Learning to tack the Flying Scot, May 2006

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To tack the Flying Scot, one should first announce to the crew that you want to tack with "Prepare to tack" and the crew should respond with "Ready!" (when they are ready). When sufficient boat speed is available and the tack is about to begin the helmsman should say "Helm's a'lee", "Hard a'lee", or "Tacking" so the crew knows the tack is beginning. Smoothly moving the tiller to the lee, or towards the sail, to about a 45 degree angle puts the boat in a fairly quick turn without losing much boat speed. As the boom crosses the center of the board, and is producing no power, the helmsman moves to the other side of the boat and looks up at the main sail to determine when the tack is complete and returns the tiller toward the center to stop the turn, looking forward to steady the new course with the sail at full power.

Martha, Eric and John took my May 6/7, 2006 sailing class on Lake LBJ. Martha, who had never sailed before, went from being uncertain about the boat heeling over to enjoying being able to safely use the power produced by the sail. This is early the first day as she begins to learn to tack soon after we raised the jib. She forgets which way to move the tiller, so Eric points out that you move the tiller towards the sail (the leeward side of the boat) to tack. Moving the end of the tiller over to the edge of the boat lets the Flying Scot tack smoothly, and she moves to the port side as the boom crosses the center of the boat. John releases the port jib sheet and Eric pulls in the starboard one as Martha finishes the tack. Notice Martha glances up at the sail when finishing the tack to make sure her new course has filled the sail.

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Another good tack, but notice that Eric releases his jib sheet a little early, which throws away a bit of power, and John pulls his jib sheet a little early, backwinding the jib. This earliness with the jib sheets slows the turn, and the boat speed. The jib sheet should not be released until the jib loses power, and should not be pulled tight until the jib is past the mast.

Here Martha gets a bit ahead of the tack, beginning to cross to the new windward side a little ahead of the boom crossing the center of the boat. She notices the boom is not yet in the center and pauses to wait for it. You should wait for the boom, so you are moving your body when the boat is head to wind and not under power. Every tack can be different, as the wind may shift in the middle of the tack and the boat can take more or less time to come head to wind. By paying attention to the sail and not how far you have turned this is not a problem. Martha also returns the tiller towards the center before the sail has started to fill, but when she looks at the sail she realizes this and returns the tiller to the side to complete the tack and fill the sail.
In this tack Martha is moving the tiller too much. Each time you move the tiller, more of the boat speed is used to turn the boat, slowing it down. In the light winds we had this day it was not a problem, but in high winds when you need every bit of boat speed to complete the tack this can slow the boat enough to stall out head to wind. The tiller should go smoothly to 45 degrees and be held there until the sail starts to fill at the end of the tack, so the tiller is moved once to the edge of the boat and once back near the center as the tack is completed.
Here on the second day of the class, Martha has had hours at the tiller and a night of sleep to digest the information. Now she has no problem making good tacks. Notice how she moves the tiller smoothly to the lee, changes sides at the proper time, and smoothly brings the tiller back to stop the turn without excess motion.

Learn more about David's sailing class

Youth tacking the Flying Scot, June 2006, 4 MB

Tacking a Flying Scot, Canyon Lake, Jan. 2006, 2.3 MB

Sailing Video Index

Also see Tacking in high wind while singlehanding
and Tacking in light wind

These videos were taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2. A $200 camera designed mainly for still photography, it will take a 30 minute video with sound if you have the 1 Gig memory card.