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J/120 Sailing Upwind


There are a couple of things to note when sailing upwind to max VMG.

Here, the main halyard is approximately 6" below the black band. Halyards stretch, especially in moderate breeze, so the mast person and mainsheet trimmer should make sure that the head of the sail is at the black band when hoisted as well as at the end of each downwind leg. Adjustments made on downwind legs should be made before heading upwind.

Crew placement should be "cheek-to-cheek" to keep the center of gravity as compressed as possible. Also, the crew (legally) can sit outside the top lifeline or leaning against the lower lifeline more aggressively. Max VMG is the result of "little details" that make big differences in speed and pointing.

RIGHT: Time Bandit, shown here sailing in 14 -16 knots of true wind during Whidbey Island Race Week, is set-up for max VMG with perfect foreand-aft trim and minimal heel angle. Helmsman, main trimmer and genoa trimmer are in the cockpit while hiking crew are evenly distributed between the aft end of the coach roof and chainplates. What do we particularly like here? Concentration in the cockpit!

The 3DL mainsail leech telltales are all flying with the top telltale showing a hint of overtrim. The genoa foot look like it is strapped in hard against the leeward chainplate. It is usually faster to have the genoa foot just kissing the chainplate. The top of the sail will then stay closer to the spreaders, helping to power the boat up and point higher.

Optimally, the helmsman will sit on the windward side as far out as possible to see the waves and puffs as they approach the boat. Some helmspeople prefer sifting to leeward. In this position, however, the helmsman needs to be notified of approaching waves, puffs, or other boats, which can disturb concentration.


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Upwind Sailing - Light/Moderate Air

Right: Upwind in 8 knots true. Both sails are trimmed in hard. Note that some cunningham has been pulled on, even in this light breeze. By pulling the traveller up 8" and placing the boom on centerline, the boat will develop just the right amount of weather helm. The crew are already hiking correctly with bodies outside the upper lifeline and looking ahead for puffs and shifts. It’s important for everyone on the rail to be "heads up," always working for more speed or better position. Feedback is helpful to a helmsperson, but a lot of unnecessary chatter is distracting. One person should be communicating with the helm about changing sea and wind conditions.


Pay particular attention to the fore and aft trim of the boat.

Most boats go "stern heavy" in very light air. Note here how crew has been placed well forward until the transom is just out of the water. This reduces wetted surface and drag. To keep the boat on its lines, both helmsman and trimmer are seated as far forward as possible in the cockpit, while the crew are close together behind the leeward chainplate and positioned outside the genoa foot so the sail is not disturbed. In light air, some crew might even go below, which lowers the boats center of gravity. All crew should stay quietly seated, allowing helm and trimmers to sail the boat to its target speed. Movements should be slow and minimal.


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