Three modes of upwind sailing

Published on September 22nd, 2021

Wally Cross started building sails in 1973 to pay for college, and over the years has had the opportunity to work with seven different sail making companies before joining Quantum Sails. In this report, he details the three modes of upwind sailing:

I spend a lot of time racing and providing clinics on the J/111. On this boat and many like the J/111, there are three modes while racing. The J/111 is sensitive to adjustments in rig and trim – when the wind changes in speed, the way the boat is sailed should also change.

Need Power is the first mode:
• Section 1 (exceptionally light 0-5)
• Section 2 (light medium 6-8)

In section 1, the goal is to keep the wind attached to the sails from luff to leech. To complete sail flow, the wind must stay attached on both sides of the sail from the entry of the luff to the exit of the leech. If the entry is too round the wind molecule on the leeward side falls off and stalls the sail. The same problem can happened if the exit is too round.

In light winds, the entry on both the main and jib need to be less round with more of an arc shape and a clean exit. The tell-tales on top of the main and on the jib high should fly 100 % of the time. The picture below is the proper light air shape.

Need Power Check List (J/111):

Section 1 (0-5)
• 10 degrees of heel and -1 degree of bow down trim
• Telltale on upper third of jib 100% flow, telltale at top batten of main 100% flow
• Luff on both sails, horizontal wrinkles for finer entry angle
• Two-thirds of the crew (or 5 people) below forward and to leeward (low weight, clean
• Two steps below base on the rig
• Headstay off 15 turns from base (promote mast bend without backstay)
• D1 & D2 off 4 turns (help bend mast and promote mast sag, 25% of headstay sag)
• Jib inhaul 70% and main traveler up 100%
• Jib lead forward one number and outhaul off 20%
• Backstay and vang off
• Helmsman steering to leeward looking at mid luff telltales (In light air, the wind is
further forward high.)
• Jib trim to leeward (not cross sheeting)
• Main trimmer by companion area
• Helmsman steering using mid luff telltales and True Wind Angle (TWA) & Apparent Wind Angle (AWA)

As the wind increases to the six-to-eight knots range, the boat now shifts into the second section of Need Power. Like an airplane takeoff, it creates drag by putting the flaps down. In this wind speed, we do the same in the J/111.

By adjusting the rig and trim, the result is the perfect amount of drag without stalling. The goal on this boat is to be the first team hiking on the windward side. Usually in this mode, the crew is on the windward side up against the cabin with two in front of the shrouds.

Need Power Check List (J/111):

Section 2 (6-8)
• 10 degrees of heel and -1 bow down trim
• Top telltale on jib 100% flow, top telltale on main 25% stall
• Luff on both sails, horizontal wrinkles for finer entry angle
• Crew to windward up against cabin with two in front of shrouds
• One step below base rig setting
• Headstay off 10 turns from base and D1 & D2 off 3 turns from base
• Jib inhaul in 100% and jib lead back one number
• Main traveler up 100% and outhaul off 10%
• Backstay and vang off
• Helmsman steering from windward using telltales low and target speed
• Jib trim to windward viewing sheet numbers by leeward winch

Perfect Power

Perfect Power is the most ideal sailing condition. The wind speed is usually around the 9-13 knot range and all sails are trimmed as designed. The crew is on the windward side hiking while the entire team is focusing on sailing the boat at the proper target speed and angle. Little changes can make big gains in this base range called Perfect Power.

Perfect Power Check List (J/111):
• 10-15 degrees of heel with 0 bow down trim
• Top telltale on jib flow 100% & main telltale stalling 50%
• Luff on both sails should be smooth with no horizontal wrinkles tensioned with halyard
• Crew hiking to windward, with one in front of shrouds
• Rig is at base settings
• Jib inhaul in 100% lead back one number (base setting)
• Main traveler up 75% (starting to use fine trim)
• Backstay and vang on 50%
• Helmsman steering on lower telltales and target speed
• Jib trimmer to windward with sheet in hand and handle in winch

The Perfect Power range should be the condition easiest to sail for most teams. Trimming sails and steering to a narrow target speed will make the difference in this condition. The target speed range should be from 6.9-7.1, not 6.7-7.3.

As the wind increases from 14-18, the next step is referred to as Too Much Power. In this range we also have two sections as we did in the Need Power group. Too Much Power means we need to start reducing the drag in the rig set up and sail trim. Opposite of the sail shape in Need Power, the entry needs to be round and the sail shape flatter with a very straight exit. The picture below showcases this.

Think about the airplane again when taking off – we wanted the flaps down to induce drag so the plane could lift, then the flaps would straighten out once at cruising altitude. In this range we want the flaps straight, or the exit of the sails straight without stall.

Too Much Power Check List (J/111):

Section 1 (14-18)
• 18-22 degrees of heel and 0 fore and aft trim
• Top telltale on jib and main flowing 100%
• Luff on both sails set firm to promote round entry angle
• Crew hiking to windward with all behind shrouds
• Rig set one step above base, 2 turns on the V1 and D1 shrouds
• Jib inhaul on 75% and main traveler at 50% (mid traveler)
• Backstay and vang on 80%
• Jib lead back one number and outhaul on 100%
• Helmsman steering on heel angle and target speed
• Jib trimmer hiking to windward with sheet in hand
• Main trimmer moves jib handle once eased for breeze

Up and off the wind, the J/111 is fun to sail in this condition. As a helmsman the goal is to keep a constant heel angle, while the sail trimmers are adjusting the trim to keep a constant target speed for the optimum heel. In flatter water the heel number is 18 degrees, yet as the waves increase the heel should max out at 22.

The last section in Too Much Power is for wind speeds over 19 true. This section is nearing the top end of racing comfortably in a J/111. With great boat handling, 19 to 25 true in a J/111 can be so much fun. The goal now is to set sails with open exits while maneuvering the boat at the proper heel angle. Not only will the crew move aft a bit to lift the bow, but the weight below will also be placed further aft to help keep the bow more out of the water.

Too Much Power Check List (J/111):

Section 2 (19-25)
• 18-22 degrees of heel angle with bow up +1 degree
• Top telltale on jib and main 100% flowing
• Luff tension on both sails firm, using Cunningham on main
• Crew hiking out to windward one body aft of Section 1
• Rig setting two steps above base, +5 turns on headstay and +4 on V1 & D1 & +2 on D2
• Jib inhaul on 50% and main traveler up 50%
• Backstay and vang on 100%
• Jib lead same as section 1 and outhaul on 100%
• Helmsman steering on heel angle and target speed
• Jib trimmer hiking yet easing sail with puff (jib trimmer should ease first then main

If the rig, sails, and crew adjust for the change in wind speed in each mode, the team of the J/111 will be rewarded with a spectacular sailing experience. All boats can benefit from the three modes of trim. Prior to the race, determine if the boat needs power, is perfect or has too much power. First adjust the rig for the wind, then the sails. Now the boat is helmed.

For more information on how to set up the three modes for your boat,

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