GP14 Sailing Forums Forum Downwind speed (and how to improve it)

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    • #5841
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Following on from last year’s post about upwind technique, how do the top sailors sail downwind, and what am I missing out on?

      Usually, my offwind legs consist of:

      -Pop the downhaul, let the outhaul off maybe 2-3cm, ease the kicker till the top telltale flies 50% of the time. Usually leave the rig tension alone, as it’s difficult to get on properly again with the rig under load. How much do others adjust the rig tension between legs, if at all?

      -Board half up on a reach, 3/4 up on a run.

      -Keep the boat flat, if necessary by dumping the main (but mainly just by hiking harder). Jib set to the telltales. Is this likely to choke the slot and slow me down excessively? Is this how other people control heel? Or would you dump the jib or spinnaker first to stop the slot getting choked?

      -Trim-wise, I try and keep the angle of the bow skimming the water in non-planing conditions, which generally means sitting quite far forwards. Usually I will sit on the thwart in line with the sidestay, to leeward, while my crew sits level with me to windward.

      -The guy is set so as to be far enough forward that the spinnaker doesn’t touch the forestay when sheeted in enough to stop the luff from curling.

      -The pole height is set so the luff of the spinnaker curls roughly half-way up when it breaks. If it curls too high, pole goes up, too low and the pole goes down.

      -Tactically, I tend to sail pretty high away from the windward or gybe mark to get clear breeze, and then come down into the next mark with speed. If I’m going to go low I do it early, and only if I’m caught on the inside of a bunch at the windward, or outside at the gybe. Is this the right thing to do?

      -Perhaps most importantly, technique. In light and patchy winds, I point up about 10 degrees from the rhumb line in the lulls, and bear about 10 degrees below it in the gusts, rolling the boat maybe 5-10 degrees to facilitate steering and minimise rudder drag. Does anybody else do this? Do you find the advantage of staying in pressure longer makes up for the extra distance sailed?

      In planing conditions, I tend to point up slightly when the boat isn’t planing, again by using about 5-10 degrees of roll, which allows me a roll to get the boat flat again as I pump the main and lean forwards as the wave passes under the mast and the bow dips. Once she starts to surf, my crew and I get our weight as far back as possible, sheet in the sails to stop them collapsing due to the apparent wind, and I steer the boat to keep pace with the wave, basically if the boat is going much quicker than the wave, I point slightly higher so the boat doesn’t overtake the wave and drop off the plane. Is this the correct technique, or can anybody recommend how I can improve it? I find my biggest losses happen in marginal planing conditions, when I am slightly slower to get on the plane than others around me.

       

      Finally, are there any good videos of all this being done right? It would be good to have a close look at somebody who knows what they’re doing, even better if there is coach commentary on them (doesn’t even particularly have to be a GP, although that would help!), and are there any good downwind training exercises people could share to help improve?

       

      Thanks in advance!

      Peter

    • #5974
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Thanks Mike!

       

      You’re probably right in that I’m overthinking things, perhaps a lot of the problem is that I don’t have a regular crew, so spend a lot of time telling them what I want, where to sit, and which ropes to pull instead of concentrating on what I’m doing.

       

      Probably there’s no quick fix and it’s just going to come down to more time on the water (which is no bad thing now the weather is starting to improve)

    • #5876
      Mike Senior
      Participant

      Hi Peter,

      That’s quite a lot of questions! All good ones though. I don’t want to say i’m a top sailor but I’ve won a few GP things so I’ll give answering your questions a go…

      Following on from last year’s post about upwind technique, how do the top sailors sail downwind, and what am I missing out on?

      Overall I think you maybe over-thinking some of it. I find good downwind boat speed needs really good boat handling first and foremost, where most of your maneuvers are performed from muscle memory rather than a conscious new thought (hope that makes sense). This takes lots of practice.

      -Pop the downhaul, let the outhaul off maybe 2-3cm, ease the kicker till the top telltale flies 50% of the time. Usually leave the rig tension alone, as it’s difficult to get on properly again with the rig under load. How much do others adjust the rig tension between legs, if at all?

      Kicker – I set to where looks sensible. Sometimes that it is probably with the tell-tale as you say but I never really take notice. I try to make a shape that looks sensible i.e. when looking for power something that looks like a plane wing on its end and when looking to dump power lots of twist (tell tale would then be flying all the time).

      I never adjust rig tension from upwind to downwind. I only consider altering it when there is a significant change in wind pressure. (more when it windy, less when it is light)

      I seldom release the outhaul on a GP. I just don’t think it makes that much difference when sailing inland, and the times I have released it I have generally forgotten to pull it on again upwind, which has more of a negative effect than the benefit of releasing it downwind. The exception is when I am doing a champs on the sea with long downwind legs, we generally then ease it on a broad reach when I looking for more power. I set it like an on-off button. Before the race we release the outhaul to where looks sensible and then put a stopper knot in the rope, so when we round the windward mark we just release it to the knot and forget about trimming it to the mm.

      Downhaul is always fully released unless it is a windy 2 sail reach then it is maybe pulled on hard or if it is a windy 3 sail reach and I need to twist the mainsail off to de-power and gain some height.

      -Board half up on a reach, 3/4 up on a run.

      Roughly yes, but I constantly re-adjust the board to where the balance feels right. On a windy reach the board can be as far up as 3/4. I am also re-adjusting a lot on the run depending on whether I am heading dead downwind (up as much as I dare), or down a bit if my VMG would be better sailing higher. On a long run I maybe swapping between the two a lot depending on the differences in pressure.

      -Keep the boat flat, if necessary by dumping the main (but mainly just by hiking harder). Jib set to the telltales. Is this likely to choke the slot and slow me down excessively? Is this how other people control heel? Or would you dump the jib or spinnaker first to stop the slot getting choked?

      I assume you mean breezy reaching conditions, otherwise you would want all sails pulling as hard as possible, therefore aiming for perfect boat and sail trim. When it is breezy, the most common mistake I see (and do) is when you get too focused on the mark early in the reach and forget about trim and speed. The boat’s angle may change a lot on a reach in breezy conditions, generally bear away in gusts and head up in lulls. For example, when a gust hits you may need to do a sharp bear-away to balance the boat whilst also moving back in the boat, hiking out and trimming sails; the boat will then accelerate quickly and then you will find it is easier to harden up towards your intended direction. It is crucial when breezy on a reach to have the kite at maximum eased position (the odd flap is better than over sheeting). The jib tell-tales should be flying but if struggling for height then a little luffing is acceptable. Over sheeting is a big no and can cause a capsize. Main will be constantly changing trim to reflect the course of the boat and how much power you need. If you are really overpowered, ease kicker a little and pull on downhaul. This will allow you to sheet slighter further inboard as the sail will twist more higher up and keep the slot open for the kite to drive you forwards.

      -Trim-wise, I try and keep the angle of the bow skimming the water in non-planing conditions, which generally means sitting quite far forwards. Usually I will sit on the thwart in line with the sidestay, to leeward, while my crew sits level with me to windward.

      I don’t think about the bow skimming the water. When not planing I just try and maximise the waterline length (which tends to be a similar position to for-aft upwind position). When very light we will probably induce a little heal to reduce wet area but keeping the same waterline length. When planing I just move aft based on feel. I find most boats in breezy conditions on a reach don’t sit far enough aft and then when it goes light forget to move forwards, quickly enough (I am particularly guilty of the latter point, which I am working on…).

      -The guy is set so as to be far enough forward that the spinnaker doesn’t touch the forestay when sheeted in enough to stop the luff from curling.

      Correct. Careful that the pole will bend further in breezy conditions.

      -The pole height is set so the luff of the spinnaker curls roughly half-way up when it breaks. If it curls too high, pole goes up, too low and the pole goes down.

      I think if it curls too high the pole needs to come down and vice versa. As a general rule my pole cuts across the genea at a perpendicular angle to the luff (I think that is the best way to describe it), and we generally just lower the pole it when it goes light to help the kite fill.

      -Tactically, I tend to sail pretty high away from the windward or gybe mark to get clear breeze, and then come down into the next mark with speed. If I’m going to go low I do it early, and only if I’m caught on the inside of a bunch at the windward, or outside at the gybe. Is this the right thing to do?

      I’m probably fairly similar to that but things change depending on position in fleet, conditions, tide ,how tight the reach is etc… If it is a standard reach (i.e. not too broad), and planing conditions I will generally if not in the lead delay my kite hoist, find a clear lane above the pack, pop the kite and try to overtake as many boats as possible in clear wind. Tactically though, you need to think about whether you are in an attacking or defending position and then adjust accordingly. Going low would probably be a bad choice if you are just ahead of a pack  who could cover all your wind (i.e. defending position), but as you say if you are at the back of a pack you can be in an attacking position and have the choice of sailing the shortest distance,  sailing low (good strategy if you round the windward mark in lots of breeze) or high (if you round the windward mark in little breezy and the new breeze is going to fill up higher).

      -Perhaps most importantly, technique. In light and patchy winds, I point up about 10 degrees from the rhumb line in the lulls, and bear about 10 degrees below it in the gusts, rolling the boat maybe 5-10 degrees to facilitate steering and minimise rudder drag. Does anybody else do this? Do you find the advantage of staying in pressure longer makes up for the extra distance sailed?

      See above, it is about trying to make a decision of what will maximise your VMG in relation to the point you want to get to. see – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velocity_made_good 

      Anything you can do to minimise rudder drag is good but careful not to be too aggressive as there will come a point where too much heal will have bigger negative affect than what moving the rudder would have done.

      In planing conditions, I tend to point up slightly when the boat isn’t planing, again by using about 5-10 degrees of roll, which allows me a roll to get the boat flat again as I pump the main and lean forwards as the wave passes under the mast and the bow dips. Once she starts to surf, my crew and I get our weight as far back as possible, sheet in the sails to stop them collapsing due to the apparent wind, and I steer the boat to keep pace with the wave, basically if the boat is going much quicker than the wave, I point slightly higher so the boat doesn’t overtake the wave and drop off the plane. Is this the correct technique, or can anybody recommend how I can improve it? I find my biggest losses happen in marginal planing conditions, when I am slightly slower to get on the plane than others around me.

      My simple rule I sail to is to try and keep the boat pointing downhill (easier said than done though). Sometimes that means bearing away rather than pointing up to prevent smashing in to the wave in front, whilst also considering where the next gust is and progress towards the mark. In marginal conditions our weight is moving all the time (hopefully in a smooth fashion) fore and after, in and out to ensure balance.

      Finally, are there any good videos of all this being done right? It would be good to have a close look at somebody who knows what they’re doing, even better if there is coach commentary on them (doesn’t even particularly have to be a GP, although that would help!), and are there any good downwind training exercises people could share to help improve?

      Check out:

      GP open from Poole prior to Looe Worlds

      Merlin Nationals (Looe. 14 mins 6 secs to see an example of how Stu Bithell sent it down a windy reach)

      Mike

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