In recent years, the Wayfarer has developed
into an exciting and demanding racing dinghy. Exciting, not in the sense
of an out and out planing trapeze dinghy, but rather in the sense that
it responds so beautifully to correct, accurate control.
In fact the closer the
racing, the greater the need for this positive control. Thus, proper technique
is important. Luckily, the controls which organize Wayfarer boat speed
are now well known. Influenced as they are by the specific characteristics
of the Wayfarer, these controls revolve around:
need to keep the relatively heavy hull with its large wetted area moving
as quickly as possible in all conditions.
need to keep the air flowing smoothly over the large, low aspect ratio
sail plan without the air stalling and without the boat heeling too much.
ensure that the raked aft centreboard creates the maximum possible resistance
and that the rather small rudder blade steers the boat, even in the strongest
of breezes. With their parallel sides and short bevels, they will both
stall all too easily if not properly used.
the long toe straps are as comfortable as possible so that the sailors
can work efficiently.
Obviously there are many subdivisions within
these major groupings, but the Wayfarer sailor, at least initially, should
be concerned with general areas of responsibility rather than become obsessed
Keeping the boat upright is perhaps the
single most important aspect of Wayfarer boat speed. If the boat is allowed
to heel, the water has to travel around asymmetrical curves; the waterline
is shortened and the stern digs in. Not only does the boat go slowly, but
it is also hard to steer with massive weather helm, and then the boat goes
sideways as the centreboard loses its grip.
The motto has to be:
Keep the burgee above the crew’s head. This is obviously achieved by easing
out the mainsheet to reduce the amount of curvature in the main as soon
as the boat heels. In extreme circumstances, the genoa should go out, too.
The proper technique
is to watch the gust coming towards the boat, decide whether it is going
to head or lift, and then, as it hits, have the sheet ready to ease, i.e.
uncleat the sheet. As soon as the boat heels, ease and keep easing, even
if the main is backing. Once the gust has eased, the main can be sheeted
The way to decide whether
the approaching gust is a header or a lift is straightforward. If the gust
front looks closer to the bow than it does to the side, then the gust will
be a header. If the front appears to be closer to the side than to the
bow, then it will be a lift. In fact, it doesn't matter what happens as
the gust hits, as long as the sailors are prepared for its arrival.
This system works best
if both helm and crew remain fairly still and sitting out. If either of
the sailors keeps diving inboard too early, then the boat is unstable,
and the sails cannot be sheeted correctly. There is no need to keep moving
about anyway, because if the boat heels to windward, then all that is needed
is to sheet the main in to lift the sailors up out of the water. The only
exception to the upright rule is in very light winds. Here the boat needs
to be heeled just enough to get the sails to set rather than flop about.
2. FORE AND AFT
A common fault often seen in Wayfarers is
that the sailors sit too far forward when beating. This sinks the bow and
lifts the stern out of the water - reducing the water line length. In simple
terms, the helm stays behind the thwart in all conditions except in very
light airs. The crew should be close to the leeward shroud in very light
winds, move aft to sit on the centreboard box as the wind gets up a bit,
and 6 to 8 inches behind the shroud while hiking out. In very windy conditions
at sea (with big waves), move even further aft to keep the bow up.
Off the wind, move aft
only in planing conditions, and then just enough to keep the bow up. In
very windy condi-tions on a broad reach, both sailors can sit well aft
to get the flatter sections at the stern to work. Watch out though, for
sinking the transom too much. A turbulent wash and back eddying wake are
the signs to watch for.
3. USE OF RUDDER.
The rudder blade is fairly small, and, as
it is parallel sided, the flow breaks away fairly easily. So, overzealous
use of the rudder (i.e. increasing its angle beyond 45º) will reduce
its ability to steer. This is particularly important when tacking or gybing.
The front of the rudder blade should be vertical. It should also be held
down solidly by a pin (¼” wood dowel is legal) and/or a very strong
downhaul shock cord. The tiller extension should be about 38” (98-99 cm)
long and may benefit from bumps of PVC tape, etc. to provide a better grip.
Wherever possible, help
the rudder by using the sails. If you want to bear away, ease the mainsheet
(to bring the centre of effort forward). If you need to luff up, ease the
jib very slightly (to bring the centre of effort aft).
4. THE CENTREBOARD.
It is vital that the centreboard have minimum
play inside the box. On glass boats with wide slots, you need to insert
plastic or tufnol washers of several inches’ diameter on both sides of
the board, putting the centreboard pin through them.
The leading edge should
be as close as possible to the maximum 83º angle allowed to get the
biggest possible presented area.
When sailing off the
wind, have as little board down as you can without skidding sideways. If
there is too little board down, the helm will feel heavy and the wash will
be turbulent on the windward side. So if in doubt, look aft!
The leading edge needs
to be nicely rounded. An arc of about 3/8 inch is about right. It should
merge gently into the centre flat sections. The transition between the
flat centre and the aft bevel should be equally smooth with no abrupt change
in profile. The very back edge needs to have 1/8” flat or so, to give it
5. HIKING STRAPS.
The toe straps should be just long enough
to enable the sailors to sit out comfortably. There should also be shock
cord tensioning to keep them taut so that the sailor can find them easily
after a tack or gybe. There must also be enough room left between the helm’s
toe straps to enable him to step between them as he tacks.
The Wayfarer will roll tack beautifully
without stopping. The secret of a good tack is for both sailors to remain
on the old windward side until the boom has gone over. Then both sailors
should move to the new windward side. It is also important to ease the
mainsheet a little as the helm goes across. This lets the sailors sit down
without the boat heeling too much.
The crew should be marginally
behind the helm so that he can, in windy conditions, sit down on the weather
side, or in light conditions, move back to the leeward side as needed.
Especially in light winds, the helm is usually unbalanced at this time,
and must be careful how he sits down. If he is too clumsy, the air will
be shaken off the sails.
For this reason, aft
mainsheeting is generally better for sailing inland in light weather because
the helm faces aft during the tack and is crouched lower in the boat. The
helm should always swap hands on the tiller before he leaves the old windward
side. Then the extension is already in the correct hand when he gets onto
the new tack.
Centre mainsheet roll
tacking is rather more complicated as the helm has to face forward. He
shouldn’t swap hands until he has sat down on the new windward side, even
though this means steering with his hand behind his back for a second or
(Uncle Al’s note:
We have available to borrow, a video of Mike demonstrating roll tacking
and gybing as well as using sail trim to help steer. My editing is amateur
but Mike’s demo is professional!!!)
The Wayfarer is incredibly stable and can
be gybed even in the very strongest breezes. The gybing technique obviously
varies according to wind strength and whether or not the spinnaker
is being used.
In light winds the boat
will roll gybe using techniques basically similar to those used in roll
tacking, in that the helm and crew wait until the boom goes across before
moving across the boat.
This has. the particular advantage of heeling
the boat slightly on the new gybe to keep the mainsail quiet. The gentler
the sailors’ movements in these conditions, the better. The crew should
hold the boom out after the gybe to prevent it coming back into the centre.
The vang too, should be well eased, but not so much that the boom jumps
off the gooseneck.
In windier conditions,
the helm should be in control. As the helm bears away, the crew should
move to the centre of the boat, and then stay there until the helm is ready
for him to move. This means that the helm knows exactly where the crew
is, and can then get him to move to whatever side is needed.
It pays the helm to sheet
in a fraction as he bears away. Then he can ease the sheet as the boom
goes out on the new side. This acts as a spring on the mainsail which otherwise
fills quite violently. (Uncle Al’s note: Another
outstanding way to cut down on the violence of a windy day gybe is to have
the crew use the vang (kicker) to start the boom across and then restrain
the boom from really slamming across by pulling against the direction it
wants to go once it has crossed the centre line of the boat. This really
works supremely well!)
The moment the boom goes
across, the helm should urgently tug the tiller so that the bow is pushed
in the same direction as the boom for an instant. Then he should almost
immediately straighten the helm. This stops the violent spin towards the
wind which so often causes the broach and/or capsize.
For this reason, it is
best not to throw the boat around too quickly when gybing from reach to
reach in a breeze. Arrive at the gybe mark slightly high, bear away onto
a dead run, gybe, and then harden up after the spinnaker is sorted out.
8. STOPPING &
ACCELERATING FROM A STANDSTILL.
This is a very important technique as it
is absolutely essential to getting good starts. It is best practised outside
the race situation by seeing how long the boat can be made to hover close
to a buoy. It will be surprising how long it takes to stop.
When accelerating away, the correct technique
is to sheet both sails in together in a smooth, non-jerking way. (ed.
note: if you’ve been luffing above close-hauled, as is usually the case
when you’re sitting on the line, it is best to sheet the jib in first to
encourage the boat to bear away to a close-hauled course.) This
will keep the boat tracking without it luffing up and stopping. The rudder
must not be used until the boat is moving, otherwise it acts as a brake.
9. ROUNDING MARKS.
The number one rule is to get round the
mark without hitting it. So, when rounding on its windward side in windy
conditions, leave a good boom’s length to spare. In rough conditions with
big waves, the mark will be moving about quite a lot, so keep well away.
When approaching any mark, check which way the tide or current, if any,
is flowing. The buoy could be leaning away from the current and there might
be a wake.
The general rule of thumb
is to approach the mark wide and leave it close. This stops others from
barging in. Try to keep mark rounding simple by not tacking too close either
before or after the mark. In other words, sailors should try to settle
down, both in approaching and in leaving the mark.
As they are approaching
a mark, both sailors should know where the next mark is, and what sort
of a leg it will be getting there, i.e. how the sails, etc. are likely
to be controlled.
When rounding the windward
mark, many sailors are so obsessed with getting the spinnaker up and getting
the other sails organized for the offwind leg, that they miss out on waves.
Surfing on waves is the biggest and easiest way of dramatically increasing
If one or more boats
are close behind as you round the windward mark onto a close spinnaker
reach, then stay high. (Al’s note: Don’t let them
go over you while you hoist your spi in light or medium breezes. In those
conditions, a brief lack of spinnaker costs virtually nothing as you sail
high to discourage others from passing to windward. On the other hand,
it is very hard to get past even a boat not flying spinnaker on a close
reach once they have passed you except in a blow.)
If you follow a gang
of boats round the mark, go low - thinking of the inside position at the
The tactics used will depend upon the proximity
of other boats, and what the wind and tide are doing. If you are alone,
it is obviously best to sail in a straight line to the next mark except
to play waves or gusts (bearing away in gusts and down the face of waves
while luffing up in the lulls and in the troughs).
If the tide is going
to get stronger or weaker along the leg, then allowance must be made by
heading either up or down from the mark. Also, if the wind is going to
head, then sail high, but if it likely to free, then sail low of the mark
It can often pay to go
low to the next mark when following a group of boats, because the natural
inclination of sailors in front is, quite rightly, to defend their wind
and luff up to stop others from overtaking them to windward.
If you are leading a
group, it is therefore essential that those close behind do not get high
enough to blanket your sails. But beware of going too high for too long
so that the final approach to the next mark is on a broader, slower course.
The exception to this is in a breeze, because all the necessary jobs involved
in taking down the spinnaker can then be done without the boat heeling
Playing waves is very
straightforward. Wait until the stem lifts and the bow is just behind the
wave in front, and then bear away just enough to accelerate. The secret
is to watch the wave in front, and to try to keep the bow just behind it.
Obviously, one cannot keep bearing away, so track a little to windward
at every opportunity. The fastest course to the mark in planing conditions
is therefore a series of gently curving zig-zags. Keeping the boat upright
is absolutely vital. In fact, when bearing away, heeling the boat to windward
helps to keep the boat tracking.
Getting down the run is a compromise between
sailing the shortest distance on a dead run and luffing up slightly to
build up extra speed. The general rule is that it pays to luff up to keep
moving in very light winds, or to get the boat planing in marginal planing
conditions. As soon as the boat planes, it pays to start bearing away again.
The problem is, of course, that luffing up increases distance sailed and
so the extra speed has to at least compensate for the extra distance.
As a general rule therefore,
tacking downwind does not pay. Because of its heavy weight, the Wayfarer
does not plane sufficiently to make up for the extra distance sailed.
If, sailing marks to
port, you approached the windward mark on a starboard tack lift (or marks
to starboard on a port tack lift), it will pay to gybe straightaway after
rounding. If you approached the mark on a header instead, it will pay to
leave the mark without gybing.
Everything else being
equal, consider on which side the spinnaker is stowed, as you decide on
which gybe to choose. On a run, it is often easier to hoist the spinnaker
on the windward side. Hoisting to leeward means that the spinnaker has
to be pulled around the vang, jib sheets, etc.
When approaching a leeward mark, think about
what side the spinnaker will be used on next. Try to get it stowed so that
you will have a leeward hoist for an upcoming reach. Since the spinnaker
should always be lowered to windward, you may need to do an extra gybe
to achieve the desired effect.
If in doubt, take the tack that will take
the boat closest to the windward mark. Check tidal/current flow, and always
try to get a lee bow if there is the merest chance. Keep a constant watch
to windward, watching out for signs of likely changes in either wind strength
or direction - smoke, other boats, etc.
In light winds, keep
the boat moving and do not keep tacking and tacking. In a breeze, watch
the approaching waves. Whatever happens, they must not stop the boat. So,
if necessary, ease the sheets, bear away and accelerate. Just as the wave
is about to hit, luff slightly to reduce frontal area, and then, once the
wave has passed, bear away again to regain speed.
Be very wary of getting
too far out on one wing or the other of the beat. This is even more important
as you approach the mark.
13. 720 TURNS.
Very few Wayfarer sailors practise 720º
turns and yet they should. Imagine how tense the situation is! An incident
has occurred. The sailor has admitted responsibility and must begin his
turns as soon as he is clear of other boats. He’s het up. Which way does
he go? Luff up to tack or bear away to gybe? It invariably seems to pay
to gybe first. Luffing up is far too slow, especially if the centreboard
is not down!