Registered users don't see ads

Practice Sail Trim

Discussion in 'Sail Trim with Don Guillette' started by Don Guillette, Jul 30, 2017. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Don Guillette

    Don Guillette

    Joined May 17, 2004
    1,896 posts, 65 likes
    Other Catalina 30
    US Tucson, AZ
    I receive this type of phone question about once every 3 weeks and every time it throws me for a loop. If it comes from a sailor who knows and understands the basic function of each sail trim control for the main & jib, the answer is easier but when it's coming from a newbie it becomes harder to answer. Sometimes I think it's like being asked if I could teach them to play the piano over the phone in 5 minutes or how they could skip flight school and start practicing landings!! Hopefully, jackdaw will have some suggestions. We both deal with sailors who want to improve their skills but he deals with a more experienced group of sailors than I do.

    The first group has purchased my book and chart so they have a basic knowledge foundation to build on - that's how they got in contact with me and since I've sold over 19,000 products it generates some calls/letters & emails. Generally, they tell me they want to work on the traveler or whatever. I advise them that doesn't work as all the sail trim controls work together or it's like shifting a sports car to 2nd gear, flooring the accelerator and then applying the emergency brake. I advise them to tape my chart to the bulkhead and pick one point of sail (closehauled) and go for it and fine tune the setting for their boat. Once they get their boat sailing at what they feel is 100% efficiency for the practice session they should stop the boat and do it over again until it becomes second nature. Maybe try the procedure for downwind on the way back to the dock. That's plenty for one day. The next practice session will be different because the wind conditions are always changing.

    The second group is more difficult because generally they don't know "poop from shinola" about the sail trim controls. I'm not being derogatory (that was me years ago), it just how it is since we were not born with sail trim this knowledge. When I lived in So Ca and could arrange to sail on the persons boat, it was simple -- I had a small model sail boat which I used to describe the function of each sail trim control and most importantly WHAT each control was adjusting. Rick D from So Ca knows what I'm talking about because I used it on his boat. It took about 15 minutes and then we left the dock -- sadly, there was no wind, which is the normal condition in Long Beach in the AM. We tried to generate wind using the engine but tit didn't work too well. The friendship, beer & sandwiches made it a good day. Connecting with the on boat experience is not possible when the person say lives in FL and I live in Tucson.

    During the phone conversation with the second group, I feel like "Mr. NO" because everything they suggests I advise them that in my opinion it won't work. I then end the conversation suggesting they start with sailing lessons. They some times counter with "I have a friend who'll teach me" -- ask jackdaw how that works out most of the time!!

    So if you're a beginner to intermediate sailor wanting to improve your skills what would you want to hear from someone like jackdaw, Joe from San Diego, Stu J, ScottTbird and some others or myself? Einstein once said "'a person has to be able to explain whatever to a 6 year old or he doesn't know what he's talking about". Unfortunately, with the second group of sailors I can't even start the explanation.


  2. Leeward Rail

    Leeward Rail

    Joined Mar 20, 2015
    1,401 posts, 272 likes
    Catalina 22 New Style
    CA SHYC, Lake Winnipeg
    Don, this type of teaching/question issue, rings true in other areas of endeavour too.
    You can't substitute for experience, and you only get experience by actual doing something.
    There are very few real shortcuts in anything someone wants to learn, but it seems that in the era of the "I can just search for it on the web" more and more people mistakenly believe there is.
    I see it all the time in DIY forums on almost any topic.

    You can watch all the videos and and read all the books on sailing, or sail trim specifically, but to understand the topic, there is no subsititute for hands on experience.

    Other than someone reading sail trim books, and having having your chart at hand, and actively using it when on the water, I can't see much else you can do. (other than being on everyone's boat of course. Whadda ya doing this friday BTW ? ;) )

    The best a teacher can do, is distill the information down to make it less confusing. That's been done in your book

  3. Parsons


    Joined Jul 12, 2011
    533 posts, 153 likes
    Catalina 36
    US Bay City, MI
    Absorption depends on the learner's previous experience ... I feel like a zen master now! I had the opportunity to teach basic sailing to a young acquaintance over the weekend. Fortunately, he had some formal education in physics, so quickly grasped the concepts of laminar flow, force and vectors. I did this on my bulky cruising boat, not the best platform but it's what I had. It did have the advantage of an autopilot, so I was able to concentrate on sail trim while 'Otto' held a course for us. He had previously read about the theory from the basic ASA sailing book, so that helped as well. By the end of the afternoon, he had a good grasp of wind angle and basic trimming. We did not try to cover more esoteric topics such as draft position and depth, which left off half of the control lines.

    There is no way that I would have tried this remotely. I'm not certain how I could have explained these concepts to a student of the arts or humanities.

  4. justsomeguy


    Joined Feb 20, 2011
    6,243 posts, 765 likes
    Island Packet 35
    US Tucson, AZ/San Carlos, MX
    You could do it through mime. :biggrin:

    Gene Neill likes this.
  5. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    5,536 posts, 1,832 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    This sounds like the question teachers frustrate with at the beginning of every school year.
    I want the children to learn something, but what?
    The administration (your experienced sailors who bought your book)... Teach what is in the curriculum so that the students pass the tests. Do it in a way so they and the parents are not upset bothering me.
    The Students (your newbie) MAKE IT FUN... I really do not know enough to know what I want. MAKE IT FUN... I just spent 2 months with nothing to do but play XBox all day. MAKE IT FUN... ENTERTAIN ME...
    There is no good answer but to try and blend the two opposite concepts... And in your case, into to something that others will want and will spend money to become skilled.

    The internet, this forum, and the gadgets we all crave are spoilers to books of wisdom.

    What does a newbie want? My guess is to figure out how to get the boat away from the dock, move the boat on the water and not look like a dweebe, get the boat back to the dock. Do it in a way they look cool and no one gets hurt. Do it with a few gadgets that have a "look I know what I am doing" factor and will impress the friends that do not know or care but want to go along if it is fun.
    It is only after they get hooked that they will begin to know or want to know the finer arts of Sail Trim.

    plenny7 and jwing like this.
  6. markwbird


    Joined Nov 26, 2012
    817 posts, 149 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Berkeley
    What a great post.

  7. jeepbluetj


    Joined Jan 18, 2016
    434 posts, 120 likes
    Catalina 30
    US Dana Point
    Since I don't race at this time (need to find a ride...) I care a little less about trim than racers. That said, I can get my boat to go any direction I want, at reasonable speeds for an fat tub of a boat.

    What would I want as likely part of the first group? Optimization. I.e. if I normally get 5.5kts out of it closehauled in ~12kts of wind, can I get 5.8? I think to only way somebody else will help with that is having them on the boat. (Or race with a good skipper/crew) Your advice to go practice one point of sail is a good one there. But I don't think there's much more advice to give this group remotely other than how to get the most out of practice.

    Specifically, for the 2nd group (newbies), lessons is the #1 answer. Or they should read "Sailing for Dummies" and go mess about with a Lido 14 or something until basic sailing knowledge is somehow obtained. Or maybe race with a good crew, but how would they know good from bad? And sometimes racing only teaches you to pull the red line when somebody yells at you to pull the red line. How do kids in clubs do it? Stick a bunch of kids in a bunch of sabots, they seem to figure it out pretty quickly. Oh, yea, they had some lessons first. They also figure out that ramming each other is fun, not something to teach to an adult in a keelboat. :) Actually, a real basic book may be a good recommendation for you - i.e. your book focuses on sail trim, "Sailing for Dummies" starts at a more basic level - you've got to get them to understand what trim IS before you can help them with it. Sorta like geometry doesn't make sense if you can't multiply and divide first.

    It also depends on who you're talking to as everybody learns differently. I understand the engineering aspect of aerodynamics pretty well, so "The sails are airplane wings" worked for me. I doubt that's true for the majority. I have trouble with newbies that don't understand physics, cause I always start talking laminar flow, vectors, etc... So I realize I need to stick with "get both those yarn things blowing back." Some of the more fiddly concepts like draft position and twist (particularly twist on the headsail) are much tougher concepts to get across. I also need to always know "why" - why pull the traveler up instead of the sheet? Some folks don't care about the why.

  8. Don Guillette

    Don Guillette

    Joined May 17, 2004
    1,896 posts, 65 likes
    Other Catalina 30
    US Tucson, AZ
    Thank you for the responses. So far a couple of things have caught my attention. Leeward rail said "watch all the videos and read all the books" -- that was my first attempt after spending a lot of money on a Newport Beach, Ca sailing school. I didn't understand what the instructors were talking about but everyone else on the boat seemed to know. I thought I was the class idiot -- over the years I've found out I wasn't alone. After failing the check out exam I hired that instructors for private lessons - he started "lighting the light bulb" for me. Once I figured out what I was looking for the material became understandable but it was difficult because most books have the info all over the place. For example, the traveler may be on pages 25, 75 92 & 105 and it's the same with all the other controls. Some sail trim books talk about boat and sail construction -- I don't want to know how to build the stuff, I want to know how to sail it..

    Parsons said "teach basic sailing to a youngster". I grew up sailing on Narragansett Bay (RI). We sailed every day in the summer when it wasn't raining. I don't know how we did it as we had no lessons and couldn't describe what we were doing and no one asked us anyway. Years later at Shoreline YC in So Ca, myself and the commodore came up with the idea to invite kids from a gifted inner city school to a day of sailing. None of them (boys & girls) had ever been on a sail boat. The plan was to conduct a basic class at the school before the event. The school head master told us that wouldn't be necessary -- we thought "OK!!". The kids got on the boat, we raised the sails and they seemed to look it over like it was some science/math angles project and figured it out. Youth is incredible.

    jeepblutj said "some folks don't care about WHY". Yup, it breaks down this way - sailors in the 75% to 100% range already know why. To me the WHY of sail trim is everything otherwise a sailor is just guessing. The group from 0% to 25% want to know the WHAT & WHY -- that's the group I sell my products to. The group from 25% to 75% "don't know what they don't know" and don't care. They raise the main and roll out the jib and call it sailing, which it is but they could get so much more pleasure from the sport with a little effort. I've tried to break into that group but have not been very successful.

    Richie50 likes this.
  9. Richie50


    Joined Oct 4, 2010
    141 posts, 11 likes
    76 Catalina 22
    US Three Mile Harbor, East Hampton, NY
    Don love you book. Read it three or more times as I practiced what I read and understood. As time went on I understood more and tried more. Really enjoying sail trim now. Have to order the charts now to keep on board. Also the first book I read was sailing for dummies as I never sailed before. Thought it provided a good basis. Your right in what you stated about sail controls being all over different bpages in some books. Thanks for the help. Sailing in Eastern Long Island, Gardiners Bay, west of Montauk Point NY.

  10. Don Guillette

    Don Guillette

    Joined May 17, 2004
    1,896 posts, 65 likes
    Other Catalina 30
    US Tucson, AZ
    Richie50: Thank you for your nice comments. Trying to find all the info i needed on each sail trim control for the main & jib was a pain. I only knew when I had it all was when the info started repeating itself. The next thing was testing it to be sure it worked -- some stuff didn't and had to be discarded. The SAIL TRIM CHART tells you what adjustments to make for each point of sail and wind condition plus other stuff such AS to do

  11. Don Guillette

    Don Guillette

    Joined May 17, 2004
    1,896 posts, 65 likes
    Other Catalina 30
    US Tucson, AZ
    Not sure what happened there but the computer stopped working. Anyway, the other stuff is the trim sequence so that the sail trim controls are not working against each other. The chart,which is laminated for cockpit use, and is the companion & outline of the SAIL TRIM USERS GUIDE. The book tells you WHY a sailor is making a particular sail trim adjustment. The WHY of sail trim is everything, otherwise a sailor is just guessing at the adjustment.

    The chart came first, and then sailors contacted me and indicated they wanted to know WHY they were making a sail trim adjustment. The rest is history between and myself -- we've sold over 19,000 copies to sailors in every country expect China & Russia. Don't know what it is with those 2 places!!

NEW rigid hatch covers
Hatch protection like never before. Tough, secure, installs in seconds.
Leaky Lewmar ports?
Start by replacing lens gaskets in stock now
Ready-made sheets and halyards
Now faster than ever, our calculator tells you what sizes you need.
Noflex Sewage Treatment
Treat sludge and odor problems in holding tanks.