Sail Trim for (Singlehanded) Cruisers

February 14, 2015 at 10:16 am

I’ve never been on a racing yacht (well only tied to the dock at a boat show), and I never really did dinghy’s… To say I’m not that competitive is probably a bit of an untruth, but more likely the thought of going backwards and forwards ’round the cans’ is pretty boring to me.  I like the adventure and freedom of sailing, of travelling to new places or at least seeing places from a new perspective.

However, one of the disadvantages with this lack of “discipline” is that I’m aware that my sail trim is definitely not as sharp as it could be. I know how to trim the sails with the sheets according to the tell-tales on the luff of the genoa and mainsail, but the finer points of sheet car and mainsheet traveller positioning have eluded me. When I had the UV strip replaced on the genoa last season, the sail maker replaced the luff rope and I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was for…

It can’t be that complicated, surely? I reckon I’ve a pretty good ‘feel’ for how the boat is sailing and can definitely tell when the boat is ‘in the groove’, it’s just finding it has always been a bit of a lucky accident so far!

But there’s loads of info out there… I bought the RYA Sail Trim for Cruisers Handbook at the end of last summer which was very illuminating, with lots of clear diagrams.  It will definitely stay onboard with me, but it does seem quite complicated, with lots of jargon, and I think lots of differences for different boats. It definitely seems more of an art to ‘tuning’ the sails, than a science.

Sail Trim for Cruisers

Recently I’ve also found a series of videos on Youtube and I’ve found it really helpful to see it all in practice. I warn you, they are a bit ‘Howards Way’ though, made back in the 90’s clearly before roller reefing and lifejackets were invented. (And try not to get distracted giggling at the historic technology like I did either…) But I’ve watched them all a couple of times and it’s definitely making more sense to me now.

Final note though, at the end of the last video on trimming the mainsail, the presenter is shown in charge of the mainsheet traveller control continuously trimming it, in continuous communication with the helmsman. In my defence, there’s a lot more to do and think about when you’re singlehanding so I think that level of perfection is a bit unobtainable.

Can’t wait to put all this new knowledge into practice though… Anyone else got any tips?

I Have a Theory…

February 9, 2015 at 9:59 am

I have a theory… It goes like this:

Out of all the yachts that there are, only half of them ever go in the water…

And out of all the boats in the water, only half of them ever leave their mooring…

And out of all the boats that ever leave their mooring, only half of them ever go out of the harbour….

And so of all the boats that ever go in the water, leave their moorings and then leave the harbour; we all know each other.

(Okay, maybe there might be maybe two degrees of separation, but I swear no more…)




February 8, 2015 at 9:01 am

Winter is a time for the yachtsman or woman (or gardener) to rest up and plan, and plot and dream of the next coming season… I haven’t posted here since the end of November and I hope you haven’t worried that I have lost interest in my little Duet, I just had to prioritise some other stuff first.  But I’ve got heaps to tell you!

Firstly, I am very nearly through the purchase of a little cottage on the West Coast of Ireland (and as of last week have sale agreed on my place in Bristol). It’s been a bumpy ride, full of twists and dishonesty (and I’ll tell you all about it if ever we meet). Duet and I (and of course my dog Erin) hope to be relocated there fully by the end of the summer. It was very cheap but needs a lot of work!

Secondly I have gone and entered the Jester Baltimore Challenge, which is on the 14th June and goes from Plymouth to Baltimore in Ireland. I’ve joked to people that it will be my delivery trip but it’s 250 miles single handed with no engines allowed for propulsion. It is recommended that skippers have undertaken a 100 mile single handed passage beforehand. My longest passage with Duet was the last passage I did last season – 45 miles overnight from Helford to Plymouth, so I need to get that in early in the coming season.

I went to the Jester symposium and dinner in Ipswich last week and was really heartened by everyone’s very warm welcome and support. I’ve been given so much great advice and encouragement and would like to say thank you. You know who you are.

My plan for the season at the moment is to cruise back up to Poole, and then hop across to Cherbourg (which is 63 miles) and then back to Plymouth via the Channel Islands for the start of the Jester in early June. At the minute I’m thinking that I will cross Lyme Bay from Dartmouth to Weymouth straight.  I feel much more confident at the start of this season than I did last season, which I suppose is how it’s supposed to be… and of course testament to what a great little boat the Hurley 22 is. I (finally) bagged a Navik windvane on eBay this week (4th time lucky) which is going to enable me to increase my distances massively.  I helmed pretty much all the way last season.

When (not if!) I get to Baltimore I will take a more leisurely cruise round and up to our new home port, which will either be Galway or Westport in County Mayo. Great cruising, and it’s all a bit of an extension of last year’s Plan. I wasn’t ready for it then, but should be this year. Dare to dream, guys…

Before all that though, how can I resist a music video? Here’s Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s ‘Changes’, sung in Portuguese in the film ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou‘. One of my favourite films. Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, very whimsical…

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