ProRegatta Yacht Club


Steering Techniques For Different Winds - By Steve Hunt October 12, 2021

Steering Techniques For Different Winds

As the wind strength changes, so too should your steering technique, with focus being on speed and heel angle.

October 12, 2021
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Steering techniques
As the wind builds, use heel angle as your guide: Steer and use the sails to keep the boat on its feet and stay fast in the chop. Paul Todd/ Outside Images

It’s good to have rules of thumb to help you sail the boat as fast as possible in all conditions. Such guidelines can help the skipper drive their best and give the crew a common purpose in how they react to changes in wind. One distinction that can help you increase speed is to identify if you should be telltale or heel-angle sailing. In lighter winds, telltale sailing is appropriate—the skipper works hard to stream the telltales at all times for maximum speed, and the crew moves around to create perfect heel. In overpowered heel-angle ­sailing conditions, the skipper can steer much more freely, focusing on a consistent heel angle while the crew hikes hard. In light air, it’s all about maintaining speed; in breeze, it’s all about the heel angle.

Underpowered Conditions

Here, the crew controls heel angle and the skipper sails exclusively to the telltales. The goal is to stream the telltales, setting up the boat for maximum speed. The heel angle is totally on the crew, and it’s best if someone can communicate the power in the boat—maybe the skipper or mainsheet trimmer—to help coordinate the team’s movements. If it’s really light, you might be heeling the boat a little extra to leeward, and just how much needs to be communicated to the crew so the boat feels as good as possible.


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