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How to Sail a Boat Better - Keep Your Sail Draft in Place!  

By John N. Jamieson

Did you know that can learn how to sail a boat better when you understand the secret of how to move draft. Once you know this, your power, speed, and performance will soar! Read on for three simple methods to put you in control on any point of sail.

Hoist any sailboat sail and look at the sail from the side. Notice how the sail curves from one long edge to the other long edge. Now imagine that make-believe wedges are inserted along any of those curves. Somewhere along each wedge will be a specific point deeper than all the others. That's called draft--which is the deepest part of a sail wedge.

When your sailmaker makes your sail, he or she positions the draft to keep the deepest part forward--or nearer the luff (leading edge) of your sail. This shape creates the most efficient angle to the wind for sailing to windward (beating).

But, unlike a rigid airplane wing, your mainsail and headsail are flexible wings. And the harder the wind blows, the farther back that draft will move. Keep your draft in the right place with these simple techniques:

Beating or Close Reaching

Tension the mainsail or headsail halyard to move the draft forward nearer the luff. Take care not to over-tension either halyard. Watch the luff of each sail and stop tension as soon as you just begin to see a slight vertical crease along the luff.

Close Reaching

Use the boom vang to help keep the sail under control. Without a vang, the boom end will tend to lift up and destroy the sail shape. Tension the vang just enough to keep the sailboat boom horizontal, but allow 1" to 2" of slack to prevent boom distortion.

Broad Reaching or Running

Use the boom vang as described above to keep your boom horizontal and the sail under control. Ease the outhaul line to allow slack along the foot of the sail. This increases the draft in the lower part of the sail for more speed and drive.

Skipper Tip:  Ask your sailmaker to sew a Cunningham ring in your mainsail and headsail. It's a large grommet, placed a few inches above the tack. You reeve (thread) a line through the grommet and haul down on the Cunningham instead of the halyard to tension your luff. This makes draft adjustments fast and easy.

Now you know how to sail a boat better on any point of sail when you keep your draft in the right place. Use these secrets to boost your sailboat cruising performance, speed, and power!

================  Captain John teaches sailboat cruising skippers the skills they need to set sail for a day, a week--or a lifetime! Get his popular free report "Ten Top Boat Safety Checks for Cruising Boat Skippers" at

John offers free articles, videos, and the "Skipper Tips" Newsletter with subscription at ==>

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