Gybing a 29er
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Gybing a 29er

Gybing a 29er

Gybing a 29er

Aim – perform 10 really good gybes in a row

What to look for – smooth roll, with the rig moving from one side to the other

without any wobbles

How – keeping the spinnaker full

Who – division of tasks, break them down into small units

No matter what the manoeuvre, always aim to perform it smoothly. The only thing that changes as the breeze increases, is that the time taken to perform the action will decrease. Imagine someone who is on a coach boat behind you looking directly along the centreline of the 29er and watching the rig move across the skyline. It should be steady at all times and during tacks and gybes, the rig should move in a smooth arc, particularly in light air so that the airflow across the sails can stay attached and generate power.

Light air gybing is quite easy, providing you understand that the angle of the breeze changes as you swing the boat through the gybe.

Try a simple exercise taking the boat through a gybe slowly and then more quickly. You will find that in very light air your gybing angle will be around 140°. As you take the boat through the gybe slowly, the spinnaker will collapse, the boat will slow down and it will take quite a long time for the sails to fill with air again. But if you swing the boat quickly through the gybe, holding the spinnaker until it backs before allowing it to fall past the forestay and set on the new gybe, you will maintain your speed for longer. You will also find that once you are settled on the new gybe you will be able to bear away a few degrees.

29er gybing


The lighter the breeze, the more critical it becomes to understand Apparent Wind. This is because the boatspeed you are generating downwind will often be greater than the actual breeze strength, so the direction of the wind will change substantially as you sail along. This is why the mainsail almost never gets eased right out, even when the wind is coming from behind.

Your wind indicator at the top of the mast is a very useful guide as to the direction of the apparent wind, so it’s a good idea to have something up there that is quite sensitive in light air.

Coming back to gybing in light air, as you turn the boat downwind and through the gybe, the boat will slow down and the apparent wind will then change substantially back towards the True Wind direction. So it is really important that the turn is smooth and consistent, otherwise the spinnaker will collapse and it will take a very long time to build boatspeed again.

It should take no longer than 1½ to 2 seconds to go from a full spinnaker on one gybe, to a full spinnaker on the new gybe.

Nicky Bethwaite

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