Upwind speed – experts’ views

Picking the best angle

To sail upwind depends a lot on your sailing style and experience. The higher you try to sail, the harder it is to maintain your speed. So if you are unsure about what angle to pick, a high angle is more dangerous because it's more critical and less forgiving. It's usually better to pick a slightly lower course where you will be assured of better speed all the time.
“Remember that when you want to point better the first thing you need is speed. So make sure your boat is going fast first. Once you have good speed, then you can start playing a balancing game between speed and height and see how you go relative to other boats.
“This is difficult in heavier boats (like an Etchells) because they decelerate at such a slow rate. By the time you realise you're going slow, it will take you 30 or 40 seconds to get back up to speed because they accelerate slowly as well. It's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security because you can point high and took good for a little while!”

Dave Curtis, sailmaker and one-design champion

When you have a speed problem,

“In most cases, the first thing I'll try is laying the bow down, maybe three or four degrees for two or three seconds. Then hopefully the boat will start going faster and the helm will lighten up. If the boat still feels helmed up and doesn't accelerate, it means you probably aren't hiking enough and/or your sails are over-trimmed. So you have to open things up a bit, starting with the main.
“I'm never afraid to lay the bow down for acceleration, but I'm a big advocate of not letting the jib way out when you do this. I'd rather sail with the leeward telltales lifting briefly than let the sail out enough to get all the telltales flowing.
“You usually want to do your acceleration process as fast as you can. This means laying pretty deep for a short period rather than sailing higher and prolonging the time the boat is sailing below speed. Get the boat up to speed and get it over with quickly.”  Dave Ullman, sailmaker, world champ.

Figure out how and when you are slow.

“Is it straight-line speed, going through chop, accelerating out of tacks, pointing or something else? Once you've identified your weak area, don't try to be a hero and figure out the problem by yourself. Copy what the faster boats are doing, and ask questions. This will accelerate your speed curve.”Greg Fisher, sailmaker, national champ.

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