Heavy Wind Sailing
Looking forward to some windy afternoons this fall, a few tips on sailing in strong and/or gusty winds. First if its windy you want to
to go fast! Sometimes this isn't as easy as it may seem. With the large wave and chop it may be scary and difficult to go fast, but the
speed will take pressure off of the sail and make it much more controllable. I think this is one of the reasons that pros can sail
such big sails in strong winds.
It is common today to use pretty short harness lines. This works well
in light to medium winds, where you can keep well sheeted in. But, in
strong gusts you will need to sheet out a bit. If you keep the harness
lines short, sheeting out will cause you to stand straight up (verses
leaning out to windward) losing your leverage against the wind. If you
lengthen your lines you can sheet out a bit and still lean out.
Another way to release some of the pressure from the sail is to pinch up
wind. If you end up in some serious conditions and find yourself way up
wind of the beach, try sailing 45 degrees off of the wind. That's half
way between a reach and straight downwind. Start from a reach and then
carve down wind. The trick is that you keep your sail sheeted in. This
keeps the amount of sail area directly affected by the wind to a
minimal. Lean back to keep the nose from becoming caught in the waves.
Otherwise you may go over the booms!
The general set up for strong winds is lots of down haul, and some out
haul. Don't flatten the sail too much with the out haul or it will
become twitchy and sail like a bucking bronco. Set the boom at mid
chest level. Make sure that the harness lines are far back enough so
that the sail is balanced in strong wind that is approaching becoming
In newer sails the center of effort still moves a bit. This should be
noticeable in the lulls and in the strongest gusts. Counter act this by
pulling with one arm and pushing equally with the other. For instance
you are in a gale force gust and getting overpowered, push with your
front hand as much as you pull with the rear. This way both arms share
the load and you still apply your weight to the harness. Like wise if
you're in a big lull push with your back hand and pull with your front.