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Updated on August 3, 2017


I learned how to sail a long time ago, but there is still so much to learn.

Here in this hub I will reveal some of the little things that I recently learned...or still consider interesting in the sport of sailing.

Wylie Wabbit: Ghost Dog racing the Delta Ditch Run 2006
Wylie Wabbit: Ghost Dog racing the Delta Ditch Run 2006


1. Ranging:

I did not learn this trick until after I started sailing on San Francisco Bay where tides are a very important part of the game.  Sometimes when racing in a strong tide, even though your bow might be pointing straight at the mark, it is very hard to tell if you are steering a course that will take you to the mark directly or if the tide will sweep you above or below.  The basic idea is to watch whether stationary objects on the land are moving to the right or the left in relation to the mark.  If you are trying to pass to the right of the mark and the objects are moving to the right then you are "ranging positive" and you will be passing to the right of the mark. If the objects are moving left, then you are steering a course that will put you on the wrong side of the mark. (ranging negative) Ideally,in order to sail the least distance, you want to steer a course where you are "ranging even" or slightly positive (just to be safe) on the mark.   

Of course it is not so simple as the above instructions.  Bear in mind that the current is variable. The current might get stronger as you get closer to the mark,  or many boats might tack on top of you as you approach the mark, causing you to slip below.  

2. Making Trees:

A variation on the "ranging" idea is the concept of "making trees."  This is sailing slang for going faster then a competitor, catching up or passing....good stuff.  The evolution of "making trees" is from watching the trees on the shore in relation to your enemy.  If he is slipping back and more and more trees appear in front of him you are most likely going faster than he is in relation to the trees. You are "making trees."  Conversly, if trees are appearing behind him, then you are probably slipping behind, and he is "making trees" 


3. Sail design for boats without travelers:

Wylie Wabbit sailboats do not have a traveler. This means in heavy air you need to find other ways to depower the mainsail, and in light air you need to keep the main trimmed in very tight in order to keep pointing high. For this reason it is a good idea to get your mainsail cut with a fuller upper leech so that when you crank the mainsheet in hard you do not hook the leech to windward, closing off the leech.

4. Double Hanks:

I have recently noticed jibs with two sets of snap hanks on the luff. One set is for heavy air and are shorter. The other set is for light air...especially choppy conditions. They gradually get longer from the head and foot to the middle. They are all longer than the heavy air hanks. This allows you to have a fuller jib when you need the power, and a flatter jib when you don't want more power. There is a debate in the Wabbit fleet right now as to whether double hanks constitute a double luff, which is prohibited in the class rules.

5. Tack or duck:

This rules question is most applicable in big crowded fleets, such as the vanguard 15 fleet on Treasure Island: When a bunch (two or several) of port tack boats encounter a starboard tacker, who decides whether they will tack or duck? Here is one analysis by Jim Barkow.

Another viewpoint (adam spiegel)


6. Current:

As I mentioned earlier, current is a big player in SF Bay sailing. Yesterday I was racing from the Olympic Circle to Blackhaller (several miles up wind with several islands in between) The tide was ebbing, but the ebb was predicted tp reach 1 knot, which is not a particularly strong current. Half of the fleet (including us) went right, banking on the lift after rounding Angel Island, and also perhaps the forecast of gale force winds from the NW. Half the fleet went left, some south of Alcatraz and almost to the city front, and two boats just north of Alcatraz. These boats won. The ebb tide was quite strong between Treasure Island and the city and in the middle of the bay. When we got the lift after Point Blunt we were looking great. It looked like the left boats were straight to leeward, but then they started elevating. We couldn't see the furthest left (south) boats until just before the mark, but the two that were in the middle got into an ebb river just north of alcatraz and were gone.

We won the race anyway, do to skills on the 3 screaming reaches to home, but after the race some of the left-southers told me that they had looked at current map online that morning and saw the big current arrows from the southbay. When I looked later it seemed like a no-brainer.

I also found this cool site that might have helped us better anticipate the pair of freighters that cut us off on the first reach over to Harding Rock.

7. Jib pennants:

A competitor was complaining that his jib was getting caught on the shroud...and the recommended fix (from the sailmaker) was to get rid of the "pennant", a short piece of line attached to the tack, raising the sail off the deck. Supposedly this pennant is a good idea in light air because for some reason it is good to have the entire sail higher up in the air...perhaps because the wind velocity is greater even a few inches higher? But this is unnecessary in high winds. I think I need more infomation on this topic. please feel free to comment.


8. 505s

Sailing 505s between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate on San Francisco Bay is really quite enjoyable. These are very fast manuverable boats that will plane the entire way around the race course. The only complaint I have is the "firehose" in the skippers face that makes it hard to see and also washes off all sunscreen.

The running and standing rigging is very adjustable, and the class allows adjustments to be made throughout the race. This means you can keep the boats set up for maximum speed and minimum flogging of sails to depower. The centerboard is also adjustable, so you can move the center of effort back with the rig to depower.

Gybing Centerboards are another interesting feature of these boats.

505 tuning (Steve Taylor in the 80s)

Team Pegasus videos


Recycle the spinnaker that helped you win nationals!!

I just was introduced to this company, Seafever Gear, that makes some cool stuff out of old've seen some of this before...but they also have some interesting new ideas.


Ralph Deeds and George Macon on rainy Lake St Clair
Ralph Deeds and George Macon on rainy Lake St Clair


Moore 24 National Championships 2006

We were a bit slow downwind..and looking at the regatta photos we could see at least part of the problem. Or spinnaker design pushed the limit of wide shoulders...making it difficult to fly and prone to collapse in the middle. #75's spinnaker looks a bit more standard...but when #6 is full you can see the potential...

Butt Crack

Rowen and the Butt Crack

No Butt Crack!

3 Moores and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

We are the red boat, Ruby. it looks like we need more boomvang because the leech is twisted off so much.

5.15.07 Cruising in the Sea of Cortez

Im not much of a world traveler, but there can't be too many places as beautiful, wild and full of wildlife as the Sea of Cortez.

The only accurate charts are in guides by Gerry Cunningham, who has spent years cruising the sea and compiling data. (Interestingly, I believe this is the same Gerry Cunningham who pioneered puffy down jackets in the 70s)

Patricia 2 and three ladies


e27 nationals 2009


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    • MarkMAllen15 profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic experience.

    • profile image

      Simon Winer 

      9 years ago

      FYI they crashed about 2 seconds later... they got the boat sorted - something like a new spin halyard in vallejo, a five course meal (coz they lost a beer) and then back out to win the race. Impressive speed that day, we were just behind till things went all pear shaped for us and that was the end of the nice chute!

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      12 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Great picture!

    • tolachi profile image


      12 years ago

      Ranging can also be used to figure out what the currents are doing as you sail perpendicularly accross a course. Pick two marks on land (buildings, mountains, trees...) where you are initially ranging neutral on the middle mark. As you sail towards the marks and begin to be either pushed above or below the middle mark (range positive or negative), all other conditions being equal it will be due to variations in the current. It is especially interesting to watch what happens as you cross a current line. But currents aren't off or on... there will often be marked gradients in speed of flow that will change as ebb or flood builds or dies.


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