Sails need to breath!

by Chris Kameen on July 9, 2013

sailing_across_the_wind_drawingQuite often when we are learning to sail we ‘oversheet’ the sails. What this means is that we pull them in too tight and effectively choke them. For a sail to work air must flow in and OUT of it. In the image to the left we can see how the wind is diverted by the sail but is not choked.

There are a number of indicators that tell us whether our sail is trimmed correctly:

  1. telltalesThe tell tales on the jib should both be horizontal most of the time perhaps with the windward one lifting a little. If the tell tales drop vertically then the sail is stalled and there is no flow over that part of the sail. You should ease the sails. Tell tails are great when the sail isn’t wet.. growing up in the UK, our sails were often wet and so we had to learn to read sails without the use of tell tales!
  2. At the front of the mainsail there is an area that will bubble if the jib is in too tight. We could call this area the mainsail map
  3. If the sails are over trimmed then the boat will heal excessively – because we are generating too much power. When it is windy this could leas to a capsize. When it is light winds the boat just goes slowly. I tend to use also my eyes, ears and feel to judge this, look at the wind on the water and feel the wind, if it is feeling strong then the boat should be skipping a long.. if it isn’t then you are doing something wrong.. Time to change gear, adjust the sails etc.

We have a saying in sailing “if in doubt let it out” and what this means if you are not sure then ease your sails, when they start to flap or flutter at the front pull them back in a little a bit.

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