Upwind Trim

by Jeff Madrigali

Sailing an Express 27 upwind is a very challenging form of sailing. Since the boat is so light and responsive, small adjustments and techniques make dramatic differences in speed. To start you have to be as close to the class weight limit as possible. This gives you the stability necessary to keep the boat flat and in the groove. Set your boat up so your crew is comfortable and hiking hard on the rail. Try to lead all necessary adjustments to the rail so you can shift gears as conditions change with as little movement as possible. The trend in the class has been to go with more and more rake. This coupled with flatter mainsail designs has produced better moderate and heavy air upwind speed.

The key to sailing an Express 27 upwind fast is to sail the boat flat (10 to 15 degrees of heel) without stalling the sails. To achieve this you must match the power of the sails to the amount of wind. If you carry to much power (too much sail or sails that are too full) the sails will stall and you won't be able to hold a groove. If you don't carry enough power (not enough sail or sails that are too flat) you will point low and may suffer slower speed. The key adjustment of power is the backstay. As we pull it on both sails will de-power (get flatter). The mast bends which flattens the main and the headstay gets tighter which flattens the jib.

As the backstay comes on so should the cunningham, jib halyard, and mainsheet. Setting the mainsheet tension is critical. In moderate winds the top batten can be as tight as parallel to the boom. As the wind increases so should the twist in the leech of the main. Each main is a little different and may require different adjustments, but we are looking for a flat sail (especially down low) with more and more twist in the leech as the wind builds. Backstay flattens the middle and top of the main, while outhaul/flattener and vang flatten the bottom of the sail. Mainsheet and traveller adjust leech tension and leech twist. Flatten the headsail by increasing backstay tension and increase twist by moving the lead aft and adjusting the sheet tension. The ability to hold a consistent angle of heel is the key to consistent boat speed.

In steering the boat you want to keep heading up until you find the right angle of heel. You also need to do this in conjunction with steering around waves. The bigger the waves the more power (heel) you will need to get through. You want to sail as flat as you can get away with. If you stall you want to fall off a bit and get going again and then head back up to the flatter groove.