Use This Simple 'Speed and Power' Sail Trim Secret!

Trimming the sails - a delicate skill
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How many times have you trimmed your sails and noticed your speed or power seems just a bit off? You glance up and check the set, the luff, the draft placement and all looks just fine. But something's not quite right. Try these simple sail trim tips to add speed and power when sailing!

What's the most common mistake in all of sail trim? We all do it at one time or the other. And that includes everyone from novices to recreational sailors and pro racing crews. No matter what their experience, we sailors tend to 'over-trim' our sails. Sure, they might look picture perfect and as wrinkle free as a starched shirt or blouse, but that doesn't always result in more speed.

Overtrimmed sails can slow your boat, disturb the laminar flow of wind from luff to leech, and cause your boat to sail sideways like a hermit crab on the run.

Master sailmaker and offshore racing sailor Brian Hancock says that 'Most sail trimmers have their sails overtrimmed'. And he's talking about sailors in general across the board--from weekend sailors to experienced racing crews. What's a fast 'n easy remedy?

Ease the sheets a bit. Allow your sails to 'breathe' and resume their natural shape. This will cause the top of your sails to open up just a bit (called 'twist') to help sustain forward drive and momentum. In his book 'Maximum Sail Power' Hancock says this: 'Let the top twist open a little and nine times out of ten your speed will pick up.'

Always check to see if your boat accelerated after you trim. If near shore, glance at objects ashore before you trim sails. Note their relative motion. With a bit of practice and patience, you'll be able to trim your sails for maximum acceleration.

What do you do in zephyr (ghosting) conditions when the boat has one knot or less of speed? Look just aft of your stern at the bubbles generated by your wake-trail. In all cases, check your speed before you trim; make the sail trim adjustment; re-check your speed and re-trim as necessary.

If you try these simple sail trim tips aboard your sailing boat today you'll make faster cruising passages, wherever in the world you choose to go sailing!

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