Yacht Racing - Beating To Windward
( Originally Published 1911 )
SAILING to windward or beating to windward is the one special condition of sailing that requires skill to get good results.
The pressure of the sail driving ahead is very slight ; you are going as near dead against the wind as is possible, so the pressure against your boat of wind and water is greater than under any other conditions. Here skill in handling, a smooth surface, well setting sails, little windage, all count for more than in any other point of sailing. You must not trim the sails too flat or allow them to be off too far, as either extreme will kill the boat's windward qualities. Remember, also, not to trim your sails exactly like some other boat, as it will not necessarily work. Every boat needs to be trimmed and balanced to suit herself, the sails or model being different in different boats.
The peak of the mainsail must be well set up so the gaff shall not flow off at too great an angle and so lose the drive. By hoisting the peak you throw a nice bird's wing curve into the forward part of the sail, thus increasing the driving power.
Always choose a comfortable position where you can watch your sails and boat. Keep her moving ahead at all costs ; there is nothing gained by pointing her higher than she will comfortably go, and thereby lose headway. Keep the boat always on her feet and meet the knock-down puffs half way by luffing and slightly spilling the wind from the sails. It is a good idea to keep the mainsail slightly lifting or fluttering in by the throat, if you have enough wind to give a fair move. In a seaway it is usually better to give her slightly more of a full, in order to better carry your headway through the jump.
To be sure of the best driving mainsail for all conditions in windward work, it is necessary to have several sails. A very full one for light weather, with good lift and play to the boom. Have a fairly flat one for a breeze, so that you may get the benefit of the forward part to help keep the boat's head off when going to windward. This eases up on the rudder and the tendency to come up into the wind is less with the forward part drawing. The perfect balance of the yacht to windward is very essential to speed. The rudder should trail out directly astern and should be used simply to turn, and not to do the work that the sails should do, namely, keep her from coming up into the wind or running off to leeward.