Opti Sailing Insights from Olympic Coach Fernando Sallent

Dinghy sailing is a passion that Fernando Sallent has pursued with great success as a racer, coach, and sail designer for Quantum Sails. In February, Sallent attended the 2014 USODA Valentine’s Day Championship where he participated in practice sessions, clinics, and debriefs, answering questions and providing a sail designer’s insights into achieving optimal sail shape, sail trim, boat handling, and speed strategies. We checked in with Sallent after the event to see how things went.

So the wind didn’t really cooperate at the Valentine Regatta. How did you make the most of your time with the sailors?
While many coaches spent their time at the water making starts, discussing tactics and so on, I was mainly onshore reviewing tuning and sail trim. We talked about the adjustment of the sail to the mast, and the cunningham adjustment. When sailing, they are very interested in getting speed through sail trimming.


And what tips or advice did you offer?
The information provided was personalized for each sailor, each boat, each sail, and each mast as well as wind conditions.

In general, for Opti sailors who want to improve their speed, what are the top three things you recommend?
1) Sail, sail, and sail … learn how to feel the boat speed
2) Play with the sheet tension (don’t be static)
3) Learn to move your body inside the boat … that is pretty important for the boat speed.

What factors led you to develop the Quantum’s XR-1 Opti Sail?
The idea is to have a powerful sail at the top without blocking the leech … that’s why we are the only sailmakers with radial panels at the top with cross-cut for the rest of the sail. This cut also increases the durability of the sail. 

What kind of feedback are you getting from users of the XR-1?
Extremely good: they improve their pointing angle and speed downwind. 

What advice do you have for owners of the XR-1, as far as maximizing the features and benefits of that design?
I would say that, if in doubt about the sail trim, it is better to have less leech tension (less sheet and less peak tension).

For talented young sailors who dream of Olympic-level sailing, what advice do you offer in regards to their training programs?
They should have reachable small targets in each training session … they should go step by step, especially during the first year.

About Fernando Sallent: Sallent created Quantum’s dinghy department in Barcelona, Spain where he has been developing sails–including the Quantum® Optimist Sails–for over 28 years.

Sallent is also known for his fast designs for 420, 470, Europe, and Tornado classes, which have won eleven medals in five Olympic games, most recently in London 2012, and numerous World Championships. In the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, Fernando coached the Spanish 470 female team to a gold medal. He is currently collaborating with Olympic 470 teams from around the world to improve sail performance for each crew.

As a young sailor, Sallent achieved second place at the Optimist Team Worlds and third place in the ISAF Youth Worlds’ event. He continues as an active racer with five Spanish National 420 Championships and a First Class 8 Spain National Championship to his credit. Fernando serves as racing advisor and Olympic coach.


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