Heavy Air Gybing Tips
Dear Auntie Alb, 

All my Albacore friends are sniggering behind my back because I have this problem.  No matter how I try, I can't stop capsizing at the gybe mark.  It doesn't even have to be windy, either.  As soon as I see the mark looming up, I go all of a dither.


Dear Capsizer,

Forget what your friends say!  You are not alone, and on any windy day throughout the Albacore world, you will find Albacores capsizing.  Sometimes, one can be forgiven for thinking that the gybe mark is equivalent to the Lemmingsí drop as boat after boat tumbles into oblivion.

It need not be like that, of course. It's up to you.  It is perfectly possible to get round the gybe mark even in windy weather.

All you have to do is follow the Golden Rules:

1.  Don't start to worry before you get to the gybe mark and as you get closer, don't panic.

2.  Bear away gradually, keeping up speed. Crew sitting in centre and staying there unless ordered otherwise. Board should be about half down for pessimists (something to stand on) or half up for optimists (for optimum speed)!

3.  Aim to reduce wind pressure on the mainsail by 

a) gybing at full speed
b) at sea, gybe when surfing down wave
c) do not slow down. If this happens, delay gybe until accelerating again.
4. Tiller extension should be popped over to other side before the gybe.

5. After sheeting in a little and as tiller is pulled towards him, helm stands up with feet well apart. (Don't forget to duck as the boom comes across.)

6. Grabbing hold of mainsheet and pulling hard as stern goes through eye of wind and then simultaneously, as the mainsheet is eased out*, the tiller is (quite) vigorously jerked back the "wrong" way only for a moment.  The effect of this is to push the bow back to leeward and negates the centrifugal force of the boom. Don't worry. The bow won't bury. 
(*Uncle Alís note: In our Wayfarer, the helm does nothing with the mainsheet which has the stopper knot tied so that the boom is stopped just short of the new leeward shroud at the end of a gybe to reduce unnecessary stress on the boom where it otherwise slams into the shroud. What does help immensely is that, as the helm begins the gybing turn, the crew grabs the kicker (vang) and keeps enough tension on it to develop a feel for when the pressure on the main is greatly reduced Ė i.e.  the main is ready to come across. At that moment, the crew wings the boom across but does not let go of the kicker. Instead, after the boom has crossed the centre line, the crew gives a healthy tug against the boomís momentum in an effort to stop the boomís swing before it reaches the new leeward shroud. In a blow, this is of course a futile effort, but its effect is astounding. The wild slam of the boom from the end of a gybe not controlled in this way, becomes a gentle swing at the end, and as a result, the helm has a much easier time controlling the boat as he comes out of the gybe. And an added bonus from this method is that it keeps the crew in the centre of the boat as Mike recommends!)

7.  If boat rocks, helm should do most of the steadying by pushing down one foot or the other but keeping the tiller steady. Remember that, as the Albacore is nicely rounded, itís desperate to rock and roll.

8.  One of the main reasons that Albacores capsize is that coming out of gybe and before the main is pulling, both sailors jump on windward side and the boat capsizes to windward. So get going, sheet in and then sit on the side.

Obviously this all takes much longer to describe than to actually do.  So get plenty of practice either on the water or day-dreaming. It doesn't really matter which, except that day-dreaming is drier!

Auntie Alb

Dear Auntie Alb,

Further Gybing Tips:

Following on from your advice on heavy weather gybing in the last edition, I have two additional tips. Each is appropriate to a specific circumstance and, if used at the wrong time, will probably result in some swimming practice.

Tip 1:

Put the board fully down when gybing from run to run. One way of stopping the old 'rock and roll' is to slam the board fully down. The boys at Bala have taken the next logical step and swear by full boards for heavy weather gybes on a run. However,  there is one proviso: as soon as the boom comes over, the boat must be borne away dead downwind; otherwise the boat will trip over the board and probably capsize to leeward.

Tip 2:

Let some kicker off when gybing from reach to reach, i.e. at a wing mark. As you approach the mark, ease off some kicker - only time will tell how much. Pick the moment when you are going flat out and are in control. Then perform that perfect smooth gybe. The eased kicker does two things: 

a) it raises the boom end, keeping it out of the water, and 
b) it allows the main to depower on the new gybe, thereby reducing the chances of being knocked over.  
Again a word of warning - go boldly!  With the kicker eased, there is a potential for the windward death roll if the boat is pointed dead downwind for any length of time.

My own advice is to practice, practice, practice. Good Luck!

Duncan Glen

Dear Duncan,

Thank you very much for your very helpful tips. If anyone else has any other tips, please drop me a line. 

Auntie Alb