Sailing is an extremely fun activity, as a relaxing adventure, as well as racing. If you are taking your boat out racing, you are going to need to go as fast as possible. So, how can you get your sailboat skimming across the water in order to place first in your sailing races?
Sailboats average a speed of 4-6 knots (4.5-7 mph), but this can be increased to upwards of 8 knots, or even 15 knots depending on the boat. Checking rigging, prepping the right sails, adding a clam cleat, the right weight distribution, and developing expertise all can help get a boat sailing faster.
Now you know some of the best tips in order to get out into the water and start sailing at the speed of a speedboat (maybe a bit slower) but there are plenty of other tips and details that can help you start cruising across the water next time you go sailing. Throughout the rest of the article, I will give you the best tips to sail faster along with demonstrations on how to perform the more complicated tips.
Check Your Rigging
The first thing that you are going to want to do with your boat is to check and make sure that your rigging is set up properly and that everything is working smoothly. A common problem that plenty of boats have is that they have been set up with rigging for a boat that is larger than theirs, adding lots of extra tension and making all of the adjustments to the sails slower. This can be fixed somewhat easily by getting a rope of the right size and re-rigging the boat.
Along with the rope rigging, you are also going to want to check the blocks, masthead sheaves, and plastic pulleys, as they can also wear down or get caught. Typically, if there is a problem with any of these parts, they are easier to replace than to repair.
Lubricate Sail Slides
You’ll want to do a quick inspection on all of your slide sails and make sure that there aren’t any areas where they are sticking. This can cause the process of raising and lowering your sails to become a lot more difficult and tedious. If you find areas that are sticking, then you are going to want to lubricate them in order to get everything sliding smoothly. There are a variety of different lubricants you can get, either through your local boat shop or places like Amazon, and while it isn’t recommended, WD40 can work if you don’t have anything else.
Proper Weight Distribution
This applies far more for racing sail teams, rather than just individual races, or even casual sailors, but where you are setting up your racing team, you are going to want to consider how much weight you have in your boat along with where the weight is located. On a lighter boat weight will affect how you ride on the water and can make turns either easier or more difficult.
Add a Clam Cleat
A clam cleat is a great addition to any boat as it can easily allow you to make adjustments to the main mast with just a single hand. The bigger the sailboat that you are managing the more likely that you are going to want to have a clam cleat attached to your mast in order to manage the main sail, while still keeping control of the boat.
For smaller boats, the amount of tension you experience with your main mast isn’t typically that bad, and many experienced sailors can manage the main mast of their smaller sailboats with one hand, but it does help make it easier, even if you have a smaller boat.
Pole Out Headsails
If you are heading downwind, then having a headsail on your boat will offer a number of benefits. these include:
- Make your boat more stable
- Make your boat handle larger waves
- Slightly increase speed
This is best for smaller boats that can’t typically handle large waves or are more unstable. It is typically recommended that you use a headsail on your boat if there are large waves or if the winds get above speeds of 15-16 knots. This will greatly increase the stability of the boat without causing any sort of problems(usually). The headsail will also help as it acts as an accidental jibe preventer when going downwind.
Spinnaker & Reaching Sail
Using a good, light air sail attached to your boat can easily help increase the speed that you are sailing. While these sails aren’t typically used for easy cruising, they do help you move along the water much faster. The only problem that you might find if you are waiting to use a reaching sail or airsail is the fact that most cruising sailboats don’t have areas for you to attach the sails. This is almost always the case if your boat is an older one.
If you are wanting to get an airsail in order to help increase the speed that you are sailing at, but you don’t want to spend the fortune that some of these sails can cost, you can typically repurpose older downwind sails from racing sailboats. If you do add these sails to your boat, you will find that the biggest benefits for speed come when the wind is under 10 knots.
Develop Your Knowledge & Ability
The best thing that you are going to be able to do in order to help you start sailing faster is to get out onto the water and practice. Taking sailing classes, reading blogs(like this one!), and watching how experts do it all give a great foundation for getting started, but the thing that is going to help you get the fastest is being out on your boat, and getting used to how it feels and handles. From this, you can make small adjustments in order to learn what works best for you.
It can take a while to learn how your boat moves and handles. More time equals more knowledge.
As you do this, handling your boat can become almost second nature and everything will become instinctual, making your top speed easier to achieve.
Sailing faster is something a lot of us want. I love sailing upwind because it truly feels faster. If you are getting into racing, then you definitely want the speed. Wind, sail trim and drag are going to be the biggest factors as you know so be sure to keep an eye on all of those and have the bottom of your boat cleaned regularly.
Faster Faster Faster!!! Cheers!