So I’ll admit upfront that ‘commandments’ is maybe slightly strong. My results in the fleet don’t give me the authority to pass on sailing tips that are guaranteed to succeed, but I thought I’d post a few notes on how I’ve adapted to sail the 300 with less weight than most. I’m sure that more experienced sailors in the fleet will comment, consider this as a starter for consideration.
1. Thou shalt smite the kicker and downhaul with great vengeance.
No surprises here. In general terms, all of the literature on sailing the 300 advocates use of serious amounts of kicker and downhaul. Obviously factors such as water state come into play, but being lighter I get to full vang in a F3.5, and full downhaul in a F4. The top of the sail looks more like a windsurfer sail. Outhaul is never too tight though.
2. Thou shalt embrace the art of windward heel upwind, for here lies the path to heavenly windward mark roundings.
If you want to understand the dynamics of the sailing the boat with windward heel, buy the Boat Whisperer DVD. Sailing with windward heel also means that the weight of the rig is hiking for you as well as your body weight. We light weights need all the help we can get, windward heel is the way forward.
3. Thou shalt embrace the art of by-the-lee sailing, and transition thereto with minimum fuss, lest thou be smitten down by vengeful and mighty gusts in anything more than a force 3
At the nationals this year, every area of the fleet enjoyed a few dips downwind, the boat is not the most stable of platforms. The more weighty of the fleet can shift a cheek to correct roll, I find I have to just go with it a bit more, and spend at least half a downwind leg by-the-lee, its just more stable. The Boat Whisperer Downwind DVD, was my start point. Adjusting to a style that does not steer under the rig is hard, but worthwhile.
4. Fear not in raising the centreboard upwind, and rejoice in a more stable ride.
I always sail with the centreboard raised by 6 inches, this increases to 12 inches in a F4+. You would think that this lets you slip to leeward, but it really doesn’t seem to make much difference, the boat handles much better, its easier to maintain windward heel in a gust. I don’t adjust the board offwind, it stays fixed for a race.
5. Fear not when the fatties move past you upwind, for they will be weighed in the balance and found wanting in the offwind legs.
There is not a chasm of difference in upwind boat speed between 70 and 90kgs. But if both sailors have similar skills levels and are fully hiking, I think the more weighty sailor will have an edge. I especially find this coming off the start line, and get very cross when I can’t hold a lane. But at the back of my mind I always know that offwind I’m likely to be able to make some of that back. At the End Of Season Championship a few weeks back, I had one race where I moved from sixth place to first downwind – it can all come out in the mix. The trick is to never give up.
6. Fear not when fatties absolutely cane you in wavy conditions.
The water state at the nationals in Stokes Bay this year was testing for the six races on days 2 and 3. ‘Testing’ is perhaps an understatement, ‘really quite scary and unpleasant’ might be a better description. Being lighter, there is no low mode option to deal with this, and those who can foot freely through the waves will fare far better upwind. This is just a reality of physics, and not a reason to sell the boat (this advice is from Steve C, who was also telling me to buy a Streaker as a second boat at the time (which I might)).
7. In marginal hiking conditions rejoice! For these are the playground of the lighter sailor.
When no sailors are hiking, being lighter seems to be no great advantage. This is counter intuitive, I don’t know why this should be the case. But in marginal hiking conditions, say 4-7 knots, these are good conditions.
8. If thou hast a death wish, and want to perform great penance, go sailing in more than 28 knots.
I’ve only sailed a couple of times in a force 7, with that wind strength I am fully hiking on a beam reach with the sail flogging. Going upwind is fine. Attempting to bear away onto a broad reach or run is terrifying. I’ve no doubt that with exemplary technique this could be conquered, but frankly windsurfing is more fun.
9. Thou shalt not covert another mans control systems and foils finishes.
Anything that makes the boat easier to sail has to be a good thing doesn’t it ? Lots of guides to set up continuous lines from the fleet.
10. Practice, practice, practice
No substitute for practice. The 300 is a delightful boat to sail, practice is not a chore. Even better with friends.
So there we have it, all comments from the fleet are welcome!