Sailing on a Reach

by Hamish Ferguson

I am going to describe what happens to me when I get to the windward mark and go off on a reach. Note that when sailing down or off the wind in a catamaran, you can make huge gains very quickly if you get it right.

·        First try to approach the windward mark on a course which is about one boat length above the mark.  You can then bear off onto the reach with smooth acceleration while steering a curve.

·        Let the mainsail out.  I do this by letting the traveller off completely which keeps the tension in the leech of the sail.

·        Let the jib off and set the barber hauler to the top of the forward doghouse.  Then cleat the jib.

·        The mainsail outhaul must then be released so that the mainsail clew comes in about 6”, giving more curve to the lower part of the sail.

·        BIG SECRET – release the windward shroud lever!  This allows the mast to go to leeward, allowing the leeward shroud to go loose and not spoil the shape of the mainsail as the mainsheet is let out.

·        Now raise the windward daggerboard and the windward rudder.

·        Move your weight forward if the wind is light.  If the wind is heavy, then bring your weight back so that the leeward bow does not submerge.

·        As you sail down the reach, constantly adjust the mainsheet so that you control the amount of power you have in the sail.  You do not want to capsize!

·        Look around all the time for stronger wind which is indicated by darker looking patches of water, or by your competition steaming past you already in the stronger wind!

·        When sailing downwind to a leeward mark (not a reaching leg), the situation is much more difficult to judge.  You have to decide which is going to pay off, steering a lower course and a shorter distance but at a slower speed, or steering a higher course and longer distance at a faster speed.  Also, you should be aware that the wind direction changes during a run and this time you are looking for headers.  You need to gybe into them to take you closer to the leeward mark.  To see where the wind is coming from, I am always looking at the flag at the top of the mast.  To see if the sails are setting correctly, look at the telltales on the sails.

·        To maintain good speed, steer up in the lulls and steer down in the puffs.

·        As you sail the leg, either to a gybe mark or to a leeward bottom mark, always plan how you are going get around the mark.  There is usually excellent opportunity to pass competition, either by taking the inside and coming out high, or if there are too many boats in the way, by going in fast and low and passing to leeward.  But before going into the mark, prepare the boat for the next leg.  If it is a beat, lower the daggerboards and rudders, tighten the shroud levers, pull the mainsail clew out on the boom, let the jib barber hauler off and sheet the jib, and finally pull the mainsail traveller up.

Good sailing!