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Barber Hauling on Close Reaches

Last Wednesday night we had a very good race. It was a spinnaker start as is typical in the West River, given the usual summer southerly flow. Winds were good - 12-14 with stronger gusts at our 6pm starting time, but of course, these diminished as the evening wore on. We started mid-line under just the main, spinnaker ready for the hoist and got off the line about 4th out of a 13-boat fleet. Got the kite up and trimmed and were flying along in short order. Not a bad start; and our position on the line set us up to be inside at the first mark. We legged out in front of the boats in front thanks mostly to excellent trim work by the crew. After passing the first mark ( a government mark, left to starboard), we came up slightly to a broad reach and passed the one boat in front of us. I took a moment to get a picture of the fleet behind us:


Felt great. We reached the next mark (also to starboard) and came up close to the wind. Decided that the kite was on the edge (this particular kite is a .75 and cut deep for running, less good for reaching). So we up-ed the genoa and dropped the kite.

After that, we had a mile or so close reach out to the next turning mark and then a mile or so close-reach on the other tack back in. We held our own most of the way out and back in, but the boats we had legged out on early were definitely gaining. So in spite of our good work getting out into first place and clear air, and in spite of taking the gun for finishing first, we ended up in third place on corrected time. Bummer. But why?

After talking it over and thinking more, I realized that on the long reaches out and back, we were keeping the slot too narrow. The Genoa was trimmed properly - good fore-aft lead car position and good draft angle. But the regular tracks on Uncle Joe are tight to the cabin top to get the best angles for beating. And this is true of most racing boats. To get a better sail angle to the wind on a close reach, we really want to run the sheet a little more outboard - how much depending on how close or far off the wind we're sailing. Carrying the jib further out would also let us ease the traveler a little. Overall it would give us an extra bit of speed. So how?

The technique is called "Barber Hauling".  We run another line with either a snatch-block or an S-Hook from the jib sheet (or clew) out to a block on the rail and then to a secondary winch.  By tensioning this new line, we're hauling the jib clew out. And easing the jib sheet to match. Critical to this is the location of the block on the rail- it needs to be positioned so as to keep the right overall clew position - not too far forward or aft. Usually, I start with that block about perpendicular to it's attachment point on the jib sheet.

Next time you are close-reaching - try this and see if it improves your speed.
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