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Getting the most out of a vessel is by measuring and coding

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What is the issue?
Getting the most out of a vessel is not easy. A few highly gifted individuals will be able to feel for the sweet spots of a vessel and make the most of it. But people this talented are rare and it takes a long time for most of us to get the feel of a vessel and optimise it in a wide range of conditions

Why address this?
Boat performance is the centre of all activity for a racing crew, and even cruisers want to get to their destination as quickly and as efficiently as possible. No one goes out with the express desire to sail inefficiently.

How to address this?
Find the fast settings for various angles, wind speeds and conditions and code the vessel so they may be more easily repeated.

Coding the sheet block positions
Photo: Michael Harpur
The commercial saying of 'if it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed' also applies to boat performance. Each time you go out it is a good idea to record the optimal settings on a set of cards for the specific sailing conditions.

For instance, 3-4 knots of wind in smooth conditions. Record all the sail arrangement sweet spots and the individual measurements for each control creating a profile like this:

Beam Reach / 3-4 knots of wind / smooth conditions

  • • No. 3 Genoa

  • • Halyard position 4

  • • Lead position 5

  • • Mainsail = un-reefed position 8

  • • Traveller 25 cm off the wind

  • • Backstay tension 2

  • • Cunningham notch 7

After this process has been undertaken across a wide range of conditions all that is required to sail the vessel optimally is to call off the condition record and punch in the numbers. This will immediately result in the tried and tested optimal performance for that condition and a profile point which can be further enhanced.

Coding the halyards
Photo: Michael Harpur
This approach is particularly good if you happen to have the benefit of spending some time with a very good racing sailor to help get the boat set up. Coding a vessel also lends itself to safe sailing as the limits of the vessel's rig and equipment can be noted and not exceeded accidentally.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession
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