5th Gear – Reduce Power
In heavy airs the main needs still to be either as flat as possible or reefed – to keep the boat upright, with only the power it can stand. The outhaul should be tensioned to the max, and no camber in the foot at all. The luff should also be tensioned to keep the draft half way back. The mast should be bent with the backstay fully tensioned.
With the sail as flat as possible, set the mainsheet and twist. Trimming the sheet until the top batten is much more open than parallel to the boom, and on fractional mainsails even more so. The traveller may not now be enough, and the sheet may have to be used – ensure the vang is on.
The telltales should all fly easily. Bring the boom vang fully on, and cleat securely. The helmsman should have more feel than he possibly wants, and you must not overpower the rudder- watch the helm more than the sail, and if more than 12-15 degrees of helm is being used, ease the sheet – the boom vang will be holding the boom from going up too far, but the extra twist will help the helmsman and excessive boat heel.
Backwinding will be a feature of the main now, and may well be eased so much that the only part of the sail that is powered is the batten area of the leech. If that happens for too long, then a reef must go in, or the headsail area reduced. After the reef is in, and the boat has settled down again, you may need to power up the main, using more sheet, and the traveller back up the track once again. The same applies if the headsail is changed for a smaller one.
The headsail needs to be set initially with the correct twist and as flat as possible to give the boat the most power it can from the wind. With a heavy genoa or Code 2 or 3 jib up you want to create as much point as possible.
Tension the halyard hard, and have the draft at 35-40%. Recheck the sheet for the correct twist, so the foot of the sail has no shape, and sits almost with a straight foot.
Watch the telltales, the top set will luff earlier than the bottom – you have more twist which helps keep the boat upright. Trim the sheet until the leech is fully onto the spreaders is good starting point.
On fractional boat, two thirds of the way along the spreader is a good place for the leech. If you have inhaulers, move the clew out to about 10 or 11 degrees, rechecking the spreader/leech position and the telltales for twist. In waves the twist may have to be more, so the helmsman can steer around the waves to keep control of the boat.