in 15 , puff in 5 ,3,2,1 puff on .As the puff hits trimmers are easing the sheets just so the spinnaker has a slight curl at the luff  .To sail accurately and keep the boat tracking fast  coordination is key between trimmers and helms ,the ease at the same time as the slight bear away is always fast.

Often spinnakers are trimmed on as a puff hits, this closes the leech of an asymmetrical and symmetric spinnaker and slows the boat down. The key here is to have the luff of the spin curling so when the increase in breeze hits the leech of the spinnaker opens (Twists) and the boat speed will accelerate.

Next time you are out sailing over trim the spinnaker and watch the speed drop on your instruments.

Often the best practice for all these skills are developed in smaller boats, in the video attached we can see some great Fun Fast Downwind Rides from our RBYC Juniors

See you all on the water and remember if you need a hand give Adrian a call for all your coaching needs.