“Bohica” Kirby 25 Seminar – March 28, 2001

 Authors : Rich Coram, Chris Viscount, & Brent Hughes

Upwind Tips-Genoa Trimmer


  • The helmsman and the trimmer MUST work together for successful tacks
  • Most poor tacks are the fault of the helmsman coming through the wind too quickly (From the Trimmer’s Union handbook)
  • Trimmer must use an athletic stance-low with a wide base for balance and strength. Quick hands and long pulls-don’t cheat by releasing early; wait for first luff
  • Trimmer must not believe that the faster you get the sail to full trim, the faster the boat accelerates from the tack; bring sail into a powerful close reach, let speed build lift, make final small adjustments on winch from high side in breezy conditions; a flat, powered up boat is a fast tacking boat
  • Practice the routine until it’s perfect, even in adverse conditions (crash tacks, back to back tacks)
  • My 10 step Program Routine:
    1. always remember: a clean, organized cockpit is less important than boat speed; make sure the engine is driving before clean up of sheets occurs! Organize your cockpit from the rail to keep the boat flat;
    2. ensure sheet is in long coils to avoid twisting in block as you release; drag your sheets behind the boat (after races) to eliminate twists periodically;
    3. ensure sheet is not underfoot as you prepare for tacks;
    4. helmsman and trimmer ~ communicate prior to turning the boat;
    5. don’t come off the rail until the five second countdown to the turn begins;
    6. single wrap on the winch, quick hands until pull is too strong; do this on the low side to help the boat turn into the wind without too much rudder movement;
    7. 2 quick wraps on the winch as you grab the handle from an accessible location (accessibility is key; make your owner accommodate you with desired location for the winch handle pocket that allows you to make the grab in a smooth, quick fashion);
    8. let sail “breathe” at close reach to build boat speed and lift;
    9. tell your helm to come up to full trim in unison; don’t choke the throttle by trimming too quickly!
    10. get the edge of your butt out on the rail!
  • Entire crew must practice their route to the opposite rail; in breezy conditions, a flat boats lifts and builds lost speed faster upwind; ask your helmsman to watch the knot-meter through the tacks during practice; the boat should move efficiently through the tack without losing less than a half knot of boat speed (note to the helm… your rudder acts as a brake through the tack; use it as little as possible; the trimmer should help the turn by moving to the low side as the tack begins);
  • Until the trimmer makes it to the rail in breezy conditions, the rest of the crew must squeeze every ounce of weight out over the high side (arms, legs, butts, heads, beer cans etc.); flatten the boat for acceleration! NOTE to owners: pad the lifelines for your crew’s rock hard abs!
  • Kirby 25’s: FLAT IS FAST. ‘Nuff said. Wings and beer are training devices for heavy air days;
  • Light air tacks require some finesse; let the genoa backfill completely before you release; this will help the bow come around; light air magnifies your careful weight movement (remember: be gentle!); step to the low side gently to help the boat turn through the tacks.


Sail Trim

  • ALWAYS BE AN AGGRESSIVE SAIL TRIMMER; don’t “suffer through” bad periods of poor boat speed; fix boat speed problems, don’t fret about them on the rail; experiment until you have the experience to know maximum speed for particular conditions; always judge your boat speed against level boats; always be at or above the boat speed of your level competitors; if not, fix the problem!
  • SWITCH GEARS QUICKLY IN CHANGING CONDITIONS; power up, power down, go to point mode or reach mode as soon as it is appropriate for the conditions; the fastest boats maximize boat speed fastest in a new condition.
  • DEVELOP A SINGLE-MINDED NESS ABOUT TRIM AND SPEED; everything you do should be about getting the engines going (genoa trim); avoid being a spectator (concentrate, concentrate…) especially at key point when it’s most fun to be a spectator (mark roundings, hoists, drops, tacks, starboard situations); be single-minded-trim during these key moments of the race to get a boat length jump on the competition; let the carnage happen around you but always focus on getting your boat tracking with speed upwind; your job of getting the boat to maximum speed takes precedence over everything (even if the foredeck begs like a baby);
  • UNDERSTAND HOW TO CONTROL YOUR GENOA 4 WAYS (see some “guidelines” further down):

1. Sheet adjustment

2. Lead Position

3. Halyard tension

4. Forestay tension

Read books to understand the basics, then in the words of Chris Viscount, “throw the $%#”&*($% “guidelines” book into the lake and look at the sail. Is it FAST?” EXPERIMENT during practice sessions or pre-race. Every boat (especially the Kirby 25) does not sail by the book.

  • KIRBY 25’s:
    • The genoa is on a fractional rig; the genoa trimmer is not as important as we think we are; get over it!
    • Keep the genoa out of the way of the main (the real engine); don’t choke the slot, which stalls the boat;
    • The jib lead block position is remarkably forgiving; on Bohica, we put it at the front of the track in almost all conditions (very odd); even with a new sail, it was fast (it was also against the logical advice of a pro sail maker who shall remain nameless); I always remember the advice of Chris Viscount: don’t do what the book says, unless it’s fast on your boat;
    • Use your running backstays constantly and differently in different conditions. They control your forestay tension and will depower the Kirby genoa immediately if they are too tight in light airs. Keep them loose in light air and crank them in heavy breeze (like 2 guys pulling them as hard as they can);
    • Sail with scallops in the luff (less halyard tension) in moderate and heavy breeze. If the boat wants to heel at all, release the halyard tension until you see the scallops) You bring the draft in the sail back and point like Gods! It looks UGLY, but hey, it’s really fast. The Kirby genoa is really all about draft position. Draft position is all about halyard and forestay tension. I couldn’t get used to how it looked, but I did get used to winning races.
    • Move the draft forward in lighter breeze, big seas, or reaching conditions. Tighten the halyard to just pull the scallops out of the luff. Change gears quickly-get your foredeck to tighten the halyard immediately with his foot on top and the rope in the cleat (very important) or during a tack; don’t “live with” poor trim!
    • “Play the genoa” in large or choppy waves. If possible, sit facing the winch on the high side and ease the sheet in sets of big waves and go back to full trim in flat spots; power up. in the waves, go to point mode in the flat spots; this means one of the guys at the front of the row on the rail has the monotonous task of calling wave sets for the trimmer and the helm (we used the pit man; foredeck is looking for puffs and lulls); change gears faster than your competition!
    • If you’re ever on a close reach or a reach due to over standing the mark (due to wind shifts or a flyer out in Viscount country), try this for MASSIVE boat speed– use a barber hauler technique on the genoa sheet. Ease the sheet and push the clew of the sail out over the lifelines with your foot (or your hand in light conditions) to open the slot. Watch your speed jump considerably. Do it until your thighs or shoulders quiver. It’s FAST.


Upwind Sail Control Guidelines (Genoa)

Remember the note on “guidelines” on the preceding page. Chris sure doesn’t let me forget. Experiment and go with what makes your genoa go fast. These are not rules to live by.

The ability to change gears quickly is what separates the top boats from the mid-fleet. I can categorize 4 gears that are required for changing conditions on the race course. They are:

1. POWER UP – your boat is underpowered, slow and you’re not creating lift;

2. POWER DOWN – you are “talking to God”, on your ear, going sideways, and slow;

3. MAXIMUM POINTING – the lake is flat, the breeze is oscillating slowly or not at all;

4. MAXIMUM GROOVE – waves are difficult or oscillations are quick, the bow is bouncing      around, and your helm is crying like a baby;

POWER UP (bring on the engines!)

  • Genoa sheet: EASED (makes your sail less flat, more powerful)
  • Genoa Lead car: FORWARD
  • Forestay tension: LIGHT TO CREATE SAG
  • Halyard tension:  MEDIUM (moves draft forward without totally compromising pointing)

POWER DOWN (help, I just saw the keel…again)

  • Genoa sheet: EASED (use your mainsheet to maintain pointing)
  • Genoa lead car: AFT (flattens the biggest part of your sail, the bottom)
  • Forestay tension: MAXIMUM (depowers the rig)
  • Halyard tension: TIGHT

MAXIMUM POINTING (how did they squeeze above us like that?)

  • Genoa sheet: TIGHT (2-3 inches from the spreader tips)
  • Genoa lead: IN THE SWEET SPOT (all telltales are breaking together, see lead position tips further down)
  • Forestay tension: TIGHT (be careful not to kill throttle on those running backstays though)
  • Halyard tension: LOOSE (lots of scallops in the sail are evident; draft is way back with a finer Entry for the wind (more difficult for the helm as the draft moves aft)

MAXIMUM GROOVE (my helm can’t steer straight… waves or beer?)

  • Genoa sheet: PROPER TRIM (telltales are flat) or OSCILLATING TRIM IN WAVES
  • Halyard tension: MEDIUM TIGHT (draft moves forward, entry is opened for easier helming

Please remember: these “guidelines” were given to me at a North Sails Genoa seminar. These are different from boat to boat. If you are a Kirby sailor, I think it’s best to use my information with which I preceded this guide (and even that is not the only way to sail a Kirby). I simply use these guidelines in the winter to keep sailing ideas in my head over the winter. “LOOK AT THE SAIL! Is it fast?” (Chris Viscount)


Downwind Tips-Spinnaker Trimmer

  • Most downwind tricks (particularly gybing and hoist techniques) are best shown on the boat; invite people who have done the job out for a sail (and fill your cooler as well)
  • EASE THE SHEET!- The biggest cause of terrible downwind speed is over-tightening the sheet; ease it until the panel at the top of the chute begins to break without collapsing; keep the process of easing to the max and tightening to avoid collapse an ongoing process (I mean every few seconds, all the way down the leg);
  • PULL THE POLE AFI’!-Bring the pole back as much as it will take (without collapsing the chute). Expose as much of the sail to the air from behind as much as possible. On Kirby’s, the spinnaker trimmer should ~ control both the sheet and the guy; these must work together so that when the pole is pulled aft, the sheet gets eased accordingly.
  • SAIL DOWNWIND, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!- On windward-leeward courses, sail as deep downwind as your sail will take without seriously compromising boat speed. Bohica loves watching boats flame off the course on a tight reach while we’re gaining miles (albeit slower with less heel) driving downwind. If you have to sail on an angle that’s further and further away from the downwind mark just to keep your boat speed up, GYBE! You’re on the wrong point of sail. There is a favoured point of sail, just like your upwind legs. The person who sails the deepest without losing boat speed always gets to the turning mark faster.
  • EVERYBODY WORKS DOWNWIND- downwind sailing is not a pretty parade of spinnakers to watch; everyone on the crew needs to concentrate on a role as you do in upwind sailing: COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AT ALL TIMES WITH YOUR HELM AND YOUR “WEIGHT”–relate information about pressure on the sail constantly with your helm; direct the “‘weight” who’s steering the boat whether you need to come up to re-ignite boat speed, or bear off to sail downwind in a puff; clear communication between these 3 will keep your downwind speed up on the deepest possible angles you can sail; REMEMBER always go as fast and low as possible;
    • Trimmer-single-minded concentration on the spinnaker; boat speed is king;
    • Helm-neutral helm; the rudder only slows you down downwind; keep your tiller straight!
    • Foredeck-completes hoist & douse; stands against boom watching for puffs and lulls; directs “‘weight” to get to puffs or avoid lulls;
    • Tactician-controls positioning relative to fleet; uses foredeck wind data to call ups and downs to the “‘weight”
    •  Pit-“STEERS THE BOAT” with weight; uses input from wind data and tactical data to turn the boat (see section regarding weight movement);


  • KEEP MOVEMENT TO A MINIMUM- if you have to move positions, keep low, walk gently, and generally act like a cat; weight shifts on a boat downwind boat “steer” your course; people who don’t understand this fact are steering the boat (probably in a direction you don’t want to go);
  • HEAVY BREEZE DOWNWINDS- when the pressure of the guy is too much for the delicate hands of the trimmer, cleat it down with the pole in a slightly forward position. This way, the trimmer can use two hands for the sheet. The “weight” is probably on the rail to flatten the boat anyway, so this person can “trim” the guy by pushing their feet against it to bring the pole back and releasing their feet to ease it torward; with a heavy following sea, often this technique will create surfs down the wave as the pole is brought back quickly and the chute is exposed more to the breeze;
  • “YOU’RE NEVER GOING FASTER THAN WHEN YOU’RE TALKING TO GOD” (Viscountism)- a rolling downwind boat is a scary downwind boat but it’s an incredibly fast downwind boat. Death rolls are bad when you find yourself acting like a drogue, but if you can control them, you will go very fast. NOTE TO C & C 34 OWNERS: DEATH ROLLS ARE NEVER GOOD. THEY CALL THEM DEATH ROLLS FOR A REASON. On Kirby 25’s however, they are a spectacular way to move up the fleet downwind. Just make sure that the pole can be eased in a totally terrifying situation to depower the chute behind the main.

Using your crew weight to go faster!

  • Even on big boats, using your crew weight makes a big difference in performance;
  • Even on big boats, but especially on smaller level boats, weight movement must be gentle (catlike movements with a low centre of gravity);
  • Keep movement to a minimum; know your role on the boat 3 crew members reacting to instructions and moving to complete a task will upset the weight balance on your boat; communicate clearly when giving instructions;

Upwind weight issues and tips:

  • In Kirby’s especially, FLAT IS FAST. Let it all hang out, especially in breezy conditions. a Genoa trimmers should run the sheets from the primary winch to the winch on the high side so fine adjustments and “changing gears” can be made from the rail;
  • In sloppy, wavy conditions, move the weight of the crew on the rail forward to keep the bow of the boat in the water as long as possible; avoid the bobbing cork effect in these conditions;
  • Foredeck should load the guy and set up for the next hoist ON THE RAIL; never go to the bow unless it’s an emergency; on starboard tack, pull the pole back down the rail to the crew members to hold as the foredeck loads the guy into the jaws of the pole and then pass it forward again; weight on the rail at all times makes a flat, fast, pointing Kirby;
  • In addition, install a cant cleat for the up haul in a location where it can be accessed and hoisted on starboard tack (your typical approach to the upwind mark) without anyone leaving the rail;
  • On seriously light air days, send all un-necessary crewmembers down below… we call it “Dogs in the Hole”… those down below should lie down over the keel or on the low side according to how much heel is needed; this is really fast even though it’s really boring for the foredeck, pit, tactician and trimmer when they’re crammed into a tiny, hot cabin;
  • The person on the helm should always sit forward of the traveller; move as far forward as you can and use your weight to keep the boat flat too!
  • The genoa trimmer can use their weight to help turn the boat in tacking situations; (see my notes in the tacking section)… take a step to the low side to help the boat turn into the wind with less rudder “braking”; once the tack is completed, you’re already on the high side helping the boat track upwind, flat and fast;

Downwind weight issues and tips:

  • Move the crew weight forward on the boat to get the stern of the boat out of the water… yes, helm, this means you…
  • The helm should stay perfectly neutral (i.e.. Straight) the whole leg; LET CREW WEIGHT STEER THE BOAT DOWNWIND; this takes practice and “feel”; the rudder does only one thing downwind-slow the boat down if it’s not perfectly neutral;
  • 1 person (who’s not trimming, holding the helm straight, or foredeck) should steer the boat; “Stepping it down” = turning the boat downwind. 7 weight steps to windward and boat drives down towards the mark (used in puffs of wind when boat speed is high);
  • “Heating it up” = turning the boat up towards a faster reaching point of sail – 7 weight steps to the centreline or lower (depending on heel of the boat) and the boat turns up to a faster reach (used in lulls to increase boat speed on a faster point of sail);
  • ongoing communication between the foredeck (looking back for puffs and lulls), the “weight” that steers, and the trimmer are essential to keeping the boat going fast and deep on the downwinds;
  • GYBING BY TURNING with WEIGHT ONLY is fast; keep the helm neutral through the gybe; you can actually accelerate the boat through a gybe if you do it correctly!
  • Count down the gybe so the foredeck is ready; the “weight” goes to windward to turn the boat downwind. As the boat loses its heel as you go dead downwind, the “weight” throws all their mass onto the lifelines and the boat turns quickly to heat up on the new point of sail. Stay low and heated until the boat speed picks up and (timing here is essential…) move quickly across to the high side and step the boat down with speed. This maneuver requires a lot of practice!