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Sailing tips archive
Sailing tips archive

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Sailing tips for catamaran, bareboat or monohull charter in Greece

Sail Trim – Upwind and Downwind sailing

Trimming your sails upwind


The trend in the past 5 years has been to flatten the entry on the headsails, thus affecting how the sails are trimmed. Because the #1 Genoa is 180% and carries quite an overlap on the mainsail, it is important not over sheet the genoa. Our general rule of thumb is never sheet the leech closer than 5" off the spreader. In light, lumpy conditions, because the Shark is a heavier boat, we will sail upwind with genoa as much as 12" to 15" off the spreader. We adjust the sail trim quite frequently; if we have a bad set of waves approaching, we ease the sheet and power through. The Shark does not accelerate well, so this is a crucial adjustment which needs continual attention.

Most of the genoas on the market today have a wire luff, with a floating tack. We do not use (nor do we have) a winch for the genoa halyard. One of the most common mistakes is to over-tension the halyard. The cunningham on the genoa demands continual adjustment as well, and is played frequently while sailing up-wind, much the same way as the genoa sheet is.

The Class recently approved a 150% genoa for racing. The range of the 150% is 13 knots and up. The sail have proved to be quite effective, especially in 15 to 25 knots of breeze. In the past, people would carry their 180% up to 22 knots and then switch to a jib. The 150% makes the boat easier to handle, and extends the life of the 180%. You can sail the boat flatter, and tacking is much quicker and less strenuous (the cockpit crew loves it).



The Shark is a very mainsheet sensitive boat. Basically, I never cleat the mainsheet and I constantly play it. The leech ticklers make it quite easy to determine how much mainsheet tension is desired when sailing upwind. The top tickler should be flying 20 to 30% of the time. If it flies all the time, you’re not sheeting hard enough. Vice versa, if it never flies, you’re over sheeting the main. As the wind increases, I play the mainsheet to take the bite to weather. In a flat spot, I briefly over-sheet the main, hardening the leech, which allows the boat to point better, then ease quickly to normal trim for boat speed. The trick is to feel if the boat is slowing down to trim for boat speed at that time. Timing is critical.

I only use the backstay when I feel the boat is over-powered, and I adjust it frequently. I never vang-sheet the mainsail. Because the Shark has such a large overlapping genoa, if you ease the main with the vang on, you close the slot. With no vang, when you ease the mainsheet, the top spills off first, the bottom of the sail doesn’t move outboard, and you keep the slot open.

Again, in order to keep the slot open, I never drop the traveller below centre. If you effectively play the mainsheet, there is no need to adjust the traveller. In the lightest conditions, I keep the traveller approximately 10" above centre.




Spinnaker Trim:

When double-slotting keep the halyard off 2 ft. Generally, at all other times, the halyard should be approximately 1’ off except in heavy air dead downwind, the use a full hoist.

The pole height is quite simple. Just match the guy side of the spinnaker with the sheet side. Even if the sheet side is at deck level, match the pole side with it. The old trend was to keep the pole extremely high on the reaches. We have found that this is not effective. Just match the clews and GO!


Mainsail trim:

Off the wind, the main should be kept as full as possible. This means the backstay and cunningham should be as loose as possible and the outhaul eased 6" from the black band.

The most important adjustment o the down-wind leg relative to the mainsail is the boom vang. If you have too little vang, you will spill off desired wind in the top half of the sail. If you have tooo much vang, you will close the leech and destroy wind flow. A slight curve, drawn between the end of the boom and the top of the mast, is the optimum setting.


Double Slotting & the Genoas:

When double slotting with the 180%, you must be on a broad reach or tighter for it to be effective. The most improtant thing is not to oversheet the genoa. If the sail is pulled in too far, it will suck air away from the spinnaker, making it either very hard or impossible to fly. If your spinnaker does collapse, ease your genoa out until It luffs. This will allow the spinnaker to refill. Once you have the spinnaker flying gain, re-trim your genoa. You will find it much easier when double slotting with the 150%.

On a last note, here are some handy tips that come to mind:

- install PVC pipe on pole ends attached to trip wire for easier access to open jaws

- bottom handle winches - the hand is always there

-inboard sheeting is must with the 180% genoa, outboard for the 150%

-spinnaker launching bag - the chute is always ready to go (no packing required) and is easily stored away when not in use.

-pre-guy the spinnaker behind the genoa – this does 2 things’ prevents the spinnaker getting snagged under the genoa and brings the clew closer to the pole for quicker set. The sheet should be cleated at pre-determined mark for a close reach

-use ratchet blocks for spinnaker sheets (located just forward of the genoa winches on the outboard rail) no cabin top winches required -primary winch can be used if necessary

-install cleat for spinnaker halyard on mast at eye level (starboard side) with the spinnaker halyard led aft through a block on the deck 6" to the starboard side of the mast to a cleat on the bridge – this allows the bow person to hoist the spinnaker and the cockpit person to douse it.

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