Having the right equipment can only take you so far – you need to know how to use your equipment to make the most of every regatta. Earlier this month, Allan Terhune, Randy Shore, and I held a one-day Ensign clinic at the Newport Regatta to share our best tips for getting the most out of your Ensign. Clinics are great for everyone – it’s an excellent way to have an open discussion about optimizing the boats, and a great way for me to learn how to teach better through open dialogue.
In case you missed it, here are a few key points we discussed for making your Ensign sail faster.
1. Rig Tuning:
Setting up mast butt location and forestay length is critical to mast tuning. Center the rig in the boat by using the genoa halyard and taking side-to-side measurements to the toe rail. Once the rig is centered, tighten the upper and forward lower shrouds by putting on equal turns on each side while continuing to make sure the mast tip is centered and in column. Do this by sighting up the mast.
2. Sail Trimming:
Remember that there is trim for speed (power), for VMG (close hauled), and for point (pinching). Find the balance for these and when they should be used.
- Power – Use this trim at starts, after tacks, through chop, and to clear your air (don’t be afraid to ease the genoa).
- Close hauled – Use this trim when you’re up to speed and all’s right with the world. You’ll make your best gains upwind when staring at your telltales and sailing your highest point of sail while maintaining boat speed.
- Pinching – Use this trim to make a mark, or when coming up on a windward boat to force it over.
The genoa controls this boat (the mainsail is along for the ride). Your genoa trimmer should be in constant communication with the helmsman. Before the starts, the genoa trimmer should be staring at the telltales and trimming the genoa for speed at all times, unless the skipper tells you to dump speed/slow down. Some geona tips include:
- When a lift comes – Ease the genoa to the lift for extra power. You can react to the lift more quickly with the genoa than the helmsman can steer the boat up to it, so take the extra power and tell your skipper to come up to the lift (trim back in with him as he does).
- Opposite for a header – Trim the genoa in hard against the spreader tip and tell your skipper to come down, then ease the genoa back to close hauled position.
- Backwind the genoa at tacks – This helps turn the boat and will help pull the genoa through the fore triangle, allowing you to trim it in more quickly on the new tack.
- After the tack – Look at the telltales and get your genoa pulling ASAP. Get to that power mode (6-8” off spreader tip) – get your boat moving and up to speed. Talk to your skipper and tell him where you are on the spreader or if he should come up or down to get to that power mode. As speed builds, start trimming back to close hauled.
- Through all of this – The mainsail trimmer should do whatever the genoa trimmer does. When the genoa is eased, ease the mainsail. After tack, before starts, through chop – the mainsail trimmer should copy the genoa trimmer. Your goal through all of this is to keep the boat moving as fast as possible at all times.
4. Crew weight:
Keep the boat flat whenever possible. In light air and chop, a little heel is good. Windward heel can be good downwind in light air, but in anything over 8 knots, keep the boat flat. More heel after tacks is good to help fill the sails and bring the boat up to speed. As sails are trimmed in to close hauled, flatten the boat.
Start implementing some of these techniques and see if they don’t improve your results at your next regatta.
Click here to learn more about the Quantum Sails Ensign sail and click here for full results from the Newport Regatta.