After the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series San Diego, a group of Quantum Experts met virtually with skippers and crew from across the classes to evaluate and discuss their observations from the weekend.
March 17th to19th, 2023, hundreds of sailors enjoyed the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series’ San Diego stopover out of the San Diego Yacht Club and the Coronado Yacht Club. Nearly 100 different boats competed across fourteen classes during the weekend competition. A few days later, a team of Quantum Experts including Jeff Thorpe, George Szabo, and Eric Heim came together to review photos from the weekend and provide their input from the coach boat.
While not every class was reviewed during the debrief, the Quantum experts did cover all requested classes, providing valuable insight for design-specific performance as well as overall tips and tricks for sailing off of San Diego. For more information on how the weekend went, visit Sailing World’s website for daily reports and overall results.
Summary of Observations By Class (timestamps included)
2:40 - 22:00
As Thorpe points out, the best way to observe from the coach perspective is directly from behind the boat — this is the perspective from which our experts made most of the observations from this weekend. In addition to overall trim and rig tune, “we’re looking for how much the boat is heeling, how much helm the driver has, and how the steering is looking,” says Thorpe. Overall at this regatta, coaches observed that genoa leads were too far forward, and the mainsails were lacking outhaul tension and proper trim — making for sails that were typically way too full for the conditions. Overall, the boats that performed the best had flatter, more twisted sails, rather than mainsails & genoas with deeper cambers.
A good rule of thumb, reiterated across all the classes, is to observe that the leech angles on the headsail and mainsail of your boat match. “That’s what we’re always looking at,” says Thorpe. “With most of the fast boats, that's the commonality you’ll see.”
Another key observation in this class was that many boats had lacking halyard tension on either their mainsail or headsail (or, both) as indicated by scalloping along the luff. “You don’t want it bone tight, but control the luff tension to help maintain the shape and twist of the sail,” says Thorpe. “If you have a little more halyard, it makes the overall vertical shaping of the sail flatter and allows you to then sheet the jib harder.” As noted by our experts over the weekend, the top three boats did not have any scallops in the leech of their jibs.
22:55 - 26:50
Heim jumped in with his observations for this new class, noting that the true race on the courses was the hunt for power in lighter air. A lot of the class was over trimmed, particularly on the mainsail. In the lighter conditions in San Diego, Heim notes that the move was actually to move the jib leads forward and ease the sheet slightly to generate a little more power in the lighter air.
The balance for power came down to the nuance between trimming and footing — playing with power to be able to foot more, then powering up again. The boats that did the best race after race avoided over-trimming and focused on keeping the telltales flowing.
26:59 - 33:10
Much like the J/24, overall throughout the weekend flatter sails won out in the VX One. The crews that were practicing vang sheeting were mostly successful, utilizing the vang to create a flatter, open main. As coaches moved toward the back of the fleet, the mainsails got fuller and fuller. Later in the day, the wind increased and some of the lead boats struggled with undersheeting on their headsails. There was also an opportunity to utilize the cunningham or the vang to open up the top of the main for spill off as the conditions increased over the course of the day.
As Thorpe noted, the calm water in the South Bay made the flatter sails work a little better than they might have in lumpier conditions — something to keep in mind if this fleet were to sail on different water.
33:18 - 51:10
The winning strategy in the J/70 class was getting the traveler all the way up to help get the lower batten to centerline, and inhauling the jib with the weathersheet. These strategies create a nice amount of power in both sails, and getting the leeches closer to centerline allows the J/70 to point higher upwind. As reiterated in other classes, an easy trick is to match the leech profiles, and not overtrim either sail so much that the top leech tell-tales are stalled. Maintaining flow is key to fast shapes in changing conditions.
In most of the lead boats, it was especially easy to observe from behind that the booms were centerline (or, as close as possible). In doing so, these boats were generating power through mainsheet tension. In order to match this tension in the jib, some of the boats could have utilized their backstay more efficiently, which will make the headstay tighter and, in turn, the jib slightly flatter and easier to drive to.
But, there can be too much tension. As Heim says, “make the sail smooth and trim it nicely. Don’t over-torque it using the traveler. If the sail looks tortured, it probably is, and won’t be fast.”
Our experts especially liked the downwind strategy aboard Nunuhunu (USA 250) -- while it was a “creative” approach to use their leg to hold the clew of the spinnaker outboard, it actually did achieve closing the upper leech. “That was a new one,” says Heim. Just remember to mind the class rules on staying inside the shearline.
51:30 - 1:03:27
Once again, Thorpe reiterated the importance of parallel leeches. However, keep in mind that on a fractional rig, you want to be comparing the upper leech of the main with the main leech of the jib. The boats that performed best had a tighter slot between the leeches, with sails that were flat enough (but not too flat) and booms mostly trimmed to centerline. This is another class in which vang sheeting can come in handy.
Heel angle was also a factor that distinguished the class leaders in the Beneteaus — especially after rounding the top mark. The best-performers used their mainsails to manage heel angle in order to keep boatspeed up while the crew cleaned up from the downwind leg.
Spinnaker Observations (not class-specific)
1:03:32 - 1:08:05
Our experts did a quick runthrough of a selection of downwind shots. On the symmetrical side of things, using the Beneteaus as an example, Heim observed most of the fleet set the pole tip higher on the tack as compared to the clew. The problem here is that the pole then weighs down the upper leech of the side not attached to the pole, making the leech sag more quickly. “When you have the pole too high, the luff becomes longer and you have to overtrim to keep that luff supported,” says Heim. “This ends up closing the leech off.”
Instead, by lowering the pole, the luff (attached to the pole) is nice and straight, and so the sail can be squared back further. This gets more of the sail back from behind the main, allowing it to rotate out.
On the Asymmetrical side, our experts quickly looked at two different schools of thought when it comes to sail design — looking at a J/111 and a J/120 in our PHRF Division. One sail (likely an A2) is deep and takes a bit more trim to keep it full -- with a longer luff. The other (likely an A1.5) is more forward-flying, with a narrower head, allowing for less sheet tension to keep the luff supported, allowing for more space between the spinnaker leech and the mainsail.
1:08:05 - 1:17:27
Once again, our experts reiterated the best practice of matching leeches and making them parallel. As Heim said, “that’s what it's supposed to look like.” For the rest of the fleet, he had some advice: if you’re overpowered, put on some backstay and hike out — you’ll make things a lot easier.
In one instance in this class, a J/111 was sailing with a broken backstay. It created a fuller mainsail than ideal, and impacted forestay tension which affected the trim of the jib. In order to get around this issue, says Szabo, you want to move the jib lead more aft to open the sail up more and combat that forestay being pulled to leeward because of the lack of backstay tension.
1:17:44 - 1:45:40
In the J/105 class, Thorpe noted that not inhauling and having jib leads too far forward were two achilles' heels for some of the fleet in San Diego. When you don’t inhaul on the jib, you can’t leverage the power on the midleech of the jib as much. If you try to compensate by over trimming, you run the risk of closing off the top of the sail. Utilizing inhauling, again, allows for more matching between the leeches and gives more power to the jib.
In the same vein, having the jib leads too far forward also risks closing off the top of the headsail. Instead, move them back, flatten the jib slightly to power up the entire sail.
When it comes to the main, playing the vang and cunningham can help manage the balance of power across the sail, especially in moderate wind conditions.
Downwind in heavier air, if it’s windy and you’re sailing deep, if you have the vang on too hard you can experience the leeward collapse of the kite. Instead, let the vang off a little bit. However in medium or light air, if you don’t have the vang on enough, the leech will be too far open and put you in a worse position.
Upwind, utilizing the cunningham can prevent extra return in the mainsail. By adjusting the luff tension, you can create a stronger lower leech. Especially on crosscut Dacron sails, you’re working with the bias of the fabric which creates more efficient adjustments.
Quantum’s team of experts is always here to help, in San Diego or wherever your adventures take you. Reach out to your local loft for anything from new sails and sail repairs to just talking tactics and strategy ahead of your next big event. Whatever it takes, we’re here to help.
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