Tip of the Month – Kicker settings upwind
I wondered if you could comment on the following article. http://internationalsailingacademy.com/2017/07/vang-settings/
Please see the below that I hope will help you and others in the fleet!
What do the settings mean?
The depower 1 and depower 2 marks on the kicking strap (vang) highlighted in the video (from 11 minutes 40 seconds onwards) see below
relate to depowering the rig when sailing upwind in wind strengths where you can’t keep the boat flat by hiking hard without having to ease the mainsheet.
The wind strength where this occurs is dependent upon the sailor’s physique and hiking technique.
When do I use these settings?
Depower 1 is the first point that you would move to if you are overpowered (can’t keep the boat flat by hiking hard without having to ease the mainsheet). This will flatten the sail, reducing the power; helping the sailor to keep the boat flat and keep the mainsheet all the way in ‘block to block’ (avoid spilling wind).
If you can keep the boat flat and have the mainsheet block to block by depowering the rig (whilst hiking hard) you will be going faster upwind than a sailor that is having to spill the wind by easing their sail to keep their boat flat.
Depower 2 is the setting that you would apply when you are still having to let the sail out despite hiking hard and having already applied the ‘depower 1’ setting and more than likely max downhaul by this point. Depower 2 will mean that when you ease the sheet the boom will go out horizontally rather than upwards. This is known as ‘vang sheeting’ and ensures that the sail remains flat when the sail is eased. If the boom rises when you ease the sheet it can make the sail fuller and more powerful (counterproductive in fresh to strong winds!).
Be warned though ….
Warning 1: Depower 2 can make tacking tricky, as it keeps the end of the boom down low when you release the mainsheet for the tack. The boom being low retains leach tension in the sail even when the mainsheet is released and this drives the boat back into the wind after the tack; leading to sailors getting stuck in irons. The Laser Radial rig is very prone to this!
It can also be difficult to get under the boom! Hence the T-Tack style that we talk about in coaching; one for another day! Even with T-Tacking some of the top sailors ease the vang from this Depower 2 setting before tacking in strong winds.
Warning 2: Depowering the rig when you could just be hiking harder with a powerful rig will be slow compared to another sailor that is powered up and hiking hard.
Warning 3: In strong winds (typically 25 knots+ or less depending on weight) you may find that even with max downhaul there is still excessive weather helm upwind. At this point I would be easing the kicker and letting the sail out a metre or so and be just trying to get around / home safely. The kicker eased and the Cunningham maxed out puts the centre of effort of the sail far forward and reduces weather helm.
Terrible for pointing but it is a great ‘get around in a gale’ setting; give it a try!
Warning 4: The radial lower mast section is very easy to bend and so it is easy to put ‘too much’ kicker on if you have an XD kicker and are reasonably strong. Not only can this be slow but this will permanently bend the lower mast section; not the end of the world but be warned. You may notice that I have taken a purchase out of my kicker because I find it too easy to put too much on and less purchase means less rope to pull on to achieve the same effect. That said; I am now going in for shoulder surgery so maybe my ‘kicker pulling on’ technique isn’t all that hot after all…?!
Warning 5: Different mast and sail combinations, a bit of extra pre-bend in your masts, and certainly switching between rigs, will mess up your calibrated tape positions! When I used to switch rigs I had different coloured tape on my kicker primary line to try to cope with this! With the benefit of hindsight I would say that these marks are a good idea; but don’t get too precious about them – use them as a learning tool!
Applying this tip
Advanced sailors: The best sailors will be adjusting the kicker upwind in anticipation of gusts and lulls (they are looking forwards!).
Intermediate sailors: If adjusting the kicker for the different wind strengths during the beat is too advanced then remember that it is generally faster to set the rig for the average wind speed and ease the sail in the gusts; rather than to massively depower the rig.
At chew the wind tends to ease at you get towards the windward mark if it is near a shoreline (frequently the case). Try to remember this! De-power for the first part of the beat if you need to and then power up if the breeze lightens as you might expect closer to the mark (windward shoreline).
Intermediate sailors should also explore the use of ‘depower 1’ setting for light airs; where a flat sail with the sheet 8 inches out can be fast (again for another day!). Go and play!
Beginner sailors; if in doubt then depower the rig and leave it depowered. I would suggest that de- power 1 and a lot of Cunningham is best to avoid getting stuck in irons or bumping your head. If as a beginner you are considering de-power 2 then it is probably time to head in; Beaufort himself declared ‘force 4 is a beginner’s gale’!
See you on the water!