Sailboat Racing Tips: Reaching and Running

Reaching and running can be a very exciting part of sailboat racing. These legs tend to be the fastest, and there tends to be fewer lead changes than in other legs. On reaching and running stretches, you should be setting up for the leeward mark while trying not to be passed. Don’t worry if you are indeed passed by a few boats as you will have time to catch up at the round, or in the windward leg. Clear air is especially important in this leg. If another boat is driving on top of your wind, get away without changing course too much.

Sheet the Mainstay

Ignore the last block in the area below deck level and position the mainstay directly off the horizontal spar. This will improve your reaction time and allow you to feel the power of the sail. Only do this if the rules allow it. You attention should be three-fourths to watching your speed, and one fourth watching the other boats and the course. You can gain or lose, depending on whether you sail a trim correctly.

Heel the Boat Windward

Heeling the boat windward will give you greater speed. This is because the sail is forced higher in the air, where there is often greater wind speed. It also reduces drag by reducing the surface area of the boat on the water.

Furthermore, pressure on the tiller is reduced. Because when going downwind, most of the sail area is on one side of the boat and will want to head up. Thus you inevitably use the rudder more than is ideal in an effort to keep the boat straight. Needless to say, you should not be steering this much.

Jibe Correctly

It is important to go from one tack to another correctly, especially when going downwind so quickly, as the boat is much less stable. The boat can curve up in a big change of wind and either run you off course, or even capsize your boat.

Don’t make large tiller movements and keep your weight at the center. The boat should be up to speed especially if the winds are heavy, which will reduce the  force on your back and allow better control. Wait for any brief stop in the wind as use that as an opportunity to throw the boom across the boat.

Step  4 - Watch the Wind Carefully

Always keep an eye out behind you during the reach and run. Stick to a side of the course but inside that side, you can move around to use the wind. When there is a bit of wind coming from behind you, head up slightly so that it reaches you sooner, than bear off and ride it out. This maximizes the amount of time you have to use that bit of wind. Don’t increase your speed on the breeze as you might come out the other side too soon.