Trimming on a reach

Unlike inshore races where the legs are usually beats and runs , offshore courses will see many a fetching leg , where the arcane arts of trimming on a reach can make all the difference between winning and losing. So how should we set about it?

Upwind we are searching for a high pointing low drag sail plan with, where possible ,  a hard leech , a top tell tail stalling out 25% of the time , the boom as near as possible to the centreline and the genoa trimmed in tight so that the  upper leech is 6inches inside the top spreader.

As we bear off we want power , with fuller sails ( straight masts and eased halyards)  and most importantly are looking for every opportunity to get that boom out so that the mainsail vector points further forward. The trouble is , all that achieves is to close the slot and the boat slows. The solution is to sheet the genoa  to the rail so that both main and genoa travel out together. This  maintains the slot and the speed jumps.

In light to moderate winds the genoa should be sheeted 6-12” forward of its windward car setting – to control the twist that otherwise occurs when you ease sheets. Adjust the lead till all tell tales fly together.  At the upper end of a particular sails wind range sheet it back aft so you are driving on the bottom half of the sail with both main and genoa twisted off to keep the top of the slot well open – in these conditions all the tell tales may lift together but the boat feels choked and will be slow – twist it off and you will heel less and fly at max hull speed.

On Festina we have “change sheets” permanently rigged both sides to snatch blocks on the rail . On a fetch they sheet the genny wide , on a run they can be taken forward to act as a main boom foreguy and are ready for use as a temporary sheet  in a spinnaker peel.

The main boom should be as far out as possible – ease it till you get that hint of movement in the front 25% – once there is too much of a bubble you will  have closed the slot. Let the speedo tell you how much you can ease. As the wind angle increases , ease the vang a bit and the outhaul more and more to power up the lower 1/3rd .

And when its all setting perfectly the wind will change and all settings will need adjusting – again and again. Alternatively (  and this may be  a useful trick at night in a shifting breeze ) set it all up and then steer to a constant wind angle .

2 sail reaching should never be relaxing!

Spinnaker reaching involves the same principles. A tight reach will require the boom astonishingly far in  to avoid closing the slot ( have you thought about sheeting the spi further aft ?) . As you ease the spi sheet – let the boom down till the luff of the main starts to lift – and often the speed will jump as the vector rotates forward. Always be looking for it to be as far down as possible.

If you havn’t got a crick in your neck , you could probably go faster!