Today's Open/Close Times based on tide predictions

DateClub TimelineSunsetLow Tide
Mon Jul 15 Noon to 8:02 PM8:32 PM2.8 @ 12:52 PM

red means the Club will be closed. Note that current low tides are around 0.1 feet higher than predictions.

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All things related to sailing: tips, howto, pictures of sailing boats, sailors, pirates and all

Is Fast Track for me, I asked?


My friend took Fast Track at Cal Sailing a decade or more ago and still raves about it and Cal Sailing. So when I decided I wanted to learn to sail, I joined Cal Sailing in August of 2022. But when I decided I REALLY wanted to learn to sail, I joined Fast Track in June of 2023. It's the best thing I've done for myself since I moved back to California two years ago. 

To be honest, I was really daunted by the class. I had taken a few classes at Cal Sailing, a similar class at Cal Adventures more than 20 years ago, sailed maybe 10 times on a keelboat in the last year, and a sprinkling of other sails, but I always seemed to go back to step one. Port or starboard? How do I shift my weight and hold the tiller at the same time? What is a vang? Pull in the what?? sigh.  

In April 2023 I decided I would try to make it happen. I already missed the first (May) Fast Track but I hoped I could join the June one. I volunteered as a lessons coordinator and started to meet more people at the club. I signed up to volunteer at the May Fast Track (as a cook/cleaner) and liked the vibe. I read and reread the dinghy manual. I passed the online test. I watched the rigging video, coerced John B into giving a rigging lesson during a Thursday lesson, and watched the video again. I was getting close, but I still hadn't sailed much. 

About two to three weeks before the June Fast Track I got the email: you are in if you can get the prereqs done. I signed up for the rigging test and got a few private lessons. The week before the class I was still hesitant, but I met the two Fast Track coordinators for June - Tim and Lucian - and they were so encouraging, I decided I didn't want to let another year go by and a chance to sail with nice people leading the way without taking this opportunity. I cleared my work schedule and jumped in. 

I was super scared on Day 1, but I had two of the friendliest people at Cal Sailing teach me my first day (Dorian and Mike - thanks!). I felt like I was drinking from a firehose, but I loved it. We docked, and I remembered how to get the boats in safely from the dock and all the derigging and which made me feel more competent. Then I turned the corner to a total FEAST! What???!!! Not only do you get 3 hours of free sailing lessons, but you also get fabulous dinners for FREE. What is this place? And how did I get so lucky to stumble into it?? I kept going. 

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Slow sailing Trio: Crew Overboard, Docking, Departure - a Problem Set


Some skills are better-learned with a combination of dry-land and on-water practice. Here is a hands-on problem set for crew overboard, docking, and departure -- with instructions and answer keys! Print them out, doodle over them, plan your course and respond to tricky scenarios all from the comfort of your home. Once you head out onto the water, you'll probably find yourself with a clearer picture of what's going on -- and can better respond to more variables such as shifting winds and choppy waves.

Download the documents here:

Comments and edits are always welcomed.


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How to Properly Reef Main Sail


Video by Jack Chen. Instruction and Narration by Saul Schumsky.

This video is meant to provide some guidance for sailors at Cal Sailing Club on how to properly reef the mainsail. Reefing correctly will help minimize wear on the sail, as well as give the sailors a better experience on the water during those summer months on the San Francisco Bay. The demonstration is done on the JY-15 dinghy but is also applicable to the RS Quest as well as the club Keelboats.

Click here to view video

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Pan Pan



“PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN pan. There is a dismasted sailing dinghy in the vicinity of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Three sailors aboard all wearing PFDs.”

The sound of Ryan’s voice issuing the mariners warning, one level below a MAYDAY, was a comfort. I was being watched over.   As I struggled to get the sails back in the boat, I could see the other boats nearby.

We had left Berkeley the day before, 4 Ventures, two club keel boats and a couple of private boats tagging along. All bound for the kayak beach at Angel Island. We had a lovely and uneventful upwind sail to the beach. We anchored the keelboats and ferried the sailors, gear and supplies to the beach. After humping everything up the hill to the campsite we had a feast, sausage, peppers & onions, salad, cheeses, charcuterie, beer, wine and on and on. Some of us went to bed early, while others hiked to the top of the island. Ah, youth.

We woke the next morning to heavy fog both in the air and some heads. Tiburon, which we could see the night before, had disappeared. We made radio contact with Carolyn on one of the keelboats, and started making a leisurely breakfast while we waited for the fog to lift. By 11 AM we had broken camp, gotten everything loaded up and got off the beach. As we sailed out of Racoon Strait, the Golden Gate Bridge came into view and with it the fog. Carolyn had found a tear in Daisy’s main sail and made the decision to head for home. The rest of us continued on towards the gate. We got a little far apart, so the lead boats tucked into Horseshoe Cove and waited for the rest of us to catch up. There was a short discussion over the radio, and the decision was made to go under the bridge and then head for home. Because of the remaining fog we would maintain a close formation, do a radio check for vessel traffic and stay close to the North tower where there is less large ship traffic.

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Some Points about Launching Dinghies on a Crowded Dock

Launching   Toward Sea Wall
Launching   Away from Sea Wall
Lean Steering

We're talking Saturdays, especially in the summer, where the dock is full and you're right next to boats on either side. Pretty normal, and we teach it. Back out, using a backed main or not, tiller centered until you clear the other boats, then steer the stern toward the sea wall (want to go to Emeryville? tiller to Emeryville). Power up the main and go.

I did a "Between the Docks" workshop recently, where we covered all of the bad things that can happen on launching or docking, how to prevent them, and how to handle them when they happen (and they will, to the best of us).

What you want to avoid is heading out in the wrong direction, toward the sea wall instead of Emeryville. It happens at times, but how does this happen? Clearly, you get turned the wrong way backing out of the dock. But other than complete misuse of the tiller, what contributes to this?

As always, I learn a lot when I teach, and I picked up some critical points in this workshop, watching the students go through their launching/docking/heading for the sea wall drills. The points all fall into the "obvious when you think about them or have them pointed out, but not obvious earlier". So I hope these fall into that category for you.

Here are some things to consider.

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Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique

Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique
Alameda Circumnavigation Cruise San Leandro Channel
Danger Bearing
Tacking up the Estuary
Alameda Circumnavigation Cruise JLS Docks

This is about how to plan a particular cruse, circumnavigating Alameda Island. I'm doing it for two reasons. One is to document the specifics for other cruising skippers who might want to do it. The other is to give members an idea of what's involved in planning a cruise.

Circumnavigating Alameda Island is a wonderful experience. I've done it in a kayak and later in a sailboat on a CSC cruise. Part of the wonder is the diversity of it. You have Jack London Square, the Port of Oakland, the closed Naval Air Station, the aircraft carrier Hornet, an incredible beach facing San Francisco, a marsh with a lot of birds at the south end, and some post-industrial stuff along the estuary. The estuary is much improved since the time I kayaked it. The run-down houseboats are gone, and some of the bleck on land has been replaced with parks.

There is also the Coast Guard Island in the middle of the estuary, and if you're lucky the 418 foot ocean patrolling cutters are in. They go out for 90 days in the Pacific.

And then the drawbridges, 5 or 6 depending on how you count. The website is here. 5 of them are very active, and one is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, right next to a car bridge that goes from Alameda to Bay Farm Island, and it's is the longest drawbridge in Alameda County. It's an incredible experience seeing them open just for you, a little sailboat.

The question in planning this is which direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise. There are a couple of factors to consider. One is that all of the drawbridges are staffed into the evening except for the Bay Farm Island bridge, which has limited hours (usually until 5:30 PM). Also, the bridges will not open during peak commuter hours.

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Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage

Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage

There often isn't enough communication around how to use the hoist properly.  In this post we're going to talk about safety, efficiency, and some tips on dropping and pulling a boat single-handed.

Personal and Boat Safety

The two big rules of using the hoist are:

  • Never ever EVER be under the boat while it's in the air.
  • Don't hit the shrouds or spreaders on the hoist arm.

The first issue most comonly happens when the centerboard falls down and someone reaches under the boat to push it back up.  Or if there's a long line of boats waiting to come out of the water and as soon as one boat starts to go up into the air the next person walks their boat down towards the sea wall.  Then when the boat in the air swings out, it's over the other boat.

Both of these are huge no-no's.  The sling/hoist does break.  This happened recently with a Venture in the air that ended up falling 5 feet back into the water.  The boat and everyone around was ok, but If there had been another boat underneath, waiting their turn, it'd be two broken boats instead of zero.  If there had been someone on that boat waiting to attach the sling, as there often is, it would have been way, way worse.  Always beware of where the boat is, and never get underneath it, and please say something if you see someone about to.

For the shrouds and spreaders, this is the most likely way to damage the boat while on the hoist.  Always keep an eye on the mast and shrouds to make sure the boat isn't going to spin into the hoist arm.  This is why someone should have control of the boat at all times.  The person on the sea wall doesn't let go of the stern until the person on the dock is pulling on the bow line so the boat can't spin.  Same with coming out of the water.  The person on the dock doesn't let go of the line until the person on land has their hand on the stern.

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Launching and docking in an East wind

Launching and docking in an East wind
dropping boat
docking boat

Winter is a time of interesting and fun winds.  We're pretty spoiled most of the year with wind pretty consistently out of the West/South-West.  In the Winter an East wind is fairly common.  When the wind is out of the East you cannot dock on the normal side of the dock with your main up, as it is now a downwind docking and you'll just run into it full speed (yes, skippers do this surprisingly often). 

For your first Winter sailing, this will be a new and unique experience.  Here are some tips for when the wind is blowing from the East:
For departure, after putting the boat in the water like normal, walk it all the way down the dock and push it around to the other side (by the pilings).
You'll have to use your foot a lot to keep it from banging/scraping as the wind wants to push it into the dock.  Once it's around the other side you'll need to take the bow painter in your left hand and hug each piling so you can hand it off to your right hand so you can get the boat around them.  Tie the boat off and from there everything is normal, including the push-off/backwards sailing away from the dock.
For returning, if you're coming towards the dock and you're on a starboard tack, you won't be able to depower if you try to dock on the normal side, but you should be able to slow sail up to the pilings side.
Check your slow sailing course and take a couple passes if you need to.  It's a new docking experience so nothing wrong with circling around a couple times until you feel like you've got it.  Bailing out of a docking when something doesn't feel right is a good show of seamanship, and if anyone on the bench makes fun of you for taking 3 tries to successfully dock feel free to throw them over the sea wall.
The other option for docking is to sail upwind, which would be past the Cal Adventures dock, towards the 3rd dock, drop the main, and sail jib alone back downwind.  Furl or blow the jib early to give the boat time to slow down (it will take longer to slow than you think when going downwind, even with no sails out) and you should easily and gently reach the dock.
Another option, if you get between the docks and realize the wind is wrong, is to dock on the West side of the Cal Adventures dock, drop your sails, and bare poles or go jib-alone over to our dock.  When single handing this may be easier than trying to drop the main while sailing.
As a general rule, regardless of the way the wind is blowing: If your main isn't luffing, abort the docking attempt and reevaluate the conditions.  Do not dock!

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Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Introduction to the Blog Series

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating. You have to be able to do it in all wind directions and in several boat types that handle very differently. It takes a huge time investment and a lot of commitment and practice to make the grade.

Everything you've learned on dinghies applies to keelboats, and on dinghies you establish a solid basis of sailing skills. This is why we require a Junior rating to take keelboat lessons, and why it's important to get your Senior Dinghy test passed before getting serious on keelboats.

But the transition from a dinghy to a Pearson Commander is not easy, as the latter has a large mass and a full keel, so it handles very differently from a dinghy. It does everything slowly, including stopping, but also powering up. If you get below the critical speed for steering it, it can take 8 or 9 seconds for the keel to power up, and in that period you're being pushed sideways. You could end up pressed against a downwind piling or boat.

Our keelboat slips are faced approximately west, so normally into the wind, just like our dinghy dock in the South Sailing Basin. So in a "normal" west or south-west wind, you dock pretty much the same way. Slow sail on a close reach into the dock/slip. But the boats are very different, so the procedure becomes more challenging on a keelboat, not to mention the damage you can do if you screw up.

This is the first in a series of blogs on keelboat docking to help you understand the differences between dinghy and keelboat and the additional factors that become important with the latter. I will assume a "normal" west or south-west wind, as this is what you'll be dealing with 80% of the time, at least. And initially, I'll be assuming relatively constant wind, although later in the series I'll talk about wind shifts and how to deal with them. I'm also assuming that you're planning to go into one of CSC's docks with a reasonable amount of time to prepare and plan. As you get more advanced, you will be required to do very quick impromptu dockings, but that comes much later.

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Docking Like a Pro

angle of approach

There are a couple ways to come into the dock. The method new skippers gravitate towards at first, because it's easier, is to come in with plenty of speed and do a final turn up into the wind at the end to avoid banging into the dock. Or they don't even do the turn and just bang into the dock... I guess this would be a 3rd way, but highly undesirable.

The preferred method more properly utilizes slow sailing. Docking and COB are the main reasons we teach slow sailing. When you have a firm grasp on slow sailing, you will be able to come to a stop 1" from the dock as your crew casually steps off the bow.

Here are the steps for docking like a pro:
(Credit where credit is due, I've had this best explained to me by Robert O. Come work the keelboat dock during open house sometime and watch Robert dock a keelboat singlehanded to get an idea of the ideal you're shooting for.)

- When you're coming in to the docks watch the wind socks to get an idea of the wind direction at the dock, which may be different than it was when you were out sailing.  

- Pick an exact spot on the dock. This is where you're going to try to end up. You don't have to tell anyone else the exact spot. If you don't hit it exactly, and are a foot off, no one else will be the wiser, it will still just look like a really good docking to them.

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Small Circles - the Gybe

Small Circles - the Gybe

I did a blog a while ago on Small Circles and how to teach it.

I think doing Small Circles is an important skill and rightly a required Junior maneuver, not so much for the circles, but for other things. However, as Nathan has pointed out in the blog comments, doing circles quickly is important in racing, if you're bad.

In Small Circles, there's a lot going on in a short amount of time, so it's a stress test of your sailing skills, your boat control, your weight balance, and your crew communication. Sailing a circle flawlessly (of whatever radius, but constant) is a challenge. One very good Club racer told me that one of the best racing exercise is doing lots of circles in a row, maybe 100.

But really tight circles is a different beast. It has all of the challenges above, but it requires some rudderless techniques to make the turns really fast and tight. My blog of a couple of years ago missed an important thing.

In the blog, I talked about how you do fast upwind and downwind turns, which to me is the real value of learning this. You might have to do either near the dock, combined with a tack or a gybe. But I glossed over the gybe itself, which is an important part of it.

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A quick and dirty guide to asymmetrical spinnakers

A quick and dirty guide to asymmetrical spinnakers


Many dinghies, including the RS 500, RS Venture, and Laser Bahia, can be equipped with a gennaker, also known as a kite or asymmetrical spinnaker. This large sail can be used effectively on points of sail between a run and a beam reach, and may greatly increase boat speed. It can add a lot of excitement and get you up and planing when the wind might otherwise be insufficient.

The purpose of this short guide is to touch on the finer points of flying the gennaker on a dingy similar to those mentioned above. I assume that the reader is familiar with the basics of dinghy sailing.


To rig the gennaker, you should:

  1. Attach the tack of the gennaker to the bowsprit;
  2. Attach the gennaker halyard to the head of the sail;
  3. Run the dowsing line through the retrieval points on the sail;
  4. Attach the gennaker sheets to the clew of the sail;
  5. Run the sheets through the gennaker blocks and tie them off.


The trick is to do this all without anything getting tangled up. It can be helpful before starting to first make sure the gennaker is untwisted. You can do this by making sure two of its edges are untwisted; this will automatically untwist the third.

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Your Anchor is your Friend

Your Anchor is your Friend

I admire David Fraser's willingness to share his "less than optimal" sailing experiences in these blogs so that others can learn from his mistakes. They say there are those who don't make mistakes (I don't believe that), those who learn from others' mistakes, those who learn from their own mistakes, and those who never learn. Aiming at the second category, I want to imitate David's example by offering a recent experience of my own.

The other day I got to the Club a little early, and thought I'd play with jib-only sailing on a Quest before lessons started.

I left the (Cal Adventures) dock under jib only, having done nothing with the mainsail. I was planning to go out and dock under jib alone a few times before students showed up. That was the plan, at least.

The wind was pretty much westerly, so I was leaving on a beam reach. I knew that jib trim was really important, and that I shouldn't start out pointing too high. But for whatever reason, I couldn't point high at all. No matter what I tried, I was going slowly downwind, toward the rocks. Maybe I wasn't handling it correctly, maybe the Quest can't point high on jib alone, who knows? Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's the boat, sometimes... who knows what it is? What mattered then was that I couldn't do it.

I decided to heave to and get the main up, admitting failure (better than landing on the rocks). The mainsail doesn't always go up easily on the Quests (especially on this one), and it looked like getting the boltrope into the mast track might take some doing. When you're properly hove to, you have some sideways way on--that is, you're slideslipping--and I was going slowly, slowly toward the rocks. I had no idea how long it might take to get the main up.

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The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

A while ago, James Clarkson recommended one of Frank Bethwaite's books on sailing to me. I forget which one, as I now have three of them. They're incredible but incredibly dense, so I'd only recommend them to the "quants" of the sailing community. And even then, you'll read a lot more about  weather systems than you ever wanted to learn, and more detail on everything than you can comprehend. That's how Frank was. He was a pilot (of commercial flying boats, think about that), a meteorologist (the official metereologist of the Austrailian Olympic team in several Olympics in the 1970s), and a sailing fanatic as coach and designer. Three of his kids (sons and daughter) won Olympic medals, and one of them may have invented the gennaker (as always with inventions, there are priority disputes). Frank died in his 90s in 2012.

For the patient reader, there's really wonderful stuff in his books. One is an explanation of why sail twist needs to be very different in light winds than in higher winds (another post?). And there are many others.

One very practical thing I got out of his books was a technique and a teaching technique of how to respond to puffs and lulls. We all know how to do this, we do it, and we teach it to some extent. You have three controls: weight placement (out in a puff, in in a lull), tiller (pinch in a puff if the boat can do it, fall off in a lull), and sheet (easy in a puff, trim in a lull, not just mainsheet, but also jibsheet if you're really concerned about speed). I tell basic students that they have these three controls, and to use one or more  of them when they get a puff (at this point in their development, they're not so worried about lulls).

Frank was obsessed with keeping the boat flat and as fast as it can go (these are correlated). Assuming a decent wind, you're hiked out. We're assunming you have the tiller extension in one hand and the mainsheet in the other. A puff will heel the boat to leeward, and a lull will heel it to windward if you don't move your weight in either case. His technique is this: when the boat heels, don't move your weight, but move both hands to the down side, the sheet hand more than the tiller. Never luff.

So in a puff, you're easing the main as you're pointing slightly upwind. In a lull (or in the recovery after a puff), you're doing the opposite - sheeting in the main and pointing slightly downwind.

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An important fine point on Docking in Low Tide

One of the things I love about sailing is that I learn something every time I go out, I'm constantly expanding my knowledge and skills.Talking with several of the very best sailors in the Club recently, I heard the same sentiment.

We're in the season of low tides and early closings, and I learned something about low-tide docking.

I did a blog post a while ago on docking in low tide. I recommend looking at this post, as you need to dock in a completely different way than you normally do. You come in way upwind instead of downwind, and you don't (can't) slow sail (you'll just get pushed sideways into the seawall).

In the present post, I want to amplify a small but important detail, which I discovered recently docking in low tide (wind from the east in this case, but that doesn't matter). I was following more or less the course I recommended in the earlier blog: go upwind, downwind past the dock, and then shoot up:

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Rigging a Bahia's Reefing Line

I've had to correct mis-rigged Bahia reefing lines recently, so I thought I'd explain how to rig the line properly. You'll have to do this if the main sail is crunched at the leech when you raise it fullly or if you can't fully reef the sail.

It's a little confusing, as it's two lines in a "jiffy reef" system, so that you only have to pull on one line to pull down both the luff and the leach of the sail. But once you get the picture, it isn't that hard to deal with. Here's what it looks like:

The line through the leech of the sail attaches to a block in the boom. The line through the luff of the sail runs through the block and back out the forward end of the boom through the cleat.

So what happens when you reef is this. You pull on the line at the forward end of the boom. This pulls the block attached to the leach line forward through the boom, pulling the aft reefing line down and raising the boom to the reefing gromet. You get here:

At this point, the block is as far forward as it can be in the boom, so pulling more on the reefing line pulls the luff reefing line down to the boom (you ease the halyard as you do this). So you get to here:

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Separating the Gybe from the Turn

Separating the Gybe from the Turn

Something I’ve found to help students when they’re learning to gybe is to separate the gybe from the act of turning the boat. A gybe can require no turning at all, and understanding this will improve your gybes and reduce your likelihood of capsizing.

Most of the time, the reason we are gybing is because we want to turn and go the other way while sailing downwind. Maybe we've reached Ashby Ave and we have to head back before we start to feel the disapproving glare of the day leader through their binoculars. Or we're doing tight circles around a buoy and have to keep turning through the gybe. But really, gybing has nothing to do with turning, other than if we're turning downwind, we have to eventually gybe or we just can't continue the turn.

The gybe itself is nothing more than changing tacks (from port to starboard or vice versa) while sailing downwind. Or to put it more simply: a gybe is flipping the sail from one side of the boat to the other. If you’re on a dead downwind run, there is no turning needed. In fact, there are reasons to gybe that don't involve a turn at all. A common case is during racing--if you're on a dead run and want to obtain right of way by switching from port to starboard tack. No turning needed. Or maybe you're headed back home and the wind shifts a bit and you realize you're now sailing by the lee, so you flip the sail to get yourself out of accidental gybe territory. No turning needed.

I've noticed a lot of students (understandably) connect the turn and the gybe and want to turn through the gybe, from broad reach to broad reach, which can often result in a capsize. To help disconnect the two actions I've started doing this exercise:

  • Get on a dead run. Get the jib to cross to the center of the boat and try to keep it there. Watch out for the accidental gybe, and tell your crew to do the same. If you have crew you may want to have someone hold the boom in place to avoid a gybe before you're ready.  They'll also be able to feel the main starting to get back-winded, so they can let you know you've turned too far off the wind.  Maintaining a dead-run can in-itself be tricky, and if you can hold this reasonably well in waves, you're off to a good start!
  • Look at what you're heading towards on the horizon. Try to find a fixed reference point.
  • Now gybe. Try to keep the boat headed dead downwind. Use your reference point on the horizon if it helps. Once the wind catches the sail on the other side, it will try to turn the boat up, so maintaining your heading will require some counter steer with the tiller.  Think of it as a light version of the S-turn.
  • Once you're confident you're still on a run, gybe again.
  • Now do it faster, back and forth, while maintaining course.
  • Try to get down to a few seconds between gybes.
  • By now you're probably at the rocks, so better tack your way back up to the restaurant and do some more.

I've found this tends to create a light bulb moment and hopefully makes gybing in general a little smoother.

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Slow Sailing


Slow sailing is a Junior skill and an important one. The objective of slow sailing is to get to a fixed point in space (a dock, a man-overboard,
a buoy) with zero speed. The idea is to come in on a close reach course, where you have an accelerator and a brake.
With the mainsheet all the way out, the sail is depowered, and the brake is the wind and sea against the boat. Pulling in the mainsheet on the falls is the accelerator. You line yourself up on a close reach
course and sail to the target.

There are two skills involved:

1) lining yourself up on a close reach course to the target, and

2) slow sailing on that course to it.

Let's talk about hitting a buoy at zero speed, as it's the hardest of the maneuvers. When you dock, you usually have some room for error, as you don't have to get to a precise point on the dock. But wait, what about a busy Saturday where you have to thread the needle between the only two boats where there's any space between them to dock? If you can lightly touch a buoy on a slow-sail, you can do precision docking.

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Sailing Small Circles

Sailing Small Circles

Small Circles

This is one of the most difficult Junior skills, and it's quite important. But why is it important? In real life, how many  small circles are you going to do? Probably none, after you pass the Junior Test. But you probably will need to do fast turns upwind or downwind, and do fast tacks and gybes, possibly to avoid disaster (like hitting something). And maybe with newbie crew. Think about approaching the dock on a big south wind and getting turned in the wrong direction (like into the sea wall). That's what this maneuver is about. You may never do another full circle in your life, but you may need one or more of the maneuver's components.

The maneuver is also a stress test of your sailing skills. You have to do a bunch of things quickly and competently without time to think - they have to be instinctive. It's also a stress test of your crew communications skills for the same reason.

A real circle?

First of all, it's not really a circle. We think of it as looking like this, here counter-clockwise around a buoy:

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How to Make the Most of your Weight in High Winds

How to Make the Most of your Weight in High Winds

During the summer months or during the addiction-satisfying winter storm sailing, you can often find yourself overpowered. I’ve also heard of this several times during senior tests where the tester “falls” overboard for the legendary single-handed man overboard, occasionally where the tester is “unconscious”, typically in something like 20 kts. As the wind comes up from a comfortable 10 kts, the full sailed Bahia and JY will begin to require a bit more leverage than hiking out supplies, depending on crew weight. This is the beginning of the wind range that requires, or at least benefits from, using the trapeze. If you’re comfortable with your crew and/or your ability to drive the boat, start to use this. It’s a lot of fun to trapeze while single-handing and is arguably the most fun you can have without flying the kite, but be prepared to swim on your first few outings.

As the wind increases further to the over 15 kt range, the challenge really starts to kick in. Depending on your and your crews weight and skill, you'll need to consider various ways to depower, the most obvious being reefing. If you're luffing your sail more than not, you should be reefed. Another way to depower your main sail, is to pull on your cunningham. As the wind comes up, you should also use your vang/gnav to flatten the sail and change the placement of your draft in balance with your additional cunningham. This is the standard sail trim and depowering technique. As you struggle to keep the boat powered and moving, you can start to ease your jib a bit. This has the tendency to twist off the top of the sail and allow the boat to breathe a little bit by opening the slot between your main and jib. Closing this slot is what causes the “speed bubble” in the main, due to the wind coming off the jib backwinding and the main. As you’re “more” overpowered, you can ease your vang/gnav to twist off the top of your main sail.

One of the things that I haven’t seen done often at CSC is changing the placement of the centerboard while sailing. It’s commonly thought, at least at first that your boat is “under control” if it’s upright, but in reality, your boat is only under control when you are able to make headway and able to maneuver in some capacity. For this reason, I suggest that when extremely overpowered (repeatedly capsizing or completely luffing), you try raising your centerboard a bit. If you look at the diagram, you can see that as the length of the centerboard is reduced, you allow the boat to slip sideways more, but at the same time, you’re reducing the rotational torque that it’s causing on the boat by reducing both its lever arm and area. This allows the boat to slip sideways more but also reduces the leverage and reduces the heeling “force.” Although you may immediately argue that this is hurtful to your ability to get upwind, it allows you to trim your sails as opposed to luffing. When your sails are luffing, the only force on them is to leeward. However, once your sails are trimmed and have some proper shape, you have a driving force forward. For this reason, it is best to trim your sails to your course, then trim your weight and centerboard to match each other in their torque (rolling force) on the boat. As the boat increases in speed, your centerboard will create lift, which will “lift” you to windward. This lift is proportional to your speed, so as your boat speed increases, your leeway will reduce dramatically. This is much preferred over the scenario where the overpowered boat drifts sideways and you can’t sheet the sails without risk of immediate capsize. 

In other words, if we focus on the rotation portion, the torque counteracting the wind and water comes from the crew weight (or the lead at the bottom of the keel in a keelboat). Torque is force multiplied by length, so getting your weight out of the boat more, such as being on the trapeze or hiking, benefits your righting moment dramatically. This is part of the reason sails are lowered when it’s windy, it reduces the heeling force (torque) on the boat. Likewise, you can do this by lifting your centerboard to “reef” your centerboard. This, like a reefing a sail, both reduces the area as well as the length over which this force is acting.

Another important thing that isn’t often mentioned around the club is the region around a beam reach that opens up in (very) high winds, which is affectionately called the zone of death (ZOD). The ZOD arises when it’s too windy to keep the boat upright with all your weight utilized to its limit on a reach. This is basically when you find yourself completely overpowered. In any case, the existence of the ZOD means that you are now limited to only upwind and downwind sailing and not too much in between. This is a result of a beam reach being your fastest and most powered up point of sail. When you’re sailing in winds with the ZOD, your next biggest concern, other than staying upright when sailing in a straight line, is getting between up- and downwind courses. To do this, you must make a smooth and decisive maneuver to bear away. It’s helpful to have your weight toward the back of the boat and have pre-eased the jib. Once downwind on a broad reach, you can relax a bit and steer for heel with the main eased a few feet off the aft quarter and ease in the gusts. The most important thing when sailing in these conditions is to keep the boat moving and flat. Once you have leeward heel, you will likely round up and broach, leading to your next chance to master the bear away. 

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