Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mastering the Spinnaker: Part I

Whether you are new to Club 420 sailing or you have enjoyed the boats for a few years, learning to sail with a spinnaker is an art form that you can always improve on.  Sailing with a spinnaker adds new dimensions to sailing downwind that you don’t typically see in singlehanded dinghy sailing.  There are a lot of little adjustments that many sailors miss, that can make you a superstar off wind.

Basic Setup and Trim:

The basic setup for your spinnaker is to trim the guy until the pole is perpendicular to your apparent wind, and ease the sheet until the outer edge of the spinnaker’s luff start to fold over about two inches.  Trim in the sheet from there, and ease to this point again.  Continue to do this the entire downwind leg.

Remember, when your boat is moving fast, the sails see a different wind direction than where the wind is actually coming from.  This is known as apparent wind, and all of your sails need to adjust to that wind direction.  To match your pole to the apparent wind, it is helpful to put a tell-tale on the side stays, or on the pole itself.  The faster you go, the further forward you will have to set your pole to compensate for the apparent wind.  This will happen in both puffs and waves.  Apparent wind is always changing, so the crew should have both the sheet and the guy in his or her hands at all times downwind.

Setting Up the Other Sails:

Getting your other two sails in the proper position is often the most overlooked detail downwind amongst Club 420 sailors.  It is important that the flow off of all three sails does not interfere with the other sails, or you will move slowly.  The biggest mistake that most sailors make is letting the mainsail out too far.  Whenever the spinnaker is raised, a good general rule of thumb is to trim it to the point that the boom is parallel to the spinnaker pole.  In other words, the two should continuously make a straight line.  Once your main is trimmed to this point, control the leech of the sail with the vang, so that that top batten is parallel to the boom and spin pole (tell tale disappears 50% of the time, and flies 50% of the time).  To sum up the main’s trim downwind, the mainsheet controls the position of the sail to the wind, while the vang controls the tension on the leech.

The jib is often more difficult to figure out downwind.  When you sail most sloops or keelboats, the sailors will take down the jib when hoisting a spinnaker.  This is done to create more space between the main and spinnaker, so that the flow off of each does not interfere with another sail.  In a Club 420, this is not possible, as the tension on the jib keeps your mast from falling aft.  Since there is nothing else that you can do about this, it is important to get the spinnaker and mainsail into the perfect position, and then move the jib to where it is as far away as possible from interfering with either of the other sails.

Pole Height:

The pole height controls the shape of the spinnaker, and how much wind it is capable of allowing into it at once.  The higher you lift the pole, the deeper and fuller you are able to make the sail.  However, it takes more wind to fill the sail completely.  The lower your pole angle, the flatter you make the sail.  With a lower pole, it takes less wind to fill the sail.  In light air, you will want a lower pole height, making it easier to fill the spinnaker.  On the other hand, in heavy air, you will want a higher pole to increase the amount of breeze you can get into the sail.  A good way to ensure that your pole is at the correct height is to make sure that the two lower corners are even, when the sail is trimmed properly off wind.  If the tack is higher than the clew, you should lower the pole to even them out.  If the clew is higher than the tack, you need to raise the height of the pole.

Using a spinnaker is not an easy thing to do, and takes years to perfect.  Sailing downwind with a spinnaker adds depth, technique, teamwork, strategy, and tactics that are different than that seen in one-sail boats.  However, everything discussed above is always under your control, no matter what your sailing experience is.  Making sure all of these things are perfect is the first step to going fast downwind!

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Friday, May 17, 2013

@jimmybeast - Syncing Your Sail Trim and Bridle Height

One of the most overlooked adjustments in Club 420 sailing is the bridle.  Admittedly, it is not as important, especially over short distance races, as your basic tuning adjustments (mast rake, vang, cunningham, etc.).  College sailing teams don’t even have the adjustment on the boat, in an attempt to simplify the boat for short distance racing.  However, knowing how to properly adjust the bridle on the Club 420 will not only give you a tuning advantage on longer courses, but will better prepare you for understanding sail shapes when you transition into other high performance classes down the road.


Above all else, you must have the bridle set up so that it is center lined at all times.  Having it set even a few centimeters off, in one direction or another, will seriously jeopardize your ability to sail fast upwind.  Before you hoist your sails, pull the bridle forward along the centerboard.  Make sure, when pulled taught, that the block on the bridle is perfectly centered in the boat.

The purpose of the bridle is to enable sailors to obtain the ideal mainsail shape, while keeping the boom in the center of the boat, as you sail upwind.  As you pull in the mainsail, you not only move the boom towards the center of the boat, but you also pull downward on the boom.  The further down you pull the boom, the more tension and power you put into the leech of the sail.  Thus, the higher your bridle is, the earlier the blocks all come together, the less you pull down on the boom, and the less tension you are able to apply to the leech.  In other words, a higher bridle will yield a center lined boom with less leech tension (more twist) on the main, and a lower traveler will yield a center lined boom with more leech tension (less twist) on the main.

Light Air:

In light air, you want the ability to center line the boom, keeping the flow off of the jib from interfering with the mainsail.  At the same time, you want to avoid putting tension on the leech that will stall the main and slow you down.  Thus, you want to raise your bridle to the point where, when the boom is center lined, your leech tell tail is streaming back 50% of the time and disappearing 50% of the time.  Leave about two inches of trim between the blocks on the bridle and boom so that you can add a bit more leech tension in puffs around the course.

Medium Air:

Tuning the bridle in medium air is dependent on how you define medium air.  In a Club 420, you have the ability to trapeze, which considerably increases the wind ranges that you are able to sail in.  For the purposes of this article, medium air is defined as any wind speed, other than light air speeds,  where you do not have to dump the main, or you seldom have to dump the main, in order to keep the boat flat.  This range can cover anywhere from 8-15+ knots, depending on the size of the sailors in the boat.

The point is, as the wind increases, up to the point where you start to get overpowered, you will want to increase the power and pointing ability in your boat.  This is accomplished by trimming the main in harder, which will apply more tension to the leech of the main, the bend in the mast, and the luff of the jib.  If your bridle is set too high, you will end up block to block too early, and won’t have the ability to get the desired amount of leech tension when your boom is center lined.

Ultimately, the same concept applies in both medium and light air.  Your goal is to get the boom as close to center lined as possible, while applying the desired amount of tension on the leech of the main (50/50 rule on the top batten tell tale).  Always leave a couple of extra inches, just in case you need a touch more trim in puffs.  There is the widest range of adjustments to the bridal in this wind range.

Heavy air:

As you start to get to the point where you are overpowered, you will want to start raising the bridle again.  As you start getting overpowered, you will need to apply more vang, and dump the main to keep the boat flat.  The more you dump the main, the more it will affect the slot (the gap between the main and jib).  While easing is necessary, you want to ease while having as small an impact as possible on the flow over the jib.  Thus, by raising the bridle, when the sail is trimmed to centerline, you will not have the ability to apply much tension to the leech.  In other words, your sail will reach the centerline with more twist in it, spilling excess breeze out of it, allowing you to depower more with the boom in the ideal position.  With the right amount of vang on, the boom will just go outboard from there when you ease.


How you use the bridle will depend significantly on your weight range, and the conditions.  The important thing to understand is that you ideally want your boom in the center of the boat at all times, when sailing upwind.  Depending on where you set the bridle, when the boom is center lined, the main will have more or less tension on the leach.  The more you want the leech to twist off (i.e. windy or light winds), the higher you will need your bridle.  Likewise, the more you want to take the twist out of your sail (i.e. medium winds), the lower you will want to set your bridle.

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Building Better Sailors: Races With a Twist

When you’re coaching, running races is always part of the agenda at some point during your program.  Unfortunately, unless you consistently have at least ten or fifteen boats at your practices, it is hard to keep races interesting and tactical.  Races with small groups of boats tend to get spread out, and the final result is almost completely determined by boat speed.  Starts, tactics, and boat handling are all still part of the deal, but none are pronounced in ways that will challenge sailors enough to take these skills to the next level.  Young sailors in particular are more reticent to do things that are comfortable in traditional races, as the outcome of a race is not determined by a bad tack, a poor mark rounding, or starting at the favored end.  To make races more exciting, interesting, and effective, present simple and unique twists in races that force sailors to utilize more diverse skills in order to win the race.  Speed will still play a large role in races, but you will have started on the road to building a stronger and more technically diverse group of sailors.

There are many fun scenarios that will make races more fun, interesting, and effective in your race program.  For example, the most common twist coaches add to races is putting a small gate in the middle of the upwind leg.  This gets sailors, who will typically sail hard and fast to a corner, to engage other boats in a way that they typically would not.  It also gets sailors to make tactical decisions much more early, making them more comfortable sailing near other boats, as opposed to separating from the group before making any real tactical decisions.  While this is one way to add an interesting twist to a race, there are an unlimited range of setups you can use to get the desired skill set across to your sailors.

Boat vs. Boat

Set up a mark that is upwind, and relatively close to the line.  Force sailors to leave it to port before sailing upwind.  This will get port end starters to pinch off others early to tack, and will force starboard end starters to hold their lane, using starboard tack to their advantage.  You can further twist this setup by using the short mark as a first windward mark, and sail a short windward leeward before doing a long windward leeward.

Quick Hitch:

Set up a mark that sailors must leave to port before going to the upwind mark.  Set it up so that sailors must tack off to port within a boat length or two of the start line, if not immediately.  Sailors will learn to use starboard advantage, and will compete to win the boat end of the line.  This will also teach sailors strong boat handling skills in tough, competitive situations.

Early Lanes:

Set up a mark much further off the line, and have it set up so that a sailor starting at the boat end is laying it right off the line.  Sailors must leave this mark to starboard before sailing to the windward mark. This way, sailors will not have the ability to tack out early, and are forced to hold their lane, or eat the bad air early on in a race.  This will put an emphasis on holding lanes, winning the pin end, etc.

Winning Sides:

As opposed to the traditional gate, where sailors sail through a small line in the middle of the course before proceeding upwind, make a much larger gate that sailors are not allowed to sail through on the upwind leg.  This forces sailors to choose a side early, win it, and approach the windward mark from a side of the course.  This will keep sailors from sailing across the middle of the course, and to think a few steps ahead of their competitors.

Risky Business (Editor's Choice): 

Set up two marks in carefully selected places upwind.  Make sure they are separate, and that one mark is considerably more favored than the other.  When you start a race, have your sailors round one of these marks to port, and then round the pin end of the line to port, before sailing around the regular windward leeward.  To make this interesting, you put a rounding cap around each of the two short marks.  For example, with four boats on the course, I will usually say that only one boat is allowed to round the favored mark, and three boats have to round the other mark.  This is done on a first come, first serve basis, and any boat that fouls to get around first must go to the other mark.

This is really interesting because it forces sailors to choose between sailing aggressively or consistently.  It puts a lot of pressure on great starts, and will teach others to cut their losses early if they realize they won’t be the first to round the favored mark.  I will typically only allow ONE boat to round the favored mark, in order to implement a more extreme risk/reward structure to the drill.

There are an infinite amount of ways that you can modify and tweak this drill.  As long as you are creative, you can set it up to stress whatever skill set you want your sailors to get a better understanding of.  Either way, this drill is guaranteed to pique the curiosity and creativity of your sailors.  Get out on the water and start practicing!

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Regatta Dieting

Sailing is a physically demanding sport, where you will expend a lot of energy throughout a day of racing.  Not only do you have to have the strength to do basic physical movements such as hiking, trimming, rolling, etc, but you must also have the energy to think tactically and make decisions during a race.  The instant your body starts to run low on fuel, you will start to break down mentally, prior to losing your physical strength.

Every person’s dietary needs are different, but one thing is true for every person: You need more food, when you are sailing, than you typically eat in a single day!  This is true in all wind conditions, but especially true if it is windy.  Furthermore, how you eat when you are on the water at a regatta is different than how you eat when you are off the water at a regatta.

When you are on the water, you should eat many smaller meals every 2-3 hours, or in between races.  These meals should primarily consist of dietary products, such as energy bars, gels, shakes, as well as other small high energy snacks such as fruits and nuts.  The main reason for this is digestion.  It is well documented that your body uses about 10% of its energy simply digesting the food you eat.  Dietary products, like energy bars, shakes, gels, etc. digest much more quickly than normal food, using up less of your energy on the water.  Also, by spreading out the meals 2-3 hours apart, or between races, not only will your food digest faster, but you will sustain your energy levels throughout the day. In other words, you won't run out of energy in the middle of a race.

It is extremely important to drink a great deal of water when you are sailing as well.  This is true no matter how you eat on the water, but is especially true when eating sport supplements or dietetic products.  The reason for this is that they tend to contain a great deal of sugar, which will soak up a lot of the water you have in your system.  Sugar isn't necessarily a bad thing when you are racing, as it will get into your system to provide energy much faster than normal food.  However, you need to compensate for the negative effects it has with much more water than you typically drink.

Off the water, you should eat much larger meals that consist of “real food” packed with lots of nutrients.  Dietary products and sport supplements are missing a lot of the important nutrients that your body needs during the day, so it is important to make up for what you are missing during a day of sailing.  Usually, you will have one large meal before you start the day, and one or two larger meals at the end of the day.

Carbohydrates are essential for energy, focus, and protecting your energy stores.  When exercising, carbohydrates are the first energy source your body burns off.  Thus, you need A LOT of them.  Your larger meals should consist of complex carbohydrates with lots of nutrients and fiber.  This includes whole wheat pastas, grainy breads (bagels tend to have the most energy), some cereals, brown rice, beans etc.  Your smaller meals will include more simple carbohydrates that break down quickly.  This will include energy bars, gels, sport drinks, bananas, orange juice, etc.


Proteins help muscles recover, improve muscle function, and sustain the release of energy to your muscles.  Protein should be consumed throughout the day, not just at night.  Your body will only take in about 40-50 grams of protein in a single meal, and you need MUCH more than that to recover during a regatta.  Thus, you should have plenty throughout the day.  I personally like to include a lot of protein in every meal.  The best proteins come from fish, chicken, flank steak, protein shakes, Greek Yogurt, nuts, etc.


Many people have huge misconceptions about fats throughout the fitness world.  They are the greatest source of energy, and not including them in your diet will leave you far short of what you need to maximize your performance on the water.  For example one gram of carbohydrates or proteins has four calories.  One gram of fat has nine calories.  Thus, not having them will likely leave you well short of your needed caloric intake, and you will break down much more quickly on the water.

Instead of avoiding fats, eat plenty of the healthy fats that your body can use.  Thus, you want to eat a lot of unsaturated fats (Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat), and not eat a lot of Saturated or Trans Saturated Fat.  Unsaturated fats are much easier for your body to break down to use for energy.  The saturated and trans saturated fats are much stronger and harder to break down for energy use.  Thus, it is harder for your body to actually use them.  The best sources of the good fats are nuts, seeds, oils, and fish.  The bad fats are found in most red meat, ANYTHING with chocolate or candy coating (seen on some energy bars), butter, and peanut butter that uses hydrogenated oil (solid at room temperature).

Sample diet for four hour long races with short breaks:

- 12-16 oz. of Greek Yogurt (Protein)
- Whole wheat bagel (Carb) smothered in NATURAL peanut butter (Fat/Protein)
- Grapefruit or Orange Juice (Carb)

Meal 2 (Prior to Race 1)
- Energy Bar or Protein Bar (Carb/Protein & Carb)
- 16 oz. Water

Meal 3 (Prior to Race 2)
- Energy Bar or Protein Bar (Carb/Protein & Carb)
- Energy Gel (Carb)
- 16 oz. Water

Meal 4 (Prior to Race 3)
- Nuts or Banana (Fat & Protein/Carb)
- Ready to Drink Protein Shake (Protein)
- Sport Drink (Carb)
- 16 oz. Water

Meal 5 (Prior to Race 4)
- Two Energy Bars (Carb)
- 16 oz. Water

Meal 6 (Just off the water)
- Protein Shake
- 16 oz. Water

- Salmon (Protein/Fat)
- Broccoli (Carb)
- Black Beans (Carb/Protein)
- Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto (Carb/Fat)

EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT!  What works for one person may not work for another person.  The important thing to take away from this article is to eat plenty and often when you are sailing!  The amount of races you sail in a day, the length of each race, the wind strength, etc. is always changing.  There are also many substitutes for any of the foods on this list.  Experiment with different things, and find out what works best for you!

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Monday, May 6, 2013

Play 2 vs. Play 45

One of the most challenging and complicated matchups in team racing occurs when Play 2 faces off against Play 45 (also known as Play 4, etc.).  Play 2 is any combination, where your team’s top boat has the 2nd and 3rd spots, and any other position behind that, with the end goal being to finish in a 2-3-4, even though a 2-3-5 will still win a race.  Play 45 is any situation where your team has the 1 spot, and the remaining boats are in 4th and/or worse positions.  The end goal is to finish in a 1-4-5.  In other words, your team has a 1st place, and is not in a play 1.

Play 2:

2-3-4, 2-3-5, 2-3-6

Play 45:

1-4-5, 1-4-6, 1-5-6

Play 2 Overview:

As mentioned previously, the goal of Play 2 is to finish in a 2-3-4.  2-3-5 will still win, but mostly occurs as a fluke in high level team racing.  The reason for this, is that if the other team is in a 1-4-6, the 4th place boat in a will never finish before trying to boost the 6th place boat past the 5th place boat.  In other words, a 2-3-5 is a very unstable combination.  Thus, in a Play 2, you should never stop executing pass backs until you are in a 2-3-4.

A 2-3-4 is one of the strongest combinations in team racing, assuming that your team can stay balanced with the 5th and 6th place boats on the other team.  Play 2 is vulnerable, both upwind and downwind, when the other team is able to move towards two sides of the course, and the pairs are not able to come back together while remaining balanced.

Generally speaking, in a 2-3-4, two boats will gain control of the 5th and 6th place boats on the opposing team, with the third member of the team helping to maintain balance between the pairs, or rescuing a teammate if they lose control of an opposing boat.

Play 45 Overview

Play 45 is less stable than Play 2, but is much less intricate in terms of balance.  The biggest mistake made by most teams in Play 45 is the 1st boat running away with the 1, leaving 3 boats vs. 2 boats behind them.  It is important that boat 1 retains 1st place.  However, they should remain close enough to keep one boat occupied, and should also remain poised to spring a Play 1, if the opportunity arises.

There exception to this is initially around the first offset leg, and early in the downwind leg.  If the 1st place boat lingers too close to the competition on those legs, that leaves the opportunity for the 2-3 to swallow him or her up downwind, and lose the 1 spot in the process.  Instead, on off wind legs, boat 1 should stay in a spot where she is just far enough to protect the 1, relying on her teammates to do their jobs.  She should set a mark trap at the leeward mark to bring the race together or to prevent 3 boats from ganging up on 2 boats behind her.  Her job moves back to normal following the leeward mark trap.

While the 1st place boat’s role is crucial, the most important dynamic of Play 45 occurs between the other two boats.  While the exact roles will change slightly depending on the precise combination, the ultimate goal is to put one boat on the other team in last.  Once this happens, have one boat (Boat 5) gap this boat separating her as far as possible from the rest of the race, while the other boat (Boat 4) pushes boats 2 and 3 up the course.

1-4-5 vs. 2-3-6

These are far and away the most interesting combinations to pair against each other in team racing.  In each of these combinations, each boat has a specific role, and the winner of the race is determined by which team executes their roles most efficiently.

Boat 1:

Hold onto the 1 spot, but stay close and connected, keeping boat 2 as uninvolved as possible from the play behind them.  Wait to spring a Play 1 if the situation presents itself.  On upwind legs, look for opportunities to pin boat 2, to keep them from helping the team balancing.

Boat 4:

Push boats 2 and 3 up the course.  Your job is to get as far ahead of boats 5 and 6 as possible, making it more difficult for boats 2 and 3 to boost boat 6 without leaving open a Play 1 opportunity.  If you are far enough separated, and boats 2 and 3 split to free up boat 6, move immediately to Play 1.

Boat 5: Your job is simple.  Gap boat 6, taking them as far away from the rest of the fleet as possible.  There are several reasons to do this.  The biggest reason is to keep boats 2 and 3 from having the ability to rescue boat 6.  If one of them goes back to help, they will leave a 1-3 in the front of the fleet, which is easy to convert to a 1-2.  Another reason you do this, is to act as an insurance policy if your team loses the 1 spot.  If this happens, you will automatically have an opportunity to move into a Play 2.

4-5 Wins:

Boat 2: 

You need to work with boat 3 to significantly slow boat 4 moving her as close to boats 5 and 6 as possible.  If the boats are all about even with each other, boat 2 and boat 3 will each be able to gain control of boats 4 and 5 without giving up their respective positions.  From here you will run the necessary pass backs to move into a 2-3-4.  Typically, you will want to move boat 6 into 2nd place.

As boat 5 will typically attempt to gap boat 6, boats 2 and 3 will need to double team boat 4, making her go much slower than boat 5 is capable of slowing boat 6.  Upwind, this will consist mostly of one boat ragging, while the other is pinning.  Downwind, this will consist of a lot of teamwork, hooking boat 4 whenever possible.  If she breaks overlap with one of the boats and forces her downwind, the other boat should take over while the other reestablishes overlap with a couple of jibes, etc.

Boat 3: 

See Boat 2; the jobs are identical, as the two boats work as a unit.

Boat 6: 

You need to get to your help.  Boat 5 will try to gap you, and your job is to make this as difficult as possible.  Break overlap quickly downwind and force the gapping boat to sail forward.  Do not get hooked if you can help it, and do not let them take you out as a starboard boat.  When sailing upwind, avoid getting pinned, unless you are sailing toward your help.  Avoid a significant amount of tacking.  In desperate situations, you may have to jibe out of a pin to keep moving the race forward, but you should avoid this as much as possible.  Rely on your teammates to do their jobs, and they will spring you if you are able to keep pushing up the course.

2-3 Wins:

2-3-4 vs. 1-5-6

When these two combinations square off, there is a constant struggle between 2-3-4 remaining balanced, and boats 5 and 6 unbalancing the 2-3-4, gaining control of one opposing boat, and putting them in last.

Boat 2: 

For the majority of the race, you are in a position where you are helping maintain balance between the pairs behind you, breaking ties whenever your teammates lose control of a boat, etc.

If you are in the 2 spot immediately around the mark, your role will change slightly.  In order to keep the race moving forward, you are in charge of protecting boat 4 from the trailing boats.

Boat 3: 

For the majority of the race, your job is to gain control of and balance boat 5.  Bring boat 5 towards boat 6 as often as possible by ragging on boat 5 whenever they sail away from boat 6, and pinning her at full speed when you sail towards boat 6.

If you are in the 3 spot immediately around the mark, your role will change slightly.  In order to keep the race moving forward, you are in charge of protecting boat 4 from the trailing boats.

Boat 4:

For the majority of the race, your job is to gain control of and balance boat 6.  Bring boat 6 towards boat 5 as often as possible by ragging on boat 6 whenever they sail away from boat 5, and pinning her at full speed when you sail towards boat 5.

If you are in the 4 spot immediately around the mark, your role will change slightly.  You will sail dead downwind, pushing the race forward much more quickly, forcing boats 5 and 6 into the control of your teammates.  When you eventually move into the 2 spot, you will assume that role.

2-3-4 Sailing Downwind

Boat 1:

You mostly have to remain patient, staying relatively close on upwind legs, preventing boat 2 from helping her teammates whenever possible. Set leeward mark traps to bring the group together, and possibly break up the 2-3-4.  If you try to do too much, particularly downwind, you will risk losing the 1st, and will leave an opportunity for the other team to move to an easy Play 1.

Ultimately, your largest priority is holding onto the 1st, while staying close enough to occupy boat 2, and keep them from doing their job whenever possible.

Boat 5:

You are working with boat 6 to catch one boat from the other team, quickly putting them in last.  Look for any and all opportunities to get the other team unbalanced.  Split with your teammate whenever possible, forcing them to work to stay in a 2-3-4.  On downwind legs, you will sail high to force an opponent to sail a lot of distance to control you.  This will give your teammate an opportunity to go low and pass one of the boats on the other team.

Boat 6:

Your job is similar to boat 5’s.  You will be the low boat in a high/low downwind.  Upwind, when you split up, force the boat that covers you to do a bunch of tacks, or anything else you can do to slow them down.  This will give your teammate an opportunity to pass the boat covering you, and you will have a chance to run a pass back from there.

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tracking Upwind in Waves

Have you ever gone over the top of a giant wave, and felt the boat slam down violently as you crossed over it?  It happens all the time in boats of all sizes, and is called hobby-horsing.  No matter how big or small the wave is, not having the ability to prevent your boat from doing this is will slow you down significantly.  The opposite of hobby-horsing is called tracking.  Tracking is the act of keeping your fully in touch with the water at all times, with no bow slamming or vibrations moving through your hull.  The smaller, lighter, and less stable a boat is, the more important tracking through the water is, as these boats will slow down much more quickly than large, heavy, and stable boats.  By keeping your speed up, helm neutral, and using precise steering and/or trimming movements, you can increase your ability to track through the water, and put miles of boat speed on your competition.

Steering & The Boat’s Ideal Path Through a Wave:

Waves are your best friend downwind, and your worst enemy upwind.  Upwind, not only does a wave serve as a roadblock, but is also a strong natural force that pushes your boat sideways.  The more the wave moves toward your boat from the side, the more susceptible your boat is to a sideways slide.  This makes you generally slower, and crushes your ability to point or hold your lane.  However, with the proper technique, this is something you can use the waves as an asset when sailing upwind.

When trying to track effectively through the water, each wave you sail through has an entry phase and an exit phase.  The goal in the entry phase is to minimalize the amount the wave can push you sideways. The goal in the exit phase is to keep the boat from hobby-horsing, and to power up again for the next wave.

Entry Phase

As you are about to enter the face of a wave, you need to steer up, and into the face of the wave.  The amount you steer depends on the size of the wave.  The smaller the wave, the less you turn the boat.  The larger the wave, the more you will turn the boat.  This will align your bow more directly and head-on with the wave in order to punch through it, effectively reducing the amount the wave can push you sideways.  Ultimately, you want to give each wave less direct surface to push sideways.

Exit Phase

When you turn into the face of a wave, you will reduce your speed at the top of it, making you much more susceptible to hobby-horsing.  To correct this, you must turn hard and quickly down the back side of the wave to keep the boat in touch with the water, and to increase your speed before the next wave.  Depending on the wind and waves, you may even want to exaggerate the turn over the wave, steering slightly past a close hauled course.  You should only do this for the most brief instant, and then return to a close hauled course to get ready for the next wave.


One of the first racing principles sailors are taught, is that using the rudder is slow.  While this is true, hobby-horsing is much slower than using some tiller to steer through waves.  An alternative to using tiller is changing sail trim during the entry and exit phases.  Some sailors will trim during the entry phase to steer up, and ease during the exit phase to steer down.  In all boats, you will see some combination of steering and trimming to effectively steer through waves.  The exact ratios will depend on the conditions, your relative weight range for those conditions, and the type of boat you are sailing.  As a general rule, steering with the sails is more effective in doublehanded boats, while steering with your tiller is more effective in singlehanded boats.  Again, usually there is a mixture of both.

Neutralizing Your Helm:

Having a neutral helm will make your boat much more receptive to changes in steering or trimming.  Let’s consider a boat’s ideal path through a wave.  There is actually a relatively large amount of steering that is necessary to keep the boat tracking through the water, regardless of your speed and power.  If your boat is heeled to leeward at the top of a wave, giving you weather helm, then you must use a good deal of rudder, or ease the sail significantly, to turn the boat down the backside of a wave.  Thus, keeping a boat flat with a neutral helm, at the top of a wave, is critical to keeping the boat tracking through the water.

Maintaining Your Speed/Power:

Speed and power are essential to tracking through the water.  When you encounter a wave, slowing down, or entering the face of that wave with little speed or power will make it difficult to get over the top without getting pushed sideways, causing your bow to slam down on the other side.  When you move from wave to wave, the goal is to maximize your speed before the wave, use that speed to reach the top of the wave, and then quickly build it up again as you descend and move on to the next wave.  This takes a lot of intense focus and practice to perfect, so go out and start practicing!

See you on the water,

Zim Coach  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Comparing Roll Tacks in the FJ and 420

In the last Zim Coach article, we looked at the basic do’s and don’ts of roll tacking FJ’s and 420’s.  While all the basic principles of great roll tacks remain the same, there are subtle adjustments that the best sailors make, when switching between the two boats, which make a substantial difference.  In both high school and college sailing, you will switch back and forth often between each boat, and it is important to know what adjustments you need to make, as you will not always have time to prepare in each boat before an event.

To understand why the tacks in each boat will differ, it is important to note the differences in the two boats.  The 420 is built relatively wide, and is flat toward the stern.  Both the rudder and centerboard are large and powerful blades that exert a significant amount of force when moving in the water during a roll or flatten.  These factors all lend to greater stability, and demand a great amount of force to effectively roll the boat over.  Tacks take longer in 420’s because there is more boat and blade to roll through the water.  Combining the width of the boat with the size of the blades also gives you a much wider margin of error for rolling and flattening the boat.  In other words, it is much more difficult to over roll, or over flatten.

In contrast, the FJ is relatively narrow, and has a completely rounded on the bottom.  The centerboard is much less relevant, as is the rudder, making the boat much less stable, and much more prone to sliding.  Rolls take much less effort, and occur much faster than rolls in a 420.

What this means for the two boats, is that FJ’s need more finesse during tacks, while 420’s require more force.  This is not to say that timing is not important in the 420, but that you should put more force into it your rolls, as you have a much larger margin of error, and much more to get to the other side and nail your flatten.  Furthermore, it takes more effort, working against the centerboard of the 420, to roll the boat over.  Thus, both timing and force are critical in the roll.

In the FJ, everything is much more subtle.  Putting a significant amount of power behind a roll will roll the boat over too quickly, ending in a lot of poorly executed flattens.  Remember, the flatten is what makes a roll tack fast.  No matter how big the roll is, if the flatten is not executed well, a flat tack would be more effective.  Thus, rolling hard in FJ’s leads to a lot of slow tacks. 

This is not to say that the goal in an FJ tack is not to roll the boat way over.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  The best sailors will typically get the rudder to just pop out of the water for an instant during the peak roll.  However, reaching that point is more about timing than effort.  Except in light air conditions, FJ tacks are typically executed with the skipper and crew both sitting on the rail with shoulders slightly outboard, waiting for the right time to cross.  In the 420, usually skippers in crews get off of their butts, and slam their hips hard into the rail to initiate the roll.  The FJ is so narrow and round, that by using the right technique during your turn (see previous article), the boat and wind will actually do all of the rolling for you.  Remember, if you do not nail your flatten in the FJ, it will actually slow your boat down.  Neither the boards, nor the boat are particularly wide.  Thus, at the peak of the roll, when the boat stalls, the boat will quickly slide sideways if the flatten is not properly executed.  By using less effort to roll the boat, and focusing on timing, you get the same amount of roll out of the boat, but have a much easier time to properly execute a perfect flatten.

Lastly, how the crew crosses the boat differs in the 420 and FJ.  In the 420, the crew crosses facing forward, and the skipper will look to them to coordinate the timing of the roll.  In the FJ, the crew actually sits backwards, watching the skipper to coordinate the roll.  This is done because of the way the crew’s feet cross in the different boats.  In the FJ, by tacking backwards, the crew’s feet fall in the perfect place to lock right into the strap and hike or flatten without hesitation.  This is not true if they tack facing forwards in the FJ. 

This transition is often mental, and hard to figure out at first.  To make the switch, crews should hold the primary jib sheet in their forward hand in FJ’s, and in their aft hand in 420’s.  All rolling and flattening movements are identical once this adjustment is made.  You are just doing it while facing in another direction.

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do's and Don'ts for Roll Tacking 420's and FJ's

This time of year, in both college and high school sailing, there is a lot of racing going on.  Sailors will often go through three straight weeks of team racing, only to sail an important fleet race regatta right at the end of it.  There are a lot of things that you won’t have control over, and you will have to make many adjustments on the fly.  You may also do a lot of switching between multiple kinds of boats, such as 420’s and FJ’s, and there is not usually a lot of time to prepare in both types before each event.  Throughout all of the chaos, there is no excuse not to have your basic boat handling skills up to snuff prior to each event.  Having this under control will give you a lot of confidence, one less thing to worry about, and the ability to get out of tough situations that occur on the water.  Today, we will focus on the most basic and important piece of your boat handling: roll tacking.


Perfecting a roll tack is not easy, and has many parts to it.  It requires an understanding of the boat you are sailing, advanced sailing principles, quick footwork/handwork, and precise coordination between the skipper and crew.  However, when perfected, your advantage over other boats is significant.

Rolling at the Right Time:

One of the biggest differences between a good roll tack and a great roll tack is the timing of the roll.  The vast majority of sailors tend to roll a 420 or FJ too early.  Unless it is very windy, rolling the second the jib backwinds is not ideal for effective tacks.  Many sailors get in a crunch, or get really excited, and roll before the boat is ready.  It’s natural to think that the faster you start your roll, the faster the tack is.  However, by rolling too early, you will get less help from the sails to turn the boat, and will actually steer the boat down with your weight while turning up with the tiller.  This creates a lot of friction with the rudder and the water, and you will have to steer much more to turn through the wind, slowing your boat down.  Additionally, backwinding the jib helps the boat turn during a tack significantly.  Thus, the longer you allow the jib to backwind, the less rudder you will have to use to steer through a tack.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to wait till the boat is at or just past head to wind before rolling the boat.  Waiting until this point will allow you to use less rudder, and will also allow you to use the wind to help roll over the boat.  If you go earlier, you will roll the boat against the face of the wind, forcing you to use much more effort to roll the boat over.

There is no exact time to wait before rolling the boat over, and it will change depending on the wind.  For example, in light air, you want to wait a relatively long time before rolling over the boat, as it will take longer for the sails to help you steer through the wind.  If it is really windy, you may want to cross sides quickly, as soon as the jib backwinds.  As soon as both sailors are hiking, you should not roll at all, especially in the FJ.  Instead, you should still use the sails to keep power in the boat the entire time, and simply switch sides and start hiking, when the jib backwinds.

Initiating the Turn:

Another common error by sailors is heeling the boat to leeward to initiate the turn before a roll tack.  This is more effective in a hard chine boat (e.g. Optimist), because the corner will dig into the water, and keep the boat from sliding.  In a soft chine boat (rounded bottom), like a 420 or FJ, the centerboard kicks to windward as the mast heels to leeward, causing the boat to slide sideways and slow down.  Thus, steering the boat by smoothly trimming in the main, as you turn into the wind, is a more effective way to initiate the turn.

Coordinating the Role/Hitting the Rail at the Same Time:

A simple thing you can do to improve your roll tacks is having both the skipper and crew roll and flatten at the same time.  Anyone would agree that the more weight you apply to the windward rail, the easier it is to roll the boat over.  As an example, let’s say both the skipper and crew each weigh 130 lbs.  If the skipper stands on a scale alone, that’s the weight it will read.  Likewise, if the crew gets on the scale after the skipper, it will also say 130 lbs.  However, when both are on the scale at the same time, the scale will read 260 lbs.  The same principles in this example are directly applicable to rolling and flattening a boat.  If you roll or flatten at different times, the rail will feel 130 lbs. on it twice, instead of 260 lbs. at once.

Furthermore, you will increase the weight the rail experiences by getting your butt off the rail, and landing hard on the rail during the roll (both skipper and crew).  If you weigh 130 lbs. on a scale, and you jump up and down on it, the scale will say that you weigh quite a bit more than you do in actuality.  Thus, by having both the skipper and crew roll using this method, AND at the same time, that 260 lb. number can increase exponentially for two 130 lb. sailors.

The Jib:

Keeping the jib full the entire way through the tack is imperative for maintaining speed and power through a tack.  So often you see a crew release the jib sheet too early, leaving a gap between the backwind and the fill on the other side, where the jib luffs.  This disrupts the flow over the sail, and it will take a few additional moments to refill.  This will cause the boat to slow down and slide sideways.

To correct this, at the last moment prior to the jib starting to luff, pull hard on the primary sheet.  This will cause the jib to backwind much faster, and help start turning the boat earlier.  Hold the jib in a backwinded position until you start moving to the other side of the boat.  As you cross, snap the jib in on the other side with the new primary sheet.  If you execute this with a quick motion and correct timing, the jib will pop full without luffing for even the slightest instant.  The trick to this is waiting longer, and maintaining pressure on the clew of the jib with the jib sheets the entire way through the tack.  Thus, when you let go of the primary sheet, all of the slack needs to be out of the new sheet to continue to place tension on the clew.

The Main and the Flatten:

The final piece of a great roll tack (and the most difficult), is the movement of the mainsail following the roll, and through the flatten.  At the moment of the roll, you should have the mainsheet trimmed in as hard as possible.  As you cross sides (at the peak of the roll), you should have your main eased to a beam reach.  You do this to more effectively control the flatten of your boat, and because your apparent wind has shifted back, facing the side of the boat.  If you try to flatten the boat with the sail all the way in, it is extremely difficult and ineffective, as you are flattening against a sail that is full of wind.  By dumping the main, you can generate a much faster and more powerful flatten of the boat.  Also, at the peak of a roll, your boat actually comes to a complete stop for an instant before accelerating.  At this point, your apparent wind moves back, pointing directly at the side of your boat.  If your sail is in all the way at this point, your boat will slide sideways instead of moving forward.

Now, it is not enough to simply ease the sail.  If that is all you do, the boat would flatten really fast, but would not generate much power from the sails movement from a heeled to vertical angle.  A roll tack is fast because of power generated from both the centerboard’s and mainsail’s movement against one another through the water and wind respectively.  Thus, once the boat starts to transition back downward from a peak roll, the mainsail needs to start coming in.  The main should come back to its normal upwind trim at the exact point where the boat is flat again.  This part takes a lot of practice, but is worth it in the end!

Quick reference guide of the Do’s and Don’ts of great roll tacks:


- Steer with your sails (trim main/backwind jib)
- Keep the boat flat during the turn before the roll
- Roll later (after the jib starts to turn the boat)
- Roll at the same time
- Keep the jib full the entire time
- Ease the sails during the peak of the tack
- Trim the main in again as you flatten
- Straighten the rudder before you flatten


- Steer by healing the boat to leeward before the tack
- Roll too early
- Have the skipper and crew roll at different times
- Let the jib luff at all
- Keep the sails (especially the main) trimmed in while you flatten.
- Flatten with the rudder at an angle

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meet David Pritchard, President of Gill North America

Gill North America Website:

Gill North America on Facebook:

Zim Sailing/Gill North America Sweepstakes: 

Could you tell us a little bit about your background and career?

I have spent most of my life around sailboats.  Our family lived in England until I was 10 years old, and I did a lot of racing with my father as a crew during that time.  Most of the racing we did was in a boat called an Albacore.  My fondest childhood memory was Cowes Race Week.  Eventually, my father’s business moved to the USA, and we settled in Glen Cove on Long Island.  We joined the Sea Cliff Yacht Club.  I raced Snipes and Stars with my Dad on weekends, and I joined the junior sailing program over the summers.  I just fell into the sport from that point forward.

When I was 14, I won my first Nationals in the Blue Jay, which caught some people’s attention.  Over the next couple of years, I first won the Neff, and then the Bell Trophy, awarded to the top junior sailor on Long Island.  I had a tremendous crew, Joey Yacho, and a lot of club and family support.  By the time I turned 17, I started racing Fireballs and 470’s, and was gathering an interest in Olympic Racing.  I raced as a 470 crew with Dave Kellogg, and we did the Pre Trials in 1975.  We made the US Sailing Team just before I went off to college at UC Irvine.

UCI had a really good sailing team at the time, and I sailed for them while studying Biomedical Science.  Whenever I wasn’t in school studying or sailing for the school, I was racing with others on the west coast, learning everything that I could.  That was my passion.  I raced a lot of Lidos, won a National’s in the C 15 with Tom Lindsky, and raced J24’s.  I also worked part time for Dave Ullman.  After work, we would go out to Long Beach, train, and look at sail shapes.  This was an excellent opportunity for me to learn from a truly amazing sailor.

At the end of my junior year, I left UCI, and made a push towards the 1980 Olympics with Dave Kellogg in the 470.  We made the US Sailing Team, and trained hard for the trials.  Eventually the plug was pulled on the games, making the trials essentially a non-event.  We finished 4th.

That summer, I went to work as a sales engineer for Lombardi on the west coast.  I covered the 13 western states for the company, and kept racing on weekends.  Deep down inside, I missed the 470 Olympic opportunity in 1980. It left me with what I felt was unfinished business.  So, after three years with a great company, I quit my job, and decided to start campaigning for the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

This is how the business really got started.  I came home in the summer of 1983, from California, to live with my parents on Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, Georgia.  I started a small marine service business “Weathermark “, with my 470 Crew Kenny Watts.  We worked out of my parents’ home.  We sold Ullmans Sails, ISP Sailing Products, and BIC Sailboards.  When we were not away racing the 470, we worked the business.  After sailing for years, I already knew many people in the sailing industry, making it relatively easy to get into the business side of the sport.

Weathermark became a very successful sailboat dealership.  We sold it in the spring of 1999, after a great 15 year run, but that’s another story!

This story is about the genesis of Gill NA.  In the summer 1984, at one of the local yacht clubs, I noticed someone wearing a Douglas Gill one piece product.  In all my years of sailing, I had never seen the brand before.  My father wrote a note to Douglas Gill, based in the UK, to find out more about their business, and to inquire about selling their products.  Gill was very small at the time, just like Weathermark.  Weathermark was centered and focused on the Southeast of the United States, whereas Gill was potentially a national opportunity.  I had a vision, even back then, for the line.  After a trial run in 1985, Nick Gill gave us the national distributor rights in 1986.  So, that’s how it all started with Gill.  Just a chance meeting with someone wearing a Gill product on a boat ramp at a local sailing club!

Why did you elect to sell Weathermark and focus on Gill?

As I mentioned, Weathermark was doing very well.  Weathermark was a thriving business that required a lot of attention, and was also exposed when the lake level dropped too low.  This happened in both 1986 and 1987, and I knew we needed something else to help offset and compensate for low lake level years.  Gill was the answer.   In the early 1990’s, Gill really started to take off.  Nick was spending a lot of time in the US, and we were making a lot of new products to meet the growing needs of the market.  Gill started to double in size every year.

I saw a lot of potential for further growth on the Gill side.  I felt, at the time, that Weathermark had reached its market cap, and that our team had done an excellent job getting there.  However, when the wind shifts, you should tack.  In the retail business, you have to work a lot of weekends.  Transitioning over to Gill NA full time gave me more time to spend with my family, and an opportunity to focus on a growing national brand.  At that time, I had a young family, and while the sale of Weathermark was a great source of capital to fuel the Gill NA side of our business, the ultimate decision was more about family.

Every day, I wake up thankful for that decision and the job that I get to do every day.  I get to follow my heart and passion for the sailing lifestyle.  Ever since 1999, we have never looked back.  Gill NA’s annual compound growth rate has been very strong.  The mantra was “striving to do less better!”

What do you enjoy about working on the apparel side of the sailing industry?

The sailing apparel industry, I find, is a very personal sale.  It’s all about the sailor and the marine customer.  Their passion is life on the water.  They are not sailing in an inanimate piece of equipment.  The clothing speaks to who they are.  Our technical clothing takes on a life of its own, when it is on the customer.  When customers are purchasing technical clothing gear, we are getting into that person’s comfort zone, asking about use and fit, and we get to hear all of their stories in the process.  They invite us in.  Our team at Gill is devoted to helping people, by making their life on the water better!  We are fortunate at Gill NA to have excellent and experienced staff team to help the customer.  Our sales manager Jerry Richards, for example, has raced in two Olympics, an America’s Cup, and many offshore races.  He understands technical clothing, and the value of dressing properly on the water.  We are all about helping the customer make an informed purchase decision.

What will the sailing apparel industry look like in 10 years?

Fabric has changed a lot over the past 10-15 years.  Fabrics are now mostly breathable, and are getting more so every day.  Fabric technology has moved considerably, and I think it is fair to say that it will continue to do so.  Durability will continue to increase, moisture vapor will become more efficient, and I would expect changes in how garments are assembled.  As an example, we may get to the point where seams are glued and no sewing is required.

Product sourcing will, most likely, move closer to home in the United States.  The cost of manufacturing in China is going up, shipping costs are going up, and there is an urgency to cut down on delivery time.  We will possibly see a Dell like manufacturing model for custom clothing.

Fashion trends and colors will remain contemporary and appealing to the time period.  We look at trends and colors as far as 24 months out from a product’s release.

Gill International invests continually in these product development areas ….what I call value creation. Innovation fuels sales.

Gill just became the Official Technical Apparel Sponsor of US Sailing.  What is most exciting to Gill about this relationship with US Sailing?

Our US Sailing sponsor relationship allows Gill NA to connect directly with our ideal customer target audience - a US Sailing member.  It also provides a way to stay connected and give back to the sport.  There are a host of amazing programs and events that Gill is excited to take part in, including certified race instruction, the road tour, US Sailing Championships and an educational component.  Gill has given back and stayed involved with US Sailing from 1996 to 2008 as a Sailing Team sponsor.  After that, we decided to focus on the association side.  That’s where we are today.

Who is your sailing idol?

I’m not big on having idols.  I have a lot of admiration for many different sailors that I have met throughout my career.  Dave Ullman is someone I have a lot of admiration and respect for.  He has continued to keep Ullman Sails thriving for so many years, and he has such a natural ability as a sailor.  He would always give back, and help you get to the next level.  He never seemed secretive, and was always open to helping you get up to speed in a class.  Dave had such a huge impact on my life at an early stage.  Getting to see firsthand, by watching him, what an entrepreneurial business looked like, helped me see that I could work for myself one day. Passion turned into profession.

Another huge influence on my life was Nick Gill, our chairman.  He gave me the benefit of the doubt way back in the day, at age 26, and helped me connect a few very good decisions to get my career jumpstarted.  He is a very humble, servant-leader type.  You would never know he was the chairman unless someone told you that he was.  We’ve known each other for 30 years.

My job allows me to connect with many people in the industry.  Many of the owners and employees of the dealerships we serve are excellent sailors.  I have strived stayed connected with so many other talented racers, cruisers, and pro fishing anglers whom I have great respect for.  I have a lot of respect for all of these individuals.

What kinds of things should a customer look for and consider when purchasing sailing gear?

The most focused time we have with customers is at a boat show.  We like to encourage the customer to try on the product, because it is important to see how the garment fits.  We encourage customers to try other brands on as well, because we think that our fit is a strong selling point.  Gill has a garment technologist who does nothing but work on fit, and refine our patterns to ensure that our fit is consistent across all styles.
The level of features you want is also important.  Gill makes products that go all the way to ocean level criteria.  You will need to look at safety considerations, reflectors, drainage, and pockets.  Look at how a garment is taped.  There is a specific technique for proper taping.  Turn the product inside out, and then compare with the competition.  Look at how the garment is sewn together, and check for exposed stitching.  If the stitching is exposed, it will significantly diminish the life of a garment.

Fabric is important.  Does the fabric breathe?  Are the key wear areas reinforced?  Buyer beware -this is the area were garment design can really be compromised.  Fabric is as much as 50% of the cost of the garment, and it’s an easy place for factory’s to cut cost and greatly reduce the life and performance of the garment.
Lastly, look at a product’s guarantee.  The Gill guarantee offers real peace of mind to our customers.

Tell us about the Zim Sailing/Gill Sweepstakes.  Why did you elect to work with Zim, and how do the two companies fit together?

Zim is an excellent upcoming boat brand, and we have seen the great work you all have done to support junior, high school, and collegiate sailing.  Gill has partnered and offered a number of different giveaways with several companies on the social media platform.  We have given away yacht charters, free gear, boats, boat show tickets, and all sorts of other things.  This contest is about building awareness of the brand by offering a chance for someone to win a brand new Zim Optimist and $1,000 retail value of Gill sailing gear.

What products are you most excited about in this year’s program?

Gill has had a very busy year working on innovation and value.  The market place wants innovation, improved product, and stable costs if possible.  Our new spring 2013 offer includes a fully updated OS2 style that is foundational to our offshore foul weather gear line up.  We have an entire new luggage range and Inshore Lite Foul Weather Gear range.  The newest addition to the color pallet is “bright lime” in dinghy, which is very popular.  Our new coast guard PFD and sunglasses round out the spring 2013 offering.  We have a very broad product line that dealer’s love.

How does Gill go about new product development and research?

On the Gill North America side of the business, we work as an importer and distributor.  We focus on “value delivery”: marketing, sales, customer service, etc.  On the research and development side in the UK they focus on “value creation”.  We are invited by Gill International, based in the UK, a few times a year, to participate and speak to the development process.  This process starts two years in advance of final production products hitting the market.  During this time, the products will go through many design changes to achieve the design brief.  Samples are then made and field tested.  No product is released until it is tested on sailors, and they have a chance to destroy what they are wearing.  If it does not meet the criteria of the original brief, and offer unique and distinct value that make the lives of our customers better, the product is not released.

After a product is out in the market place, we obtain notes and feedback from the people that use it, and incorporate that research into the next generation of products.

In the end, Gill makes a great range of products with an excellent value proposition for consumers in the sailing and boating community.  We are also one of the few brands that offer a comprehensive selection of junior and women’s gear.  I am very proud of the job we do, of our team of dedicated professionals, and what we sell, and we look forward to doing it for many years to come.

David Pritchard

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Byte CII Tuning Parabola

The Byte CII World Championship is coming to Newport, Rhode Island this summer, with a host of clinics and regattas leading up to the event.  While many of the traditional dinghy classes rely on the vang to induce and maintain mast bend and a flat sail, the Byte CII does not.  This makes the boat unique in terms of tuning and sail trim compared to the traditional dinghy classes.  To help you train for the Worlds this summer, here is a basic overview of trimming the Byte CII’s sail across different wind ranges.

The Byte CII was specifically designed by Ian Bruce to fit a weight range, as opposed to an age group or gender.  Furthermore, the design is conducive to a large weight range (110 lbs. – 160 lbs.).  The sail is made of Mylar, instead of Dacron, and is fully battened.  When coupled with a tapered, carbon fiber mast, the cunningham carries the load effortlessly to the top of the sail, allowing you to bend the mast and flatten the sail.  What this means to sailors coming from other traditional dinghy classes, is that you never use the vang upwind, because doing so will add unnecessary tension to the leech.  Other traditional dinghies require this tension, as the vang is the only control that allows you to bend the mast and flatten the sail effectively.  This is not the case with the Byte CII. 

The golden rule, for tuning a Byte CII upwind, is to achieve the desired sail shape while keeping the boom over the back corner of the boat.  When applying cunningham, the mast will bend, and the boom will move outboard.  When easing cunningham, the mast will stiffen, and the boom will move inboard.  To counter the boom’s movement from the back corner of the boat, you may use either the mainsheet or the traveler, depending on the wind conditions.

The traveler is the second large game changer from the traditional dinghies.  The traveler’s role in the Byte CII is to allow you to effectively position the boom over the back corner of the boat with the ideal sail shape for the conditions.  In other words, it allows you to effectively control your leech tension for different conditions, via the mainsheet, while keeping your boom in the ideal place for speed and pointing (the leeward rear corner of the boat). 

Thus, in the extreme conditions (light and heavy air), where you generally ease the sheet out, you will pull the traveler to windward, pulling the boom back over the corner to maintain your pointing.  Thus, the sheet is allowing you to control your leech tension, while the traveler controls the sail’s angle to the wind.  In medium air, when you need more power in the sail, and generally would pull tighter on the sail, the traveler drops as far as the centerline of the boat, allowing you to apply just enough tension on the sail to prevent you from spilling much wanted power out of the top.

Because the Byte CII is designed for such a broad weight range, it is important to look at the suggestions below as general guidelines for your level of control upwind.  What a 110 lb. sailor does in 15 knots will vary significantly from what a 160 lb. person will do in 15 knots.

Light Air

You will sail with no cunningham (or just enough to pull the horizontal creases out of the sail), will pull the cunningham far to windward, and will ease the sheet to the corner of the boat.  Your sail will look relatively full, and pulling the traveler to windward will give you more room to ease the sheet to the corner and open the leech.  The tell tale on your top batten should look like it is trying to go forward 50% of the time, and should fly straight back the other 50% of the time (50/50 rule).

Medium Air

As you are fully powered up and under control (butt over the rail or light hiking), you should set the traveler more towards the center of the boat.  You will pull the Cunningham just to the point where you have no creases in the sail.  This will move the boom outboard, and you will compensate by trimming the sail to the corner of the boat.  The 50/50 rule applies here as well. 

Medium Heavy Air

As the Byte CII is a small and physical boat, there is a wind range, where if you hike hard enough, you may want to continue to keep some power in the sail.  For the stronger and heavier sailors, I find this may go as high 15 knots or so.  In this wind range, you will have the cunningham maxed out, the traveler center lined, and the main trimmed to the corner.  If the boat is flat, and you have no helm, this setup will give you tremendous height and power.  This will ONLY work if you are hiking hard, and have no helm.  The instant you are no longer able to maintain a neutral helm, you should start moving to the heavy air setup.  This will happen much earlier if you are sailing in waves and later in flat water.

Heavy Air

As you get to the point where hiking is no longer enough, the Byte CII gives you another setup to keep the lightweights in the game.  Once the cunningham is maxed out, and you start dumping the sail to keep the boat flat, start to move the traveler back up to windward.  This allows you to dump the sail to the point where you are under control, while keeping the sail in the corner of the boat to maintain your pointing.  Without having to use the vang, you are able to do this without applying any tension to your leech, making depowering easy and effective.

The Parabola

Light – Traveler up; sail out; cunningham off or variable
Medium – Traveler down; sail in; cunningham variable
Medium Heavy – Traveler down; sail in; cunningham strapped
Heavy – Traveler up; sail out; cunningham strapped