If the boat starts to become overpowered

• Bend the mast more to flatten the mainsail.

• Lower the traveler a little.

• Move the lead on the headsail aft to allow the top to twist open.

Moderate to strong air (15 to 25 knots) - You have taken up on the backstay and added bend to the mast, tightened the outhaul and flattening reef (if there is one), used the cunninghams on both sails and started to twist open the top of the headsail. But you are still feeling a bit overpowered. That can only mean one thing: It's time to make some changes. For many sailors, especially those who are racing, either depowering the mainsail by lowering it down the traveler or taking a reef is far preferable to changing headsails. But on most boats, and especially cruisers, it's better for speed and pointing ability to make a headsail change because you need a flatter sail up front, one with the draft further forward and a smaller sail area. If your boat has a modern sailplan you might have non-overlapping headsails that are relatively small to begin with. In this case by all means reef the mainsail first. In most cases, however, before we get to that point we can use the main traveler to keep the boat sailing fast and balanced.

If you recall, the mainsail traveler allows you to keep the plane of the sail constant while changing its angle of attack, which makes it ideal for dumping a little extra power in heavier conditions since by keeping the tension on the leech and lowering the sail down it reduces helm while still providing lift. This is when it's very important to communicate with the helmsman aboard a racing boat. In fact, in many ways a good mainsail trimmer can actually drive the boat. If the trimmer reacts and lowers the traveler before a puff of wind hits the boat, the angle of heel will remain constant. If the opposite happens and the puff hits first, the boat will heel over (bad for boat speed), the bow will turn toward the wind (not good because the helmsman will have to turn the wheel hard to compensate), and there will be excessive leeway. Talk to the helmsman, let him know that a puff is coming, tell him that you are going to drop the traveler down and allow him to keep the boat sailing a straight course.

At some point the wind is going to increase to the point where you are sailing with the traveler all the way down, the headsail twisted open to reduce heel, and your sails flattened as far as they will go, and you are still overpowered. Now it's time to either change headsails or reef. You have reached the upper limit of your current inventory.

The crew on Titan are all sitting as far outboard as they can to help keep the boat level.

Strong air (above 25 knots) - Once the wind gets above 20 or 25 knots the objectives for racing sailors and cruising sailors start to diverge. Racing sailors need to keep on racing, so they will have to experiment with different sail configurations, configurations that will differ from boat to boat. Sail trim at this point becomes more a question of balance rather than precise sail aerodynamics. Providing you have got the right sails up the headsail trimmer might do better at this point sitting on the weather rail keeping an eye out for puffs rather than sitting down to leeward moving the sheet in and out an inch at a time. The mainsail trimmer, on the other hand, will still be working with the helmsman. It's important to keep the boat sailing on an even keel. Some boats like to sail heeled over and that's fine. But others prefer only a moderate amount of heel, and you will need to trim the sails so that the sailplan is not struggling against the rudder. A well-balanced boat will sail faster and more efficiently than one that it not balanced, and once the wind is up this balance should be your main objective.

Cruising sailors will also be seeking this balance to make life on board more comfortable and to take any strain off the autopilot. It may be that your particular boat is a yawl that sails best with a reefed headsail and mizzen. Then again you may have a cutter that balances best with a staysail and reefed mainsail. The point is that you need to experiment with different sail combinations and keep track of things like sea state, boat motion, and overall performance so that you can duplicate the settings in the future.

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