Novice sailors often find the most difficult point of sail is sailing as close to the wind as you can get – sailing to windward, or close-hauled. You can’t sail directly into the wind so you have to steer what is called the best course to windward in English nautical terminology. This means pointing your boat up into the wind as high as possible while maintaining speed. If you go too far into the wind you’ll start ‘pinching‘ and lose speed. When that happens you have to bear away from the wind a little to regain momentum.
Sailing to windward is a time when it’s important to be in tune with your boat. Pay attention, watch and listen, and she will tell you if she’s sailing well or not.
In a nice steady wind, if you get your yacht settled in the correct position in relation to the wind (in the groove), you’ll feel her lift and she’ll sail beautifully – you can even take your hands off the wheel and relax and she’ll keep a steady course, ploughing through the waves.
In more variable winds, you may have to use the wheel frequently to keep in the correct position. If you are too far off the wind, you’ll bring your boat up to windward a little. If you start pinching, you’ll bear away a little. You can both see and feel each time she starts to pinch. Dinghy sailors learn to watch their foresail for the ripples on the windward side that indicate the boat is beginning to pinch and a similar thing happens in a yacht.
It’s easy to feel the boat pinching if you are aware of what you’re looking for. To help you understand what to look out for and what happens I’m going to give you a link to an animation from Grant at NautiEd in the USA. Grant runs a sailing blog and also offers a number of online courses – shush, don’t tell the RYA!
This blog post is called ‘Your boat talks to you’ and it is very true.
You can see his post here or paste this URL into your browser – http://www.nauticed.org/sailing-blog/pinching-feel-the-boat-talk-to-you. The animation I referred to is halfway down the page.
If you’re not familiar with sailing to windward you may need to run the animation a few times to understand how the yacht behaves under the different circumstances he shows. Next time you’re sailing try it out so that you feel it for yourself. Being able to sail efficiently and well upwind is an essential skill to master if you want to progress in sailing.
You’ll find links to other useful tips on Grant’s blog. He has an animation on Med mooring but it refers to a situation where there are lazy-lines, in a marina for instance. You won’t find lazy-lines in most Greek ports. For the more typical Med mooring we do here, you’ll need my own Med mooring animation, which is almost ready. I’ve been too busy recently to put in the final finishing touches but I’ll try to get it out next week.
In my next email I’ll cover another one of the topics that was suggested – information on lesser known places to visit in the Saronic Gulf.
We’re now drawing towards the end of our season but there is still time to sail in October, and one or two places left in September as well. Get in touch if you want to sail with us.
And if you didn’t take the survey here is the link again – Click here to take our survey
PS: Congratulations to the Jordan Sailing Club who have just had their first boat delivered from Greece! I hope we’ll be able to visit you soon.