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More thoughts on Heavy Wind Sailing by Jonathan Weston

I’ve only been in the boat for about seven weekends when Dave lent me the boat, but have had enough high wind sailing experience to make one correction here.

If you absolutely have to go downwind in big air – most likely you are racing or perhaps the wind is blowing you out to sea or into some rocks, and you HAVE to blast it downwind, don’t sheet the main out. Keep it sheeted in, because this stalls the sail out and slows you down. Keep the jib sheeted in as well. Letting the main out can dig the bow down and corkscrew the boat into the wind at which point halfway rounding up you will indeed flip over. In Lasers, you keep the vang tight and sheet in or die. It’s the same with the Weta for me. I was at GG Bridge by my lonesome
when some rocket gusts started to pounce on me, and I had to sail 10+ miles downwind to Richmond, there was ample time to experiment with this. Of course, I could be wrong, but for me that’s what works.

If you’re trying to actually go fast upwind in high wind, you’ll have to ask Dave about that. I’m learning, and discovering his secrets from watching as long as I can, as close as I can, before he pulls away. Up until 25 kts I can hang with him, but over that, he pulls away and here’s why.

Most imporatantly, you have to hike your butt out on the ama – I’ve been straight leg hiking as much as I can, but once I figured out how to ama hike, I took that advantage away!

I’ve thought about moving the leads forward, but until I see him do it, I don’t want to sacrifice the power. Short shackles on the shrouds do that enough.

The other thing he does besides keep the jib flat is slack off on the main and drive the boat. I sail it like a Laser – heading up as the wave approaches and off as it goes under the hull. This works well up until it becomes survival conditions, and you need to drive the boat more I guess. The main thing is to get out in these conditions as much as possible so that you feel comfortable. Once fear becomes a factor, it’s to the back of the fleet for you, which is fine – there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you’re having fun.

Warm water can be a big factor in the funnage meter, but outside of Hawaii, there are few places that the wind consistently blows that have warm water.

So my final advice, dress right. I’m going with a Zhik superwarm skiff suit because it has the pee pocket and killer butt grip abrasion guard thing stuff, then a light 1 mm wetsuit top with a spray jacket. I’d go with the Ronstan spray top but they don’t make them big enough for me, so I use a Slam. On really cold days, like in Summer in San Fran (Mark Twain, you rule), I put on an alpaca or fleece for those long in-between waits for the other classes to start and restart. Ronstan booties are great for gripping the opposite rail. Harken gloves. My hunting Davo hat tied to my wetsuit.

Speedos. Sunscreen. Maui Jims. Game face. Good to go.