Balancing on an Edge
Like life, sailing is often a balancing act.
Recognizing, anticipating and understanding gusts and wind shifts and waves are essential racing and balancing skills. How one's vessel responds to conditions is as important as one's understanding how to compensate for those forces. How timely a sailor either reacts or responds to those sudden surges usually flattens or flips one's compass and course. Moving forward in life or on the race course is all about how well we balance ourselves in crucial moments.
In a sailboat race, a skipper needs a steady touch with the tiller, a responsive pull or release of the mainsheet as well as a agile body perched on a
ready to lean or stretch out.
And in racng, awareness of wind and weight help skipper and crew their leverage steering and speed. In a sailboat race, the physical challenges to keep a boat flat for speed and manuverability balance with a desire to avoid capsizing.
From Wikipedia: In sailing, hiking ("stacking" or "stacking" out in New Zealand) is the action of moving the crew's body weight as far to windward (upwind) as possible, in order to decrease the extent the boat heels (leans away from the wind). By moving the crew's weight to windward, the moment of that force around the boat's center of buoyancy is increased. This opposes the heeling moment of the wind pushing sideways against the boat's sails. It is usually done by leaning over the edge of the boat as it heels. Some boats are fitted with equipment such as hiking straps (or toe straps) and trapezes to make hiking more effective.
Those new to sailing often experience a boat seeming to increase speed when it is heeling. This deception is often created from louder wind and water sounds and senastions rusing my a boat that is creating more resistance to those forces. The fact is that a sailboat responds much better when balanced well.
Less heel, less drag.
Less drag, more speed.
Less heel, less control.
Flatter = Faster
Sailing Naked = ?????
Hiking is most integral to catamaran and dinghy sailing, where the lightweight boat can be easily capsized by the wind unless the sailor counteracts the wind's pressure by hiking, or eases the sails to reduce it. The heavy keel on larger keelboats means that it is practically impossible to capsize them due to wind alone, but keelboat racers will still hike to prevent unnecessary heeling, or leaning sideways to leeward, because the more vertical in the water the keel is, the more effective it is at keeping the boat moving in a forward direction and preventing it from drifting to leeward, slowing the boat due to drag, and potentially increasing the distance the boat must sail when beating. Improper heel creates a tendency for the boat to turn off course, necessitating a correction with the rudder, which also increases drag. Sails use wind most efficiently when they are at a proper heel, another reason for controlling heel.