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Sailing Downwind

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Wetabix View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 8:53am
Have you ever had the experience that you thought you knew something and then you realised that you didn't? I have been sailing for about 65 years and thought I knew how to run. You point the boat at the leeward mark, let the sail out, goosewing the jib or hoist the spinnaker or if you are in a una rigged singlehander you might try a bit of reverse flow leech first by-the-lee funny stuff. But .......... I recently returned to sailing a Phantom having been in a slow asymmetric for ten years and I find that everyone is tacking downwind, even boats with conventional spinnakers such as the N18 who gybe through almost 90 degrees. The point-at-the-leeward mark technique is endorsed by Frank Bethwaite in Higher Performance Sailing and Nick Craig in Sailing to Win (?) so why is nobody doing it? Or have I been missing something for the last 65 years. As an aside, is there a decent book on how to sail which is not aimed at beginners or people sailing Lasers?

George Morris

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Sam.Spoons View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sam.Spoons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 10:04am
It depends on the boat and the wind strength, point at the mark is fastest until you gain enough speed but sailing the angles to make up for the extra distance sailed. Fast, early planing boats that can generate useful apparent wind gain soonest, slower boats are better doing dead downwind longer.

It's not that assy kites gain more than sym kites by sailing the angles (well, apart from the fact that they are invariable a lot bigger for a given size of boat) it's simply that most assy kite boats can't sail DDW.

Think of the extremes, sailing dead downwind at 2 knots will get you to the mark faster than sailing a beam reach at 6 knots (which will actually never get you there).

I sail a Blaze and we are about the same speed as a tin rig Phantom but it pays of sailing the angles slightly sooner in the Blaze 'cos we plane slightly earlier and slightly faster.

It is, it seems, a bit of a black art and I wouldn't claim to be any good at it (though I was pretty good on a Raceboard back in the day).


Edited by Sam.Spoons - 11 Mar 20 at 10:06am
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ian.r.mcdonald View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ian.r.mcdonald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 11:31am
Approach your club superstar and get them to follow you around and give you feedback. After 50 years sailing I learnt more in a hour with our local multi class national champ than ten books.

But dont tell anyone as they may not be RYA qualified!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wetabix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 12:03pm
Club superstars have their place in the cosmic scheme of things but my experience is that if you lay on a training day it soon becomes apparent that they have no idea how they do it!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sam.Spoons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 12:13pm
I think it depends on the club superstar in question. Some of them know exactly how they do it and prefer to keep it a secret, others are happy to share (and, yes some just do it by instinct).

One thing is for sure. I definitely don't know how I do it (on those rare occasions when I do get it right)  LOL


Edited by Sam.Spoons - 11 Mar 20 at 1:22pm
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jeffers View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jeffers Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 4:54pm
Depends on your local lake. At my local place it definitely depends on the conditions as to whether DDW pays or if playing the angles pays.  The legs are usually pretty short so keeping clear wind from your chasers and staying in the puffs is usually more beneficial than going gust hunting through big angles.

Likewise with a kite boat, the amount you lose gybing the kite is more than you gain by going for the optimal angle.

I have had success going deep by the lee at times though, the unstayed rig boats definitely have an advantage in that dept.
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fab100 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fab100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 6:38pm
Originally posted by Wetabix

As an aside, is there a decent book on how to sail which is not aimed at beginners or people sailing Lasers?


Shameless plug, but if my sailing hero Michael McNamara liked it...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote davidyacht Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 6:49pm
If you are enough of an anorak you could develop some polars for different wind strengths which would allow you to make a more informed choice of whether to sail deep or bigger angles.  

My personal opinion is that unless you are sailing a proper light weight skiff class you are unlikely to find the sweet spot by sailing high that allows you to take advantage of apparent wind angles that let you crack off as speed increases.

I noticed this when sailing RS200’s and RS400’s after I14’s.

I think I have said this previously, a very successful sailor shared this advice with me “there are only too fast ways downwind ... sailing by the lee or reaching”
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Post Options Post Options   Quote davidyacht Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 6:50pm
Originally posted by fab100

Originally posted by Wetabix

As an aside, is there a decent book on how to sail which is not aimed at beginners or people sailing Lasers?


Shameless plug, but if my sailing hero Michael McNamara liked it...

What book would that be  Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wetabix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 20 at 6:54pm
Go on then -plug it
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