April 26, 2012

Wednesday Night Lessons - 1

by Pam
While in Australia, we learned that some clubs are teaching beginning sailors a little differently than they have in years past. They now put them in a bigger boat that will accommodate the student and coach, and as a result, the kids are learning at an accelerated rate because they are getting instant feedback.

Last night was on the breezy side and I wasn’t up for an experience of struggling with the boat so Doug and I sailed double-handed in a full rig. Two things happen when we do this. One, I’m instantly at ease which means I can focus on feeling the boat and the wind and I am able to pay better attention to what is being taught. Two, I learn the boat’s edges because, without even trying, Doug is constantly demonstrating what a balanced boat looks and feels like.

So, I learned a few basics things that were noteworthy:

First, Doug taught me to recognize waves going downwind and where and how to jump on and off. We were heavy and flattened most of them but it did give me something to practice on my own. The jump on and off point were actually different than what I thought. Doug is now learning how to jump waves, so it would seem the whole wave technique is something that continues to evolve. And of course, my definition of waves is totally different than his.

Second, Doug took the helm and we sailed downwind with the boat perfectly balanced and he demonstrated that once the boat is balanced going downwind, that if you let out the main and do nothing else, the boat immediately tries to tip. Main in, balanced. Main out, tippy. Good to know. I hit the tippy stage before most people and now I know how to stop it. And apparently, Tom Slingsby actually sails downwind with his main in more than most but, of course, his angle is such that he’s sometimes on the verge of a gybe. Still, it tells me that by choosing to sail conservatively with the main in, I’ll be more balanced and probably not losing too much speed.

Third, Doug centered his weight on the boat which simulated the feel of sailing a radial upwind and I was able to take the helm, hike and sail the boat by myself. I learned that I will rarely sail with the boat block to block since there is only a small wind range where it will be possible at my weight. I’ve often struggled with getting the main in since I simply don’t have the strength. He showed me how to luff up quickly, bring the main in, then pull the vang on HARD, then ease the main sheet so that it goes straight out (not up). There is a huge difference in pulling the main in when the vang is on hard versus not. Then I’m able to play the main to keep the boat moving through the water instead of feathering.

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