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System Sailing 2.2 - Mark & Measure

May 15, 2020

For this section of System Sailing, we want to dive deeper into how to use the playbook. We’ve had a few questions come in about this during past videos, and as we begin to record settings and later apply those numbers on the racecourse, the playbook becomes an essential piece of the puzzle.


Base Settings

Make sure your mast is centered before getting started. Then record the turnbuckle measurement, shroud tension and position, and mast rake. Think of these numbers as your control. Even if you change nothing from 2 knots to 25 knots, the boat will sail evenly from side to side because the mast is square and tension is equal. When we adjust the rig, we do it in relation to the base settings. For example, you might hear, “we are one up from base” which means the rig is one setting tighter than base. When you are done racing for the day, you should always adjust your settings back to base so you don’t lose track of how far up or down you are. 

Once the rig is square and all of those settings are recorded, you can develop your tuning guide by gathering data and going sailing! It will take some time to learn what works and what doesn’t but don’t be afraid to make small adjustments in an attempt to improve your speed and angle. For a more in-depth look at building your tuning guide, click here.

Mark Halyards & Sheets

In this section feel free to color in or label the color and pattern on the rope drawing to help distinguish between lines. When you eventually need new sheets and halyards, it is helpful to replace them in the same color as before. When things are moving fast in the middle of the race, your memory will not betray you, the red and white line is still the jib sheet! 

This is also the area to document how you are marking your lines. Without some context, markings on the lines will not mean anything and will not be helpful on the racecourse. For example, under the jib halyard section, you should record where the marker on the line falls when the jib is full hoist - “jib halyard marker is at 6 when full hoist.” Both the description and number are important to record. In the video, Wally describes making marks for the spinnaker halyard both at the jammer and on the mast –the first mark for the person running the pit, and the second for the person jumping the halyard. Since there are some instances where there are several marks on the same halyard or line, be sure to note where the marks are made. Record the color of the mark as well. Many boats use three different colors of electrical tape to mark the boom vang. In the video, Wally articulates he is marking the backstay with a band of red electrical tape and marking the genoa sheets with black liquid tape.

Record Settings

Once you have made your marks, you can begin to test the settings in a variety of conditions. It is important to check your settings every time you go out and record the information. Let’s continue using the jib as an example to show how the playbook works here.

It’s your first club race of the season. You’ve already been out once or twice to set your marks on halyards and sheets. When you get out on the water, sail upwind in race mode. Make sure the sails are trimmed well, tell tales are streaming, the slot (space between the exit of the jib leech and the luff of the mainsail) looks good, and crew weight is in the proper place. When you feel you are sailing well with good boat speed and angle, note where the jib sheet marker falls on the numbers. If it is light wind, the sails will be a little eased, and the number may be closer to 1 or 2. As the wind increases, you will find you’ll have to trim in harder and the number may be closer to 3 or 4, and so on. 

Once you know the number of your jib sheet mark, write it down in your wet notes, along with the wind speed range, the sea state, and any other relevant data such as wind direction and stability of the breeze. Be sure to record any major changes as well. If the wind shifts directions and suddenly there are big waves, your settings are going to change versus sailing in flat water. After the race, take the information from your wet notes and document it in the playbook. You can elaborate more if you like, describing how the boat performed in different conditions with different settings. Maybe you found that when the jib was at a 2 in a given wind speed, you sailed faster, but when it was at a 4 at the same wind speed, you sailed only a tad slower, but were able to point higher. 

As you collect this information, you can learn to apply it on the racecourse. Take the former scenario for example. If you have just started a race and need to sail fast to get out ahead of a boat to windward, you may be able to afford to put that jib at 2 and sail a little lower and faster. But if you’ve got someone just to leeward of you and are forced to sail higher than desired, you may want to trim the jib to 4 knowing it gives you slightly better point angle.

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