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Using the Wind: Other Options for Depowering

You might be out there alone or with inexperienced crew. Or you might be sailing a boat that doesn’t have sails you can reef. In this case you can ease your mainsail to avoid excessive heeling, or you can take down your main and sail under jib alone. If you sail under main alone, you probably won’t be able to point well (keep the boat on your desired heading), and you’ll end up slipping sideways. Neither of these methods are very efficient. The best plan might be to find a spot to anchor and wait out the storm.

In heavy air, if you want a rest, if you can’t reef, and if you don’t want to anchor, you can heave-to. Heaving-to is a method where you work the jib against the main, which basically causes the boat to tread water and stay in one area. To do this, trim the jib to windward (on the wrong side of the boat) and flatten the mainsail, bringing it as close to centerline as possible. I’ve never found heaving-to particularly comfortable, though some racing sailors swear by it for a quick lunch between starts. Personally, I’d rather take turns steering around under main alone while the others eat.

In very stormy weather, this technique can be used to hover around a small area. For more resources and videos, check out our sailing tips page.

Sail tip #73 – Using the Wind: Other Options for Depowering, Reprinted from: Sailing: A Woman’s Guide By Doris Colgate; Published by Ragged Mountain Press

About Sailing: A Woman’s Guide by Doris Colgate: No one is more dedicated to sailing education than Steve and Doris Colgate, and their books are an extension of that dedication. A complete line of books are available in bookstores and online at all key book vendors. Or call 800-221-4326 or email sail@offshore-sailing.com.

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