Dan Morris trims sails for Taylor Canfield’s 5th-ranked US-One match racing team, and our pals at the Dial-Up blog put together a solid interview with an interesting cat, with plenty to say to help your next kite set or gear change. Check it.
Why do you enjoy trimming?
DM: Trimming is my passion in life. To put it simply, I love being responsible for our speed around the course. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that we have a better mode up the beat and down the run than the opponent. The middle of the boat is my domain, especially when the breeze is up and you get to be a little intense and physical!
What do you do and think about while approaching the windward mark?
DM: Approaching the weather mark I like to have a vision of the set in my mind. I preset the sheet so that the kite pops right when the halyard and guy are on. I plan the exit angle and the setup of the kite so we can turn right down to our VMG angle, wasting no time searching for the right angle. This angle depends heavily on the breeze, sea state, and weight/type of boat. Generally, we come out of the weather mark straight to our VMG angle unless there is a close situation with the other team. This is one place where communication between trimmer and driver are critical.
What type of communication is involved in trimming?
DM: On the run I keep communication simple. When we are at the right angle I say “Good angle.” When we are two degrees high I say “Down two.” When we are one degree low of VMG I say “Up one.” Nailing the exit angle out of a gybe is also reliant on good communication. A good helmsman will have a good idea of the right exit angle (Not to mention you have practiced a few gybes that day!). This another time when I say “Good angle there” as the helmsman is about to reach the appropriate angle. The goal is always to keep the comms quick, concise, and consistent.
Communicating often and with concise language is important. The trimmer’s voice is basically another sense for the helmsman in addition to feel, sight, sound, etc. Conveying the idea or mode with as few words as possible is critical. A good trimmer continuously feeds the helmsman info to keep the boat at VMG. The helm talks to the trimmer about abnormal situations. There is a transition between when it is the “Trimmer’s boat” or the “Helm/Tactician’s boat.” The smoother this transition, the better, in order to execute luffs and rolls and then get right back to VMG to extend. Eventually there is an understanding that the trimmer’s focus is VMG and when the tactician or helm speak up about a maneuver the trimmer’s role changes. Now the focus is to set the boat up to execute the maneuver properly. After completing the maneuver it is the trimmer’s boat again to maximize VMG.
What do you think about while trimming?
DM: On a symmetrical boat I try to project as much of the kite to windward of the main without sacrificing the shape of the sail. In general, if the brace is coming back then the sheet is easing. The brace comes back with more pressure to sail deeper…so the sheet is easing. A good starting point is to maintain a vertical luff when the sheet is well eased. If the luff sags forward then the brace is over squared. If the luff projects out from the pole then the brace is too far forward. The shorter the pole the more you can expect to brace back.
A well trimmed kite will be just breaking on the luff. This doesn’t mean carry a large curl all the time, it means almost curling all the time. A large curl makes it hard for flow to attach the sail and makes the effective area of the sail smaller. However, an overtrimmed sail with no curl and a closed leach really stops the flow and will slow you right down! The most common time to overtrim is when your head is in the boat to clean up. Stay on the edge of curling and don’t lose focus!
Pole height is critical as well. Lowering the pole straightens the luff and opens the leach while flattening the sail. Raising the pole rounds the luff, makes the sail fuller and reduces twist. A good starting point for determining pole height is to keep the luff vertical. A pole that is too high will have luff that bulges out to windward. Staying active with the pole height can be worth a lot on the run, especially when luffing other boats.
What do you think about headed into the leeward mark?
DM: Going into the leeward mark I make sure the cockpit is clean while tending the sheets and guys during the drop. The jib sheet is on the winch. My halyard and leads are all that fastest settings. During the turn up I trim at a pace to match the helm’s rate of turn making sure to not be early. The jib trim should follow the main trim around the leeward mark to help the boat turn with less rudder. A huge point at the leeward mark in a close match race is to expect a few tacks at the beginning of the beat, so load your new winch and be ready for some tacks… This is when good middle guys will excel!