Those of you who have worked the mainsail upwind on a windy, gusty night know that it can be very physical job. On these nights, the traveler alone is not enough to manage the gusts, and the tweaker isn’t much help. You gotta go for the big mainsheet, but there is so much tension on it that it’s really hard to pop it out of the cleat. Last Thursday, Lifeline nearly did a couple of face plants trying to wrestle it out of those jaws.
So last night I tried something new. I’ve read about vang sheeting. I’ve tried to talk Gil into doing it, but I’ve never really experienced it myself before. Kind of hard to coach someone else without trying it first.
After my first taste, I’m a convert!
With the boom vang on snug upwind, there are several big advantages:
- Much less force needed:
- The vang takes most of the tension, making the mainsheet MUCH easier to pop out of the jaws.
- It’s also much easier to sheet back in after the gust subsides
- Maintain mainsail shape during and after the gust:
- When easing the main, the vang keeps the leech shape on the mainsail, by keeping the boom from rising. So, rather than twisting off the mainsail when you ease the sheet, it swings like a barn door.
- This is most beneficial when recovering from the gust — no need to double-check the twist, it’ll be right where you’ve set it.
And that is the trick: set the boom vang to maintain the desired leech twist (top batten parallel to boom, or a tiny bit twisted off). Last night I did this by setting the desired twist before the race using traveler and mainsheet, then I asked the guys to remove all the slack in the boom vang. Presto! We made some minor adjustments upwind, and had to repeat this process after the douse, but it was pretty simple.
Managing gusts was now pretty straightforward. Traveler was still my first control, but in the big gusts, when it wasn’t enough, I eased the sheet. And through all this, the back edge of the mainsail kept drawing powerfully, keeping the boat pointing high.
(and of course, I got Kiwi nice and wet — serves him right for steering from the low side on a windy night :-))
Nice to add a new trick late in the season!