A great afternoon sail in Nantucket Harbor started with a light wind. We gently glided, protected from the Atlantic’s waves, and launched a big, red spinnaker. As the wind continued to drop, we employed our light wind strategies. How many of these do you use to keep your boat moving in light winds?
~ move very slowly and gradually (In light winds, abrupt weight changes can literally knock the wind right out of your sails and may cause your boat to drop lower in the water!)
~ redistribute crew weight so it is slightly forward and to the leeward side (Key is getting the stern out of the water to decrease drag and creating a slight heel encouraging the wind to stay on the sail)
2. SHAPE THE SAIL
~ ease the outhaul
~ ease the boom vang so the wind is less likely to be deflected
~ slightly tension the topping lift so the boom isn’t pulling the leech flat
~ ease the main a little more than usual to increase sail twist
3. MAINTAIN FORWARD MOMENTUM
~ zero in on the water anticipating each gust
~ maintain a straight rudder to decrease drag
~ roll tack or jib by shifting weight rather than turning the boat through the wind
Even large boats will respond well to these light wind strategies delaying the start of your noise-maker. Rather than fear this summer's low wind days, get out on the water and practice. As the saying goes, "The mark of a great sailor is how he performs in light winds."