How to Use the Magic of a Mainsail Wind Shadow

This week’s Boat Rat comes from Captain John at www.skippertips.com. Visit his blog for tons of equally useful tips!

Have you used a mainsail wind shadow to protect your crew when they have to work on a heeling, wet, pitching foredeck? If your headsail furling unit jams or you need to get your marine anchor ready, you will want to know how to use this secret technique.

When you are on a close-hauled or close-reaching course, your small cruising sailboat is heeled. In any kind of heavy weather, many boats will take spray all the way back to the cockpit.

If you fall well off the wind onto a broad reach or run, the main becomes a giant wind block. The foredeck instantly becomes level and quieter. Spray becomes a distant memory.

The bow becomes more stable and this provides a dryer, safer platform for the crew working on the foredeck. Here are five tasks where a wind shadow course will serve you well:

1. Furl the Headsail

Placing the furling unit in a shadow reduces loads on the headstay extrusions (metal channels used to hoist the luff). This results in a smoother roll without wrinkles or binding.

2. Remove Jams from the Furling Unit

Repairing a jammed furling line isn’t fun at the dock–and it’s much less so on a wet, heeling, pitching bronco of a foredeck. Change this from a “hanging on” repair job to an easier one with a dryer, more stable platform for the repair crew.

3. Lower or Change Out Headsails

Sheet the headsail flat toward the mast. This keeps it in the shadow of the mainsail. Lower, remove, and bag the headsail. Stow headsails below in all but the most moderate weather. Spray and waves cause wear and tear on seams and stitching.

4. Reef a Headsail

If you’ve added sail reefing points to your headsail, it’s fast and easy to take a reef or two when the sail isn’t flogging your crew.

5. Make Preparations to Anchor

Pull your anchor rode from the locker and coil or fake it on deck to make preparations for anchoring. On a steady deck, your sailing crew can take their time to make preparations.

You will learn how to sail better when you think of ways to control your small cruising sailboat in different types of sailing weather. Use the secret of a mainsail wind shadow to lower the stress on your sailing gear and sails–and on your sailing crew.

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