Happy New Year – learn to sail in light winds

Posted by Director of Education on January 1, 2009 under Skipper, weather | Be the First to Comment

What better way for NauticEd online sailing classes to start off the year by going sailing. The NauticEd crew will be racing their Beneteau 373 on lake Travis in the Red eye regatta today. Winds are predicted to be light at 6-10mph. So it’s going to be a light wind sailing day. Light wind sailing raises a few issues that many new sailors have a hard time picking up on at first but with a little experience you can learn to sail in light winds.

The trick is to understand that the rudder when turned adds drag to the boat which slows it down. When we have plenty of wind this is usually insignificant – but at slow wind speeds the drag becomes a significant force. In addition, the slower the boat moves the slower it turns and so turning the wheel doesn’ seem to turn the boat as fast. This results in the inexperienced sailor turning the wheel more to get the same rate of turning that they are used to. And as we discovered above – more turning creates more drag which slows the boat even more.

So the big trick is patience. Turn the wheel and wait – it will turn but slowly. And when turning the wheel just make small turns. This is a really hard one to master but with practise , you’ll get it. Many cruisers just turn on the engine when winds drop this low but racers have to deal with all wind conditions. It’s one of the reasons that racers typically become much better technical sailors than cruisers. But they do miss out on all the trips to the Caribbean that the cruisers take right?

So… race and cruise – that’s the real answer. Become crew on the many undercrewed sailboats. Just show up at the club house before a race and almost guarnteed you’ll be asked to crew.

Have a great learn to sail year!

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