Boat handling for rounding the windward mark and offset mark - part 1.
This is the first of two articles on rounding the windward mark and offset
mark. In this article we will look at the boat handling skills a team needs
to practice and develop, in the second article we will look at tactics we
can use at these marks.
2008 class Championships in Eugene (and many other events all over the
country) are likely to feature a large fleet - 30 to 45 boats. Given the
fleet size there, is a good chance that the race committee will look to use
an offset mark to reduce congestion at the windward mark.
With that in mind take every opportunity for your team to practice rounding
a mark, sail on a reach for a short distance and then bear away and set the
Even if your team does not anticipate sailing with an offset mark this
season, the vast majority of the information below will still help your team
be smoother at the windward mark rounding.
Approaching the windward mark:
Hike hard coming in
to the mark so the boat is flat and fast!
When the bow person
sets the pole hike especially hard and if possible pull the pole topping
lift up from the hiking position
If it is a long sail
to the offset mark then delay setting the pole until you have rounded
the windward mark to minimize disruption particularly in heavy or very
light conditions - the caveat to this is if you can set the spinnaker
between the marks.
Ease the vang a
couple of inches (be sure to recelat it !) to help pre-set the mainsail
leech tension for downwind sailing and also to help the boat bear away
by opening the mainsail leech.
The Jib/ Genoa
trimmer really wants to focus on perfect trim of the sail and not be
distracted particularly important if sailing in dirty air from another
boat or getting lifted into the mark requiring the Genoa to be eased for
Top skippers keep
the boat going fast at all times keep the boat rolling and be sure not
to pinch too much, have the crew keep calling out waves and puffs all
the way into the mark so you can be anticipating the elements. This is a
chance to extend on boats behind you and catch boats ahead, boat length
by boat length.
Between the windward mark and the offset mark sail fast!!
As a coach I observe and video tape a lot of races
and one of the common threads is the gains and losses for teams when sailing
between the marks particularly in the extremes of conditions very light
or heavy air.
elements for sailing fast between the marks are:
Trimming the sails
well keep the Genoa tell tales flowing this does mean easing it and
when it is time to set the middle grabs the clew of the sail and holds
it inboard to facilitate the spinnaker going up smoothly.
Particularly when it
is breezy sailing the boat flat and not allowing excessive heel.
When it is light
minimizing movement and being smooth will maintain momentum and speed.
Determine how much
pre feed on the spinnaker foot you want if it is light then gently
feed the foot out so that it doesnt disrupt the Genoa, if it is breezy
then you may want to delay until the boat is around the offset mark and
flat and pointed downwind so that the foot of the sail does not get out
of control. In medium conditions you likely will be able to pre feed
most of the way but be careful of the sail touching the offset mark.
Take an opportunity
in light/ moderate conditions to ease the Cunningham all the way off and
the windward aft lower.
The bow person can
point to the offset mark to help the skipper gauge where it is as well
as the middle looking to leeward helping keep track of it.
Setting the spinnaker between the marks:
With the wind shifting to the right and your team getting lifted on
starboard tack going into the mark there may be an opportunity to set
between the marks, here is a check list for this:
Make sure you get a
good visual on where the offset mark is it is easy to lose sight of it
when setting the spinnaker!
If there is a boat
to leeward of you and slightly ahead of you (preventing you from bearing
away) - head high and then bear away and go behind them this will give
you the ability to set and get inside and be able to jibe at the offset
you dont want to be pinned outside them.
Be sure that the
leeward twing is all the way off and the windward twing all the way on.
Caution if the
twing line is too long it can scoop the offset mark have them long
enough but not too long!
Pull the guy back so
that the pole is about 6 to 9 inches off the forestay the guy will
stretch this much on a reach when the spinnaker fills.
Luff the spinnaker
if necessary to get the spinnaker halyard all the way to the top and
then sheet in.
If breezy delay
pulling the Genoa down to keep the weight on the high side until the
boat has flattened out. In this instance if you have the spinnaker and
Genoa up at the same time be sure to keep the Genoa sheet well eased to
allow the spinnaker to fly if it is slightly over trimmed the sails
forms a vacuum of stall and collapses the spinnaker.
When bearing off at
the offset mark ease the spinnaker sheet first and that will make
squaring the pole much faster and easier.
Extras extras, extras!
Put a mark on the
vang so you know how much to ease it to set the mainsail
Leech tension with
the top baton parallel to the boom once you are downwind.
Mark the topping
lift so that the pole is set to the correct height.
Mark the spinnaker
halyard so you know when it is fully hoisted.
Do a practice bear
away set and mark the spinnaker sheet & cleat it when the pole is
squared and the sail full. This pre set mark will allow you to focus on
pulling back the guy on the set and free a hand up with the spinnaker
the above is well worth practicing there are good gains to be had here for
your team and over the course of a series the points gained will add up. In
our next article we will examine some tactics your team can use at the
windward and offset mark.