Points of sail
by Peter F
Just done level 1 beginners course (Single handed) and am still confused about points of sail. The fastest direction seemed to be at 90 degrees to wind (Beam Reach), but the theory says that the sails should be half out, whereas I found it fastest with the sails pulled right in and with me leaning out. Does this make sense?
Also, the theory says that when close hauling the boat will heel more whereas I didn't find that to be the case at all. I took it into the wind until the sails began to luff and then beared away slightly, which I believe is the optimum position, but it just gently plodded along.
I was sailing a Topaz (Basic training model)
Nice to see someone else from Britain using this site. How is the weather? It is rubbish here in London!
Anyway onto your questions. Speed depends on lots of things of which sail position, direction from the wind and weight are all part of. Usually the fastest point of sail for boats is the beam reach (around 90 degrees) or the broad reach (around 135 degrees). Now when you pulled the sails in the boat starts to heel alot, because instead of the wind acting aerodynamically on the sails, it is instead pushing against it, which creates a force on the boat that the centreboard cannot counteract forcing the boat to heel.
Now when you lean out the boat you are trying to help the boat regain flat position. The reason this flat position is best, is because the full sail is in the wind instead of just the bottom part. So I doubt you managed to get the boat flat, but instead 'pumped' it by forcing wind through the sail and creating the aerodynamic force of lift artificially, which can sometimes help, but you would go much faster by letting the sails out, getting flat and the whole of your sail generating the lift force.
The reason it felt you were going faster is because it seemed that way like if you stick your head out of a moving car as you were higher up than before and it just feels like your going faster. This feeling is opposite to the one you feel when on a run, which is when it feels like your going very slowly as you are going at the same speed as the waves.
So in conclusion it may have seemed you were going faster, but in reality you weren't.
For your second question, it is really a matter of wind speed. If there is little wind you will not heel at all and the opposite will be true in strong wind conditions.
Hoped this has answered your questions!