"We all sail on apparent wind"

Fri, 21 May 1999 12:07:26 EDT

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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I used to go to a windsurfing training camp every year on the Delta. Great
fun. Great instructors.

The head coach used to drum "we all sail on apparent wind" into our heads.
He would go zipping by us all at great speeds when we were all slogging along
and drive us crazy with envy. He was a master of sailing on apparent wind.

It isn't intuitively obvious, but I know from personal experience that you
can sail down river for several miles on apparent wind on a river when the
wind is dead calm or close to it. At Sherman Island on the Sacramento River
Delta, in a dead calm or hardly any wind, we would take our windsurfers out
and do a five or ten mile downstream run.

(We'd stash a car downstream before we started, sail down to it, everybody
would squeeze in and drive back to the launching area, then multiple cars
would drive downstream to pick up the windsurfing gear. Just like you do for
a downriver run with canoes.)

In light air on a Potter, you get started with on a broad reach, with your
main out wide . As you slowly gain steerage and speed, you trim the main
closer, a half inch of the main sheet at a time. No sudden movements that
rock the boat. As you gain more speed, the wind seems to pick up and come
off your bow. If you have patience for about two minutes, and *slowly* do
all your sail trimming, you can get going 3 or 4 knots in a 1-2 knot breeze.

If the wind clocks or shift a few degrees, don't trim your sheets, gently and
slowly move the tiller to keep your sails drawing. I usually stand in the
cockpit so I can feel every molecule of air. Sailing according to the wind
shifts, not straight on your intended heading, is called sailing "full and

If the wind dies, you can keep sailing on the apparent wind generated by the
momentum of the boat for a minute or two or even three. You slowly easy your
sail (again, a half inch of the mainsheet at a time) as the boat gradually
slows, and don't rock the boat (see footnote below)

Many's the time I sailed our P19 smartly past a bigger boat with a 150% genny
dead in the water during a lull (and us with just a lapper!) We'd pass the
other boat, leaving the other skipper with a look of absolute bewilderment,
scratching his head and looking up at his hanging sails and down the glassy

"We all sail on apparent wind"

footnote: I have been advised by a famous judge that it is considered
justifiable homicide to kill a PWC'er who rocks your boat with his wake when
you are sailing on apparent wind during a lull <g>

Judy B.
Formerly known in windsurfing circles as "Queen of Light Air, Master of the
Wet Jibe"
[With my light weight, nobody could keep up with me in light air but I used
to fall alot on jibes <g>]