Intro to Reaching in Light Air

Reaching in light air takes more skill and boathandling than reaching in heavy air. Everyone likes to plane in heavy air on a screaming reach. There are sizeable gains to be had for those who can master the reach in light wind conditions.

Sail Settings for Reaching in Light Wind

In light air the outhaul setting for a reach should be the same as the upwind or slightly tighter. The cunningham should be completely eased. This creates a smooth entry at the luff of the sail. The vang should be set to bend the mast and ensure that the sail is not overly full. If the vang is loose, the sail will be too full causing drag. If the vang is too tight the leech will become hooked. It is generally better to use more vang to flatten the luff of the sail even if the leech becomes slightly hooked.

Technique for Reaching in Light Air

The sailor should keep their weight forward in the cockpit to keep the transom out of the water. A slight leeward heel will help keep the sail full. The daggerboard can be raised as much as 6 inches. All movements should be smooth and fluid. As boat speed increases bear away slightly and sail a lower course. As the boat slows, head up to build speed. Using sail and body weight to steer is faster than using the rudder alone to steer in almost any condition.