While racing season sits dormant for a brief span as the racers await Del Rey Yacht Club’s first Berger/Stein race in January, I thought it might be nice to track down a sailing legend and ask him for some racing tips here in the off-season.
Gary Jobson, who served as Ted Turner’s tactician during his winning campaign in the America’s Cup and has been ESPN’s sailing correspondent for more than 20 years, graciously passed on some of his vast knowledge about the sport he has dedicated his life to perfecting and promoting:
n Keep instruments visible.
In our age of modern electronics, it is important to place instruments so that all crew members can see them.
Often, the best spot is directly under the gooseneck below the boom on the mast.
Jobson finds the most important instruments are for boat speed, true wind speed and true wind direction.
n Fair the keel.
Many boats do not have a fair keel on both sides.
Sometimes, the mold to build the keel is a little out of shape. Or as the years go by, the shapes of the keels change when they rest on a cradle for the winter, bump into submerged objects, run aground or expand and contract in different temperatures.
So sailors would serve their purpose well over the winter to have their keel faired so that the flow of water is exactly the same on both boat sides.
This is a large task but it will produce dramatic results.
n Add speed.
Many sailors try to handicap their yachts to maximize a low rating. But an opposite approach is to increase speed in spite of a rating gain by adding sail area.
The best place to add sail area is to increase the length of the foot of the mainsail. Often this can be accomplished without getting a longer boom.
But more sail area on the main allows sailors to sail closer to the wind when sailing upwind and faster when sailing downwind.
Sailors’ ratings will go up a little, but often it is worth it.
n Move the jib leads frequently.
One of the most important adjustments sailors can make on any yacht is the jib lead.
Every boat should be set up so that the jib lead car can move easily along a track. This adjustment is made with a block-and-tackle system so that the jib trimmer can adjust the lead position.
On larger boats, this is often done with a hydraulic ram. A simple rule is to keep the tell tails along the luff flowing aft evenly.
If the upper tail luffs first, the jib lead should move forward. This is particularly true anytime sailors bear off and the jib is eased a few inches.
If the boat becomes overpowered due to too much wind, sailors can easily de-power the jib by moving the lead aft.
n Adjust halyard tension.
Halyard tension on both the main and jib should be adjusted frequently with every change of wind velocity.
Easing the halyard off increases the draft in a sail and also lets the camber of the sail move aft.
When the wind comes up, sailors take their halyard tighter to reduce draft and keep the maximum camber forward as they increase the tension on their sheets.
n Be sure the mast is in the middle of the boat.
Using a halyard and a bucket with weight in it, measure the distance of the tip of the mast to the side of the boat on both sides.
Jobson finds after several months of sailing, one set of shrouds stretches and the boat will not sail at the same speed on different tacks.
Sailors can correct this by taking measurements and making the appropriate adjustments.