Sailboat Racing Trim — Part 13

In Chapter 13 of his book Racing Trim, Bill Gladstone talks about driving downwind. The following post shows a short summary of what I learned from that chapter.


Coordinated effort between the helmsman and spinnaker trimmer is crucial along with input from the tactician.  Wind and water conditions must also be taken into consideration.  It is helpful to channel all suggestions through the trimmer.   The boat gets too noisy otherwise and then no one can concentrate on their own job.



  • Light to moderate air — Plan reaches to sail the straightest line possible.  Head up in the lulls, bear off in the puffs.  Keep the dialog going between driver and trimmers.
  • Heavy air — Ease main, spinnaker sheet, and vang if the boat is overpowered. Carry as much helm as possible without rounding up.   If you do round up, luff the main and the spnnaker until you regain control.
  • Light air — Optimum angle is ~140 degrees.  Don’t head up in the lulls and bear off in the puffs.
  • Moderate air — Now you should drive aggressively.  Head up in lulls and bear off in puffs.  Get as much boat response as possible from trimming and crew weight.  Moving the rudder to steer just slows the boat down.
  • Heavy air — Aim for the mark and sail fast.  Be ready for broaches.  Preventers can be dangerous in heavy winds and can cause as many problems as they are meant to solve.
Not Steering Downwind
  • Bear Off — Bear off in puffs by moving crew weight and rotating the spinnaker to windward.  Ease main to give less helm.
  • Head Up — Trim the sheet and ease the guy.  Trim the main and move weight forward / leeward.
  • Don’t Steer — Use crew weight and trim as much as possible.  This will avoid using the rudder which slows the boat.


This is the thirteenth in a series of posts based on Bill Gladstone’s book Racing TRIM from the North U. Series.  Periodically, I post about a chapter or two.  This will be my short summary of what I’ve read.  You can read the posts to get my abbreviated summary; or you could read through the books with me.  Your comments can help point out what you find most interesting, or even poke fun at what I do and don’t know.  If you are interested in getting this book, you can find it in the online store section of for $25.