Follow our s”How to Sail” series here are some techniques and top tips on how to get the most enjoyment from helming in big waves.
Sculling the Waves
When sailing over large waves the smoothest and fastest course is not a straight line, you need to scull the waves, sailing in more of a horizontal course. The safest way to transit large seas is by quartering them, sailing upwind or running off on a broad reach with the boat at an angle to the waves. This will minimise the rolling and reduces the chance of your sail being backwinded.
Sailing upwind – try to pinch the boat to weather as it approaches a wave crest, then bear away as you sail down the back of the wave into the trough. When you are sailing off the wind, then bear away from the wave crest as it approaches your stern, then head up once the crest has passed you. Using these techniques enables you to control speed well, and puts the boat in the best position to gain the power needed as you head into the troughs, rather than flying over the crests and slamming into the troughs!
Body Position – Very important to find a position that is comfortable to you, where you can hold onto the wheel or tiller, yet still feeling the movement of the boat beneath you. The motion of the boat can determine the course that you take over the waves and as you become more practised at the art, you will feel instinctively the best course of action.
Use your eyes and ears
In daylight it is far easier to see approaching waves and adjust your course, however at night time you will need to listen to the pattern of the waves.
Practise, practise, practise…
The more you take control of the boat in bigger seas, and the longer passages you do, the more confident and skilled you will become at sensing the waves and motions. So go for it…it can be an exhilarating experience!