Trimming Sails in Tandem
Published on July 10th, 2018
by Steve Hunt, Sailing World
In the Wildman and Samba Pa Ti two-boat Melges 20 program, we spent many hours on the water tuning with each other. The hulls were identical, as were masts and sails. We had marks on all of our important settings, and while tuning we talked to each on the VHF radio sharing our settings. Yet, we often went different speeds, even when those settings were identical. Granted, hiking and steering were variables, but it became really apparent how important it was to make sure the jib and main were matching each other with simple adjustments of the sheets.
A coach watching from behind in a powerboat can easily see if the sails are well-matched. If a team’s sail plan looks out of whack from behind, you can be sure they’re going slow. Typically, on slow boats, one sail will be much looser or tighter than the other. Or it might be flatter or fuller than the other. Fast boats have similar depth in the main and jib as well as similar twist profiles.
Even if conditions don’t dictate flat sails, flat sails trimmed well and together will still be faster than mismatched sails. Matching your sails keeps the slot a similar distance apart from top to bottom. Our coach, James Lyne, continually reinforced this fundamental. For example, he would say, “Ease your jib a quarter inch and trim in the main half an inch.” And after these small changes, voila! Off we went, which hammered home the importance of not only trimming the sails very precisely but also having the leeches match and then trimming them together when we make changes. To do that, you have must have really good communication. – Read on