Tacking and Gybing:

The scooner needs decisive handling to tack well. Once you've got it right, she'll never miss stays. Until you do, she'll demonstrate backward sailing happily.

Until the crew is familiar with the vessel, we've found it most useful to do the full Hornblower trick. For people who have dinghy experience, the usual "ready about" etc is an incitement to start shifting, which leads to wet people and an untacked boat.

Here's our procedure. It doesn't feel embarrassing after the first couple of times, at least not if there are no others around, or at least not if you whisper it, or at least...;.

Ready to go about: No-one moves, but is prepared and not watching the scenery.

Let go foresail sheet: The foresail sheet is released to snap back along the boom. With the pressure reduced here, the main starts turning the boat.

Mainsail haul: The sheet holder pulls the boom in, holds it in, and the boat starts spinning into the wind.

Helm's a-lee or lee-oh: Helm is put hard down. Hard down means the end of the tiller, as designed, is above the lee gunwale. This will use the momentum of the boat and add to the spin from the mainsail to pass the boat through the wind. This is also the signal for everyone to start dodging booms as they come across.

Let go main: As the boat comes through the wind, the main sheet must be let go or she'll start weathercocking.

The boat is allowed to fall off a bit if necessary (in this case, a bit like a catamaran) to pick up speed, then brought to the wind again. This whole procedure can be done very slickly, without significant loss of speed.


Scooners can be pretty spectacular gybing - it's that big mainsail. In strong winds, we've found it's less exciting if one gybes from a wing-and-wing position. Bring the boat almost square, sheet the main in very slightly and the fore will swing across to the other side. ("Goosewinging", although strictly a goosewing is when one sail is totally messed up with the gaff out one side and the boom the other). Then you only have the main to worry about as you pass the boat through the wind. The key is control: controlled sheeting in as you start turning and controlled release of the sheet on the new course.

Until you've practised gybing in light airs, don't try it in strong winds. Instead, do a 360 degree turn so that you've tacked onto your new course. Better still, practice gybing in a dinghy to learn the basics of controlling the sail.

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