Chute the Breeze
Imagine the scene: you are trickling downwind across your favourite bay, the sun is high overhead, and you have a belly full of lunch and a brew in your hand. But the breeze is dropping off.
You are far enough away from the shore that any sea breeze is still hours away, and the genoa is beginning to slop against the shrouds in a gentle set coming from further offshore. There is a tidal gate, but it’s hours away yet: you’re in no rush so there’s no need or desire to put the engine on and spoil the peace. But as the air gets more still, it’s getting a little too warm for comfort...
Something’s missing. That extra knot or two of boatspeed would make today’s sail better than great - and would ensure you get to a mooring before dinner needs to start cooking too.
Now imagine you have the equivalent of double your current sail area, ready and bundled up in a launch bag that is stuffed under a bunk: a colourful game changer that could end up making this the most fantastic and memorable sail for ages.
In the absence of loads of pairs of hands, you had the foresight to get it loaded in to a snuffer, or – even better - maybe it’s on a furler! With the wind over your shoulder this is a really good chance to play. It’s an easy choice.
Leaving your favourite crew (perhaps that’s the autopilot!) to drive for a few minutes, you nip below and pull out all the kit, and a few minutes after that you are ready to launch. The sheets are led each side from the clew to the winches, outside everything of course! The tack line is secured, perhaps you’ve deployed a bowsprit to project the sail a little further in to the clear air in front of the forestay too. The halyard is attached, and finally the bag is fastened to the rail: if you’ve lost a bag overboard once, you’ll never forget that again..!
Everything is set.
After a heave on the halyard, the socked-or-furled sail flops its way up to the top of the mast, under control as the boat rolls in the swell. After final checks on everything, you unsock/unfurl by hauling on the continuous line.
With a tweak on the tack line, and a cinch in on the sheet you’re away. Furling the genoa so the chute can breathe a little more, you ease the sheet ‘to the curl’ and suddenly the boat feels alive again – the helm is much more positive now the water is flowing over the rudder, and with the increase in the apparent wind speed, the air feels fresh again.
There’s a boat in the distance ahead, going the same way, and he’s been in the same place relative to you all morning. He’s about the same size as you isn’t he - or is he a bit bigger? He’s still struggling with a genoa too. How far is that – a mile, perhaps a couple? How long before you can catch him I wonder..?
The log will be showing the benefit by now, and with luck that brew is still at a drinkable temperature too: if so, sit back, because this afternoon is going to be just perfect...
Owain Peters, January 2019