Extreme Light Wind Racing Tuning/Handling

Thread starter #1
Hi Everyone,

As I've posted before, the majority of my sunfish racing is on small NE + midwest lakes with light/flukey summer breeze. Most afternoon breezes build to 8-10 knots but, more often than not, we're racing in unpredictable 4-7 knot breeze.

Yes, it's as much fun as it sounds...

That said, it's been a while since anyone has posted tuning/handling strategy for these conditions. Beyond the standard tuning guide advice (power up sail with halyard and gooseneck adjustments, etc) would be curious if anyone has personalized strategies that have worked for them?

Some of my thoughts that haven't been fully tested:
-Going with less (or an older, smaller) centerboard
-Cautious not to oversheet (boom never within the back corners of the transom)
-Heeling to leward (vs sailing it flat)
-Running by the lee
-Playing every puff (sail + course) vs minimizing rudder movement and flow disruption

No practice too absurd - let's hear it!
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
#3
I have added my comments within your post. Glad to see a question that involves SAILING the boat :)

Hi Everyone,

As I've posted before, the majority of my sunfish racing is on small NE + midwest lakes with light/flukey summer breeze. Most afternoon breezes build to 8-10 knots but, more often than not, we're racing in unpredictable 4-7 knot breeze.

Yes, it's as much fun as it sounds...

That said, it's been a while since anyone has posted tuning/handling strategy for these conditions. Beyond the standard tuning guide advice (power up sail with halyard and gooseneck adjustments, etc) would be curious if anyone has personalized strategies that have worked for them?

Some of my thoughts that haven't been fully tested:
-Going with less (or an older, smaller) centerboard Doubt that would help; the newer boards have a nicer shape

-Cautious not to oversheet (boom never within the back corners of the transom) Yes!

-Heeling to leeward (vs sailing it flat) Yes, so the sail will stay where you want it to be

-Running by the lee Downwind, yes

-Playing every puff (sail + course) vs minimizing rudder movement and flow disruption Also important. A very sensitive tell tale system (with magnetic tape) will help a lot

Aim for the next breeze/puff/whisper, independent of where the mark is. In other words, connect the puffs

Loose 20 lbs (just kidding!)
 
Last edited:

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#4
more often than not, we're racing in unpredictable 4-7 knot breeze. Yes, it's as much fun as it sounds...

No practice too absurd - let's hear it!
Once, when caught in a totally-windless stretch, I reached for what I'd been dying to try out. So I lit a stick of incense and held it up in the cockpit. The smoke traveled straight up, then dissipated into the sail area. :(

I was very disappointed; however, moving the stick (or an incense burner) to the bow might have helped.

Burning marijuana might have been better, but I'm not into that. :p

(Unless it affects one's opponents!)

In our "friendly" matches, I'd throw long lake weeds into the path of whoever was behind me. Hope this helps. ;)

.
 
Last edited:

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#5
Hmmm...

One hundred and eight "views" and nobody else is giving up their secrets? :confused:

1) Make sure your "veteran" Sunfish has the factory's foam blocks very firmly embedded between deck and hull. :cool:

2) My "veteran" Sunfish-racer's bottom has an undulating surface: this can't be a good thing in any wind. :confused:

3) Find a place where the mainsail starts to luff, then sheet-in until it just stops luffing.

BTW: Whenever was "oversheeting" a good practice? :oops:

4) Use loose strands of worn plastic tarp as wind indicators: magnetic tape has iron in it, and, being magnetic, is "distracted" to Earth's magnetic field! :eek:

j/k
 

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
#6
magnetic tape has iron in it, and, being magnetic, is "distracted" to Earth's magnetic field!
j/k
L and VW, along those same lines, did you also know that the presence of a lot of metal in cars is why they get better gas mileage driving north, where the North Pole helps pull them, vs driving south, when the pole is trying to prevent them from moving?
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#9
Was out today in decent winds, when I could see a big "blank" area approaching. I headed for home a mile away, wing-and-not-wing—immediately—but was stuck with hardly any wind. I tried splashing water on the sail, setting up my life jacket as an auxiliary sail, setting the bungee, raising the daggerboard, and wished I hadn't lost my old modified paddle in an earlier capsize. :( It would have made a great whisker pole today. :oops:

P8090217-001.JPG
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#10
Wuz out again today in light winds. :)'Lots of powerboat wakes around (for a Friday). :oops:

Which got me to wondering, is it worthwhile moving forward to "surf" the "following" wakes?

.
 

Webfoot1

Active Member
#11
Well, stronger gale force winds can be called up
by...

1. Whistling Loudly.
2. Setting sail on Friday.
3. Insulting Poseidon in any manner.
4. Stirring your tea with a knife or fork.
5. Losing your hat overboard.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#13
Was out today in increasingly strong winds, and was concerned that my ratchet block would slow a needed release of the mainsheet. I switched it off to release the ratchet-action. Was wondering if this is something to consider in light winds?
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
#15
I heard that hotshot racers will turn off the ratchet when appropriate so as not to tell nearby competitors as to what they are doing (sheeting in or out).
And yes, as indicated by mixmkr, in very light winds one can hold the sheet between the boom block and the block on the deck so as to feel even the slightest whisper of wind.
 
Last edited:
#17
I've been learning to not run a ratchet block all season. Makes it interesting in heavy air days, but my forearm muscles are much more defined this year. LOL

My biggest lite air lesson this year is to not oversheet. Might sound obvious to most of you guys, but not so much to us new racers like me who constantly think sheeting in means going faster. I also fashioned my own wind indicators using an ex-fly swatter ( that I broke over the back of a wasp), and old cassette tape. I was merely guessing before that.
 
#18
Dion, you are right on the over sheeting. The Sunfish is the most sensitive to this of any boat I've sailed. My personal opinion when running a race cut sail on the SF is if the rear pulley on the boom is inside the aluminium rail on the boat, your slowing down. If you feel you need to sheet in while pointing, then your trying to point too high. This will make you crazy if you try to follow a Daysailor upwind when they have the jib pulled in tight, but the Sf is still faster if you keep the rear pulley directly above the coaming and bear off a little to build speed.
Most good SF guys realized this when coming in to the dock on a reach at 8 knots and letting the sail out 100 feet out and having the boat accelerate toward the dock as they sheet out.

The boom-less Hobie Wave is exactly the opposite. you have to be fully sheeted in with the traveler centered to tack or it will stall completely.
 
#19
Good advice Eddie. I'm on a really steep learning curve this year going from having never even sailed a SF to racing one every Tuesday night with 17-20 other good pilots. I watched a friend sail away from me last week in light air with his sheet farther out than mine and pointed higher. It made no sense to me at the time, but it does now. :)
 
Top