Sail trim for speed

In the second part of our series of tuning tips, we look at sail settings for different conditions


Mainsheet trim

There are many ways to skin a cat here, and in general they all work, so use what works for you!

1) Traveller up and vang sheeted – the most common way

2) No vang, use mainsheet and traveller

3) Or a bit of a combination of above

The safest set up is keeping some twist in the mainsheet. The boat stalls very quickly if over-sheeted. Jerry Hill says, ‘I generally try to keep the traveller up as long as possible to keep the boom on the centreline and drive lift out of the lower leech, providing a small amount of weather helm and lift off the rudder. I’d always use backstay as the first control to depower the mainsail, before considering easing the sheet and then down-tracking the traveller.

‘We put the Cunningham through the lowest hole on the mainsail in all conditions and find this allows us to pull the bag out of the lower luff in lighter conditions and gives enough range in heavier winds to flatten the sail and pull the draft forward.’

How high to set up the jib?

The height of the jib effectively controls how open the leech of the jib is. Higher means tighter leech, lower opens the leech up.

Set the foot of the jib about 1-2 cm off the deck. We use a tape mark on the forestay and a horizontal line on the luff tape of each jib, which we have in the same place to get consistency on jib height.

How tight should the jib Cunningham be?

This is one of the controls we adjust the most. We’re always looking to just pull the creases out of the luff of the jib, without pulling it too tight. If we seem to be going slow, one of the first things we do is release this a bit. Remember: when pulling on very hard, the top of the jib may open up significantly.

How do you use the jib tracks?

Most of the time these are as close to the centreline as you can get them – make sure the cars are the correct way around, with pins on the outside. We track out a few holes (up to 8 full holes) as we start get back-winding in the mainsail in stronger winds. In very windy conditions your jib trimmer becomes vital and being able to uncleat and ease effectively through the big gusts is very important.

New sails

Love buying them or hate buying them, they do make a difference! Clearly they are a significant expense, so sensible planning about when to use them – and when not to! – ensures you enjoy the best value out of your new armoury. Most of the top teams will put up a new set for the world championships, and maybe one other new jib mid-season, and then manage their slightly older sails through other events.

While not putting up your new sails on a really windy day seems logical, the speed difference between old and new will still be there, sometimes more than expected!