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Feb 22, 2018

Sailing in heavy airIf sailing in strong breeze isn’t your strong suit, you are not alone.

When I was about ten years old I starting racing sailboats on Cape Cod and the sound of the wind whistling overnight through the pine trees outside my bedroom would make it hard to sleep. Even the next morning I’d have a knot in my stomach when I woke.

Forty years later, I still get the knot in my stomach with just the thought of sailing in heavy air but luckily, I’ve learned more about the technique and in turn, have become more confident when it comes to heavy air sailing. If sailing in a strong breeze intimidates you, you are not alone, but you can learn to get better at it and actually start to dominate in the breeze. Here are some tips to help shake your nerves and get you confident for that next heavy air event.

Wear a Lifejacket

Seems pretty basic, but there was a day when wearing a lifejacket was not as prevalent as it is now. As soon as the breeze comes up, put one on yourself and make it mandatory that your crew do the same. It will give you more confidence to be more aggressive in moving around on deck and when trimming/pumping your sails. And it’s the right thing to do.

Know your Settings

Once you are out on the water and it starts blowing, there is no time to be figuring out how many turns to go up on the rig. Be sure to pre-measure your rig tension and know how many turns it takes to get to your heavy air settings for each wind speed.

YandySetup your Boat so it’s Easy

In all boats, flat is fast in breeze. It’s also important to keep the boat on an even angle of heel. If the boat is constantly heeling over you tend to use more rudder which creates drag, which will eventually cause the boat to stall out head to wind.

Concepts to keep in mind:

Have fun. Sailing in heavy air is exhilarating. Enjoy the process of getting better each time you go out in a breeze!

 Chris Snow - Chris Snow, North Sails One Design Expert, San Diego, California

Chris Snow is a career sailmaker with experience in every aspect of the business. Most recently he has been involved with the management of North Sails One Design. He has a long record of small racing success in a diverse...