Want to win the MidWinter Regatta North Sails has answers for you. Now is the time to get your sails repaired, recut or order a new sail (before Dec 19th) and they will outfit your crew with north bullet T Shirts. Below is some more advice to give you an edge. If you would like to receive more information from North Sails click HERE
Pre-Race Sail Check and Headsail Set Up
By Patrick Murray
It’s time to go racing, but you haven’t seen the sails up in awhile. The first thing you should do is make sure you have all the parts and pieces needed to rig your sails. Before leaving the dock, make certain you have all the battens and, while you’re at it, it’s worth checking the batten closures to make sure the battens can’t come out of the sail. This is also a good time to check the batten tension. As a starting point, you want to get enough tension on the batten to just take the wrinkles out of the batten pocket. You may want to make some adjustments to the tension once you see the sail up, but this is a good place to start.
Now it’s time to fold the sails nicely so you can move them around the boat. Keep in mind while flaking a headsail with battens, you’ll need to stack the leech. The bow team will need to pull the luff forward when hoisting, but it will make the sail a lot smaller and easier to handle onboard. Check the labeling on the sail bags so you can clearly see what sail is coming up on deck.
With your sails folded and ready to go, head out on the water with plenty of time before racing starts to get some sailing in. This is a great time for studying the wind speed and direction for the upcoming race, but it’s important to have a least one person on the crew focus on the sails. Hoist the sails and start sailing upwind: check the leech lines; ease the line off until the leech starts to flutter; then trim just enough to quiet the leech. Check these on both the main and the jib. If the breeze comes up, be ready to trim the lines a bit more. It’s better to have them on the loose side to start with. Get a look at the batten tension. If you see wrinkles in the pocket, add tension. If there’s a large wrinkle on the forward end of the batten from the batten pushing forward into the sail, ease the tension. Having enough time pre-race to drop the sail and make a few changes is a big advantage, so make sure you’re on the water early!!
Pre-race upwind practice sailing is also a good time to set up the jib leads and halyard tension. Check to make sure the leads are in the same position on both tacks. Try to get a feel for the power in the sail plan at this point. If you are feeling under-powered, try pushing the lead forward a little, but remember to ease the sheet a bit when moving the lead forward. If you’re fully powered up and heeling a lot with the full crew hiking, start looking to de-power and move the leads back. Have a chat with the helmsman and the main trimmer to see how the boat feels. Keep the same train of thought when it comes to the jib halyard. If you are looking for power, the sail can set up with a few wrinkles in the luff with lighter tension on the halyard. As the breeze builds, start bringing on the halyard tension until the sail has a smooth and tight luff. Once you are happy with the set-up, it’s smart to make reference marks on the halyards so you can get back to the same settings.
Remember to stay close to the starting area during your pre-race sailing and keep an eye on the time so you are ready for the starting sequence for the first race of the day.
Now that your sails are optimized and you’ve done some “warm-up” sailing, keep an eye on the conditions and how they are changing. Make changes to the sail plan based on the changing conditions. This concept of “changing gears” will help you keep the boat sailing at full speed. Having boat speed makes the entire process of calling tactics a lot easier. Speed is your friend!!
Good luck and sail fast, Patrick Murray
North Sails – San Diego