Tips - heavyweight sailing

Most of these tactics will apply to lighter sailors too but the heavier you are the more important they become.


All things being equal the boat will sail faster with less weight. That is why dinghy sailors spend hours in the chandlers trying to find lighter fittings.


The answer is not as simple as it might at first appear and in most conditions additional weight is worse than the weight handicap calculations suggest, as the handicap system assumes flat water to sail on. Basically the problem is summed up in three words - buoyancy, weight and momentum.

Buoyancy versus weight

Buoyancy defines the amount of water the boat displaces. Increase the weight and the amount of water displaced is increased which means the boat sits lower and lower in the water until it is submerged - my normal mode of sailing. The drag on the boat increases as it gets lower in the water. You cannot alter the basic buoyancy of the boat, but you can do everything to reduce the weight on the boat:
Always check for and remove all water from the hulls before each race - this also means the picnic compartments.
Remove all unnecessary weight from the boat - beer cans, portable phones, etc. but do not sacrifice safety.


Use your weight to advantage by keeping the forward momentum of the boat:
As you are heavier and can keep the windward hull down better, move the mast rake one notch further forward than your lighter companions.
Make sure the trampoline is pulled as tight as possible. A heavier sailor will sit lower in the water and therefore "catch" waves. If the trampoline is loose it will catch more waves and slow you down.
Do not move around the boat unnecessarily. The rocking and bobbing will slow you down.
In a flat sea lie well forward and keep the boat balanced port and starboard. This will rake the mast further forward and help you sail better to windward. It will also reduce the drag on the transom and rudders. This is one advantage heavier sailors should use.
In waves you must prevent the boat from diving into the waves which will stop the boat dead. Because of the heavier weight you will take longer to get going. So again, balance the boat and sit in a position that keeps the leeward bow out of the water as much as possible.
In apparent contradiction to the above, you can use your weight at the front of the boat to surf down the waves, but remember to move back far enough to avoid burying into the next wave.
When rounding marks use your weight to keep the momentum going. In light conditions this will help in particular. If you take the marks too tightly you will stop and take longer to pick up speed than the lightweights.
Unless it is windy do not sit up on the start line. With more weight you will take longer to move off, so stay back a little and use your momentum to "burst" through.
Last but not least use your weight by hiking out to bring the mast upright and balance the boat in a blow. The lighter sailors will be spilling wind from the sail to keep the windward hull down.
One last point - Its no good racing if before the start you have already written yourself off because of your weight. Think positively, remember everything I have said here but above all concentrate I There are heavyweights in the fleet who do very nicely thank you, but I will save their blushes and not mention their names.

If all else falls - try a diet. Good sailing

George Wood