Pro tips for upwind headsail trimming

Published on August 17th, 2022

Simon ‘Stir’ Fry is a world-class trimmer with wins in a huge range of classes. He shares headsail trimming and set-up tips with Andy Rice for Yachting World magazine.


The challenge of headsail trimming, according to Stir Fry, is understanding at any given moment what the team is aiming to achieve. On a busy race course, those aims are ever-changing.

Whether you’re going for VMG speed in open water, footing through some bad chop or sheeting in hard to live in a thin lane, the trimmer needs to be in sync with the helmsman and the mainsheet trimmer for the ‘speed loop’ as well as knowing what the tactician and strategist are thinking.

One of the big differences, Fry believes, between a fully pro team and typical amateur race crew is the level and quality of the conversation – and headsail trimming is a key part of this communication loop.

“Let’s say you’ve just started and you’re two minutes into the race. Five boats have popped out while three boats tacked onto port, but it looks like we need to sail on for another two minutes to open up a lane in the middle of the course,” Fry explains.

“The tactician will say: ‘I need to live in this lane for another 45 seconds.’ Then the driver will say: ‘Okay, trimmers, just give me a little bit more sheet tension, and I’ll be happy to sail 1/10th under target speed.’ So it will be then a very, very small change in mainsheet trim and jib trim. The trimmers then respond by sheeting in and asking if that feels okay to the helmsman, and so on. It’s a constant conversation.”

Even if it’s a very specialized role with a lot of the time looking up at the telltales, the best trimmers have a global understanding of the race course at any given moment.

“A beautiful looking jib is not necessarily what you’re looking for at all times,” Fry points out. To understand why, read his five best tips on headsail trimming. – Full report

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