Sail Trim

an interview with Dave Hodges

by Jr Morgan

Because of demonstrated outstanding sailing ability on the San Francisco and Monterey Bays, ExpressPress talked with Dave Hodges of Larsen Sails about his ideas on sailing. Dave started sailing on medium size boats (30' or less) in 1968 when he was eight years old. A few of his noteworthy successes are two-time MORA Championship on San Francisco Bay (sailing a CF27 and a SC27), second and third place, second overall in class, in the San Francisco to Kauai on two different Wilderness 30s, two-time Midwinter Champion in San Francisco Bay on Olso 30, won the 1983 Moore 24 Nationals.

For us he is the "one to beat" when sailing PHRF and one-design races. We feel he makes all boats move fast, including the Express 27.

ExpressPress: "On the main you made for Boojum (hull #1) you had some new ideas on adjusting the outhaul and flatener. How did it work out?"

Dave: "They didn't. You have to adjust both the outhaul and the flatener. Usually start doing the flatener when the wind is over 5 knots or so. Adjust the sail so the boat has enough power. Have your sail so the tell tails on the main's battens are flowing smoothly when going to weather and reaching, especially the top two tell tales."

ExpressPress: "What do you use as a guide for adjusting your main?"

Dave: "Adjusting the main is done completely by the feel of the helm and you should always have some weather helm when beating. Power will give you some weather helm and help you point higher. In light air it is best to have no bend in the mast. But the mast should probably be raked as much as the rules allow."

ExpressPress: "I have heard that you like to use outboard leads on the Express."

Dave: "Yes. If it's windy and choppy I use them for all the sails. You can carry the 155 quite a bit longer, it opens up the slots and frees up the main. You can pinch the jib a bit too. We start by going to the toe rail and then bring the lead in--maybe half way. Remember, its all by the feel of the helm. You want power. These leads are also good in fluky conditions. Easier than a head sail change."

ExpressPress: "When you say power are you talking about the shape of the sail?"

Dave: "The sahpe of the sail and the use of the sail. For example, you can use the 155 longer by flattening it out and opening the slot. This allows you to use the main more, and therefore point higher. The more use you get out of the main, the more it will help you get upwind. It is real important to keep the main working."

ExpressPress: "Shoud we try not to backwind our main?"

Dave: "Try not to, but you don't want your boat tipping over. If you have to backwind your main a lot you should have a smaller jib up."

ExpressPress: "How about driving through waves?"

Dave: "I work on it all the time--keep the pitching to a minimum."

ExpressPress: "What do you use as a guide when you are dropping off the back side of a wave and you can either luff into the wind or foot-off?"

Dave: "I've found that if it is real windy, it's faster to head up and in medium air you can foot off and the come back up and it works pretty well. The Express handles the waves better than most boats."

ExpressPress: "What do you use to judge if the size of your slot is correct?"

Dave: "It doesn't feel good if the slot is too narrow. The helm will feel funny and the main won't be working right. The helm feels like there is nothing there. You want to be able to let go of the helm and the boat will head up. You can adjust your weather helm by adjusting the main and the slot."

ExpressPress: "What do you do about the leech of your main when you are reaching in light air?"

Dave: "Make it as loose as possible--might help to have a solid vang."

ExpressPress: "When you are going downwind how well do you feel the Express 27 sails by the lee?"

Dave: "If there is enough wind (10 to 15 knots) the boat will sail real well. If there is light air you have to reach up because the spinnaker is small and the main doesn't work very well dead down in light air. You have to reac to make the main work in light air.

ExpressPress: "Surfing downwind vs. reaching off?"

Dave: "If the ocean has a big swell and not a lot of wind you're most likely better off reaching up. The big swells could blanket your sails in lighter air and you may stop at the bottom of the wave. If you have enough wind where you don't stop at the bottom of the wave and it feels like the waves are helping you--then use them. If not, reach up."

ExpressPress: "What tips do you have for reaching with the Express?"

Dave: "The only thing different about the Express in reaching is you have to play the mainsail a lot by playing the vang. You want to watch the helm and let off on the vang if you get too much weather helm. Easing the vang lets the leech twist off and depowers the boat a little. It is easy to feel when you have too much vang. The boat gets heavy."

ExpressPress: You've sailed a Santa Cruz 27 a lot. Is there any way we can match their speed downwind in light air?"

Dave: "In a light air a SC 27 can sail lower because of her larger spinnaker and they don't have to worry about their main. With the larger main on the Express you can't use it unless you reach up a little."

ExpressPress: "Power vs. what? Do you ever want to be underpowered?"

Dave: "No! Never underpowered, but you don't want to be overpowered either. When you're overpowered you can't point and downwind you don't have the speed."

ExpressPress: "You have been successful sailing many different kinds of boats. What do you feel specifically pertains to the Express 27 that would help the people sailing them?"

Dave: "The thing different than others is you sail them much flatter. Really flat upwind. Not so flat that you lose helm. If you are losing helm on the boat keeping it flat, you probably need more mast rake."

ExpressPress: "What is flat?"

Dave: "Flat is somewhere around 10 degress and try to adjust your sails, etc., to sail the boat at that angle. Constant heel angle is real fast."

ExpressPress: "Where do you put your crew weight in real light air?"

Dave: "Weight forward, stern out of the water and weight to leeward. Usually in any direction. Sail it like a dinghy. Make sure you don't get too much weight forward--you don't want the boat pushing its way through the water.

ExpressPress: "You are a very successful sailor. What do you feel is your key to success?"

Dave: "Paying a lot of attention and keeping the boat moving fast all the time. Don't fade out or anything. Just stay with it the whole race."

ExpressPress: "Thanks, Dave."