"How To" Sailing Techniques – Use the Secret of Feathering For Perfect Sail Trim

Are you still unsure of just how much to trim in your mainsail or headsail on reaches? Or do you sometimes find yourself sailing too low or too high after tacking? Use the secret “how to” sailing technique of feathering to pump up your power, speed, and drive.

Concentrate on the forward third of each sail. That’s where the wind first makes contact with the sail. If the wind shifts or the sheets aren’t quite right, the sail will luff–or flutter. Use the headsail sheets or mainsheet to stop the flutter–or “put it to sleep”.

Easy does it when trimming! You don’t want to stall the sail, because this causes your small sailboat to move more sideways than forward. Follow these steps to get just the right sail trim every time.

*CLOSE HAULED

1. Set the headsail so that the leech lies 1″ to 2″ from the spreader tip. Pull the sailboat boom close to the centerline with the mainsheet.

2. Head up toward the wind just enough until the luff starts to flutter.

3. Fall off just enough to put the luff to sleep. This puts you right on the edge of the “no-go” zone and you should see good acceleration.

*REACHES

1. Set the boom vang to keep the mainsail leech under control.

2. Fall off or head up to the desired reach or sailing compass course.

3. Steady up on your heading. Look at each sail luff. If it flutters, pull in (trim) the sheet just enough to put the luff to sleep. If you see no flutter, the sail might be stalled. Ease each sheet until the luff just begins to flutter; then pull it in just enough to put it to sleep.

*RUNNING

Forget about feathering when running before the wind. Instead, concentrate on these three speed boosters…

1.. Ease the outhaul on the mainsail. This increases draft (belly) in the lower third of the sail. Set the vang to keep the boom horizontal.

2. Wing out the headsail with a whisker pole to present maximum area to the wind.

3. Steer with a light touch in light to moderate wind. Over-steering creates drag and slows the boat down.

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These easy “how to” sailing tips will improve your small cruising or racing sailboat’s performance in any kind of sailing weather. Use the secret of feathering to make faster passages when cruising, or beat the competition on race day!

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