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Just before I start on this, it was great to see two designs in the Gosport club racing that were showing good all round speed in the form of a Vision sailed by Ray and one of Dave Holloms design sailed by Ed. Sorry Dave and Ed, I could not remember the name of the design. Ray in his Vision showed exceptional speed both upwind and downwind and both when ahead were impossible to catch. Great to see the older designs can be so competitive in club racing against the so called newer designs.
Whilst setting the boat up for racing today and putting on some new telltales, it got me thinking how important these little bits of spinnaker cloth or wool stuck to the sails are for maximising speed on a small yacht or in fact any size dinghy or yacht..
If you do not have them on your sails, ask yourself how you can possible trim the sails with accuracy if you have no idea what is happening with the air flow over the sails. Sail makers have invested huge amounts of time finding the right shape for their sails but none of that will matter if they are not set correctly. With telltales you know if the leeward one is flapping you have to let the sail out or if on a beat you have to luff up. Conversely if the windward one is flapping you have to sheet in a bit or bear away a bit if on a beat. That is pretty much all there is to it. When I sail in light flukey conditions, I watch the tell tales like a hawk and am constantly easing the sails or sheeting in. Often in the first 40 yards of a club race I can get a jump ahead of the fleet if I have seen a shift and the fleet have not through the tell tales. Sadly that is never the case with the sharp eyed skippers in a ranking or national events.
There is a nuance when setting the boat up before launching. I like 3 telltales on the jib, evenly spaced up the luff. When holding the boat as if on a beat, when you luff the boat up by turning it towards the wind, each windward telltale should break (point up or down) at the same time. If this happens you know that the twist of the jib is good. If the top telltale breaks before the bottom one, reduce the twist in the leech and vis versa until they all roughly break at the same time.
The other place I like a telltale is approx 1/3 the way down from the top of the mainsail. This little beauty will tell you if you have the right twist in the mainsail. When sailing upwind if the leeward telltale is breaking you have too little twist. If the windward telltale is breaking you have too much twist.
Telltales are your friend when sailing. If you do not have them, try fitting some to you sails. A bit of wool will do stuck on with some deck patch material. I spray mine with Fly float from a fishing shop which stops the telltales sticking to the sail in wet weather. I notice some retailed telltales are now teflon coated.
I hope this helps you in your racing. Let me know if it does.