Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gybing - Friend Or Foe?

Gybing is definitely your friend.   Here are quick pointers for successful gybing SIDES - HANDS - STEER - CONTROL.

First, Gybe when you are going as fast as possible.  By sailing fast downwind you minimize the apparent wind speed and this minimizes the force of the wind "felt" by the sails.  In 15 kts of breeze, if your hull speed is 3.5 kts then the wind felt by the sails will only be11.5 kts.  A veritable calm!

Here are the four steps to gybing and NOT capsizing.

1) "Switch sides"  
While sailing dead downwind, and paying close attention to maintain that point of sail, stand up facing forward and straddle the  aft end of the centerboard trunk.

2) 'Switch Hands"
Hold the tiller with whichever hand is to leeward. If you are on a starboard tack then you will switch from your left to your right hand.  If you had been on a port tack then you will switch from your right to your left hand.

3) "Steer"
Steer by using your weight and the rudder together.  Slightly shift your weight, and push your tiller to windward . If you are on a starboard tack this means weight  and tiller to starboard.  On port tack - the opposite. The boat will now turn "away"  from the wind such that the wind will catch the 'back side" of the leech and quickly push the sail across the boat.  4 letters spell a very important word at this point.  D-U-C-K.

4) "Control"
Moments before the gybe, I hold the mainsheet such that I am feeling the pressure exerted by the sail.  At one particular moment the pressure gets light just before the wind will grab the back side of the mainsail and push it across the boat..  You will also notice just before that moment that the jib will start switching sides on it's own.  Then I pull the mainsheet hard (even jerk it) to expedite moving the sail across the boat and simultaneously straighten the tiller (bring it to the middle of the boat).  The tiller should ALREADY be pointing directly down the middle of the boat when the boom crosses overhead. This is one of the more important fine points that will prevent you from spinning out, heeling far over, and filling up with water as you capsize. Additionally since prior to gybing you already "switched sides and hands" you are perfectly positioned to hike out hard on the new windward side.  If you need, when the boom is crossing the boat, you can even push the tiller slightly past mid position as you and your crew hike out hard on the new windward side.

There are still a few fine points to this process which involve more aggressive rolling of the boat and engaging the crew in helping to throw the main over.  These will become important on the race course.  However, for now start practicing what I have outlined here and you will be on your way to fast fun gybing in any wind condition.

Gybe early, gybe often.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Apparent wind/True Wind and US Sailing New sailing textbook

I wanted to write about gybing a sailboat.  But one point I need to make in that discussion early on is that speed is your friend and that safe and secure gybing should be executed when sailing at max speed. This is a little bit counter-intuitive at first.  So I need to explain.  However, before starting I realized that you need to understand the difference between true wind and apparent wind. So I'll make a few comments here about wind and my next blog will go into gybing. 

True wind - it's the actual wind.  Just stand still and feel the breeze.  That's true wind.  Now start moving in a direction and then you feel the apparent wind.  Apparent wind is what you feel when you are moving. Apparent wind and true wind are exactly the same if you are stationary.  They are different when  you are moving.  Let me illustrate.  You are parked in your car, perfectly still.  The wind is blowing at 10 mph in exactly the same direction that your car is pointing.  The true and apparent wind are both 10 mph.  Now you start driving at 5mph (BTW you have a nice little convertible).  Since you are going in the same direction as the true wind you will feel an apparent wind of only 5mph (10 minus 5). The true wind is still 10.  Now accelerate your car to 10 mph.  The apparent wind (what you feel)  is 0 mph.  The true wind is still 10.  Now accelerate to 20  and you will begin to feel an apparent wind of 10 mph apparently moving in the opposite direction(20-10) .  Once you've got this basic concept down  then it gets a bit more interesting if the true wind is moving either left or right in relation to the direction that you are moving.  Remember using vectors is high school math class?  Thank goodness because using vectors make sit all come clear. Now it will be easy for me to explain an important reason why,  when you gybe,  you should be going as fast as possible. When gybing speed is your friend.  More on gybing in my next blog

US Sailing has a great new book called Learn Sailing Right, Intermediate Sailing.,675.html.  We are selling this latest offering at our front desk.  I highly recommend it.   Even if you already have your CBI  JIB rating this book is full of great information in detail that can help you improve your sailing skills. It follows on US Sailing's excellent Learn Sailing Right, Beginning Sailing.   

Next time - Gybing, Friend or Foe?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Can you see the wind? OR

When a CBI sailor capsizes his or her boat,  our staff plucks them out of the water and returns them to CBI safe and sound.  While we retrieve their vessel they have an opportunity to find something dry to put on and fill out a "Capsize Report".  One of the questions we ask on the report is something along the lines of "What caused you to capsize? What happened?".  From time to time folks have reminded me that if they could answer that question then they probably wouldn't have gone swimming. So I'm here tell you what may have (most likely) happened.  You were not watching the wind.  You didn't see the big gust of wind charging along in your direction.  You were caught unawares and the wind blew you over. Simple. So all you have to do is watch the wind to anticipate when it will hit your sails and be prepared to to ease them out, and more importantly hike out hard and allow your boat to head up (some) as your boat  heels over in the gust..

But wait, you may ask.  I can't see the wind.  Air is clear.  How can you possibly see it and therefore anticipate when it will strike the sails?  Ah Grasshopper, here you ask about one of the great secrets usually revealed only to those already in possession of the secret handshake.  While I am not willing to reveal anything about the handshake I am willing to reveal the secret of "seeing the wind"

You can't see the wind.  You can see the surface of the water which the wind rubs against creating little wavelets or wrinkles as it moves along.  The more wind the bigger the wrinkles you can see on the water. On gusty days if you just sit and watch the water sheet for a while you will see big dark areas on the water surface moving along quickly.  Kind of like moving ink blots.  These are gusts. Wind does not simply move horizontally. A good bit of it moves up and down.  When a significant downdraft hits the water surface, it  spreads out and moves in the general direction of the prevailing breeze. There can be a significant temporary change in the direction of the gust.  If you are caught (surprised) by the leading edge of the gust which probably changes direction by 10, 20 30, 40 degrees or more (on the Charles River), then you have a good chance of a surprise tack or jibe. This can leave you sitting on the leeward side of the cockpit while the boat heels over and fills up with water.  You probably won't recover from this before finding yourself completely immersed in the water and wondering just what happened and why. 

To avoid this adventure in swimming, pay attention to where the wind is coming from all the time.  Keep looking upwind at the surface of the water for dark areas that are moving in your direction. As a novice sailor you are most interested in managing the sudden increase in velocity.  When you become more expert you will actually seek out these dark areas for the excitement and speed they can produce.  Sailboat racers are always trying to "connect the puffs" - that is sail to and in the puffs as much as possible.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Steering Tips and Tricks.

For all you new sailors here are a few more tips and tricks to advance you along your sailing learning curve.
You have three ways to steer you boat.  The first one we talk about is the rudder.  Push the tiller off center and the rudder pivots such that water pushes more on one side than the other and the the stern of the boat is pushed left or right.  Like a grocery cart being pushed backwards.  Fine enough so far.  You can steer the boat with the rudder. However.... 

There are two other ways to turn your boat.  The first is to shift the weight of the skipper and crew to either minimize or accentuate the heel of the boat.  When sailing, if you let the boat heel to one side the boat will  turn toward the other side.    The last way to steer the boat is to  use your sails to increase or decrease weather helm.  Remember that when turning the boat it tends to pivot at a point roughly over the centerboard. Most of the mainsail is aft of this point.  So when the force of the wind hits the mainsail, it has a tendency to push the boat such that it turns around that pivot point.

You will know that you are becoming an expert helmsman when you use the rudder less and less and use your weight and sails more and more to steer your boat.

These pointers are generalizations which are true.  As with all generalizations there are a few exceptions.  However, as a beginner working toward your Helmsman rating there are no exceptions! Follow these "rules" and you will be on your way to becoming an excellent sailor.  Next blog - How to "See the Wind"


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Sailor Tips and Tricks [top secret stuff!...please share].

For all you new sailors at CBI  - progressing to the Helmsman Rating will be one of your first goals as you learn to sail.  The Helmsman Rating means you can go sailing at CBI most days without restriction and bring guests.    So I will keep posting some  tips and tricks along the way which I hope will help you out.

Tip #1
Keep the boom vang off except when sailing.

Face forward when tacking and gybing.  Avoid turning or facing backwards at all.

Tip #3
When you're not moving at all and you want to get going, straighten the helm, trim the sail until it stops luffing, wait until you start moving forward before you attempt to turn or tack.  Often you will see newbies attempting to turn their boat by pushing the tiller hard-a-lee before moving forward.  It never works.  Have you ever tried to turn your car when it is parked with the brake on?  Nothing happens.  Same in a sailboat.  If you're not moving forward then you can't turn using the rudder.  More advanced sailors learn how to steer with the aid of their sails, but that is something we'll teach you after you have a Helmsman rating.

More to follow...