Westsail Owners Alliance - Thread: "Tacking Angle"
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Thread: "Tacking Angle"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Tacking Angle


Dave KIng and others: What is the best tacking angle someone has accurately measured for a W32? I am interested in what the boat is truly capable of in the right hands. Please be explicit in your method of measurement. Thanks

Aaron Norlund


When you say "tacking angle", specifically what do you mean? The boat's "close hauled" degree from true wind, or the total angle a W32 creates from close hauled to close hauled when tacking (ie 95*s, etc).

I can get the W32 to sail well close hauled at 50* from the true wind in 5-8kts. Above that, I can eek 45*. In 20kts under main, yankee and staysail, nearly 40*. Past 25kts, when the yankee or stays'l comes down, it gets back down to 50*.

The key is to give your stays'l room to breath to improve the yankee and mains'l air column slot. IE, don't over-sheet. Also, ensure your main has a deep and consistent draft in anything short of 18kts. Too many cruisers ignore the boom vang and outhaul, sacrificing not only speed, but windward ability. Those same people will spend hours tuning their rig though...kinda funny.

My method of measurement is my senses and built-in protractor.

Aaron N.


Thank you Aaron. Good information- exactly what I was looking for.

WOA Board Administrator


Your response to this thread was lost during the website's migration to the new server. Would you repost when you have some time?


Dave King

Ahoy E,
I went out sailing the other day just to measure the tacking angle. The winds were very light. Less than 8k. I swung many tacks with the average being 83.5 degrees as measured by the compass. In every case I could pinch up a bit and point 5 degrees higher but the boat did not "feel" right. And in fact it was not right. The boat will slow down too much and the lee-way will increase if you're too close-hauled. The VMG (velocity made good) will always be better with the broader angle. As Aaron has stated, the wind and sea conditions will infinitely vary this tacking angle.
When I 1st read your post, I was interested in your motivation and perhaps "what you have heard" from others.
Both Aaron and myself are measuring in the True wind. Not the Apparent wind that an electronic wind indicator would be measuring. This is important and a source of Much misinformation. This is just one example: When sailing at 5 knots, close hauled and 45 degrees off the wind in 15 knots of wind, the Apparent wind is 34 degrees off the bow. So, is this boat tacking through 90 degrees or 68 degrees?
The actual angle has never been too important to me. It is very important to me though as to how well my boat does against other similarly sized boats. In fact, it does very respectably
Remember also that there are a myriad number of things that affect the pointing angle. Rig tension and tune. Sail condition and trim. Radar antenna location. Mast steps. And approximately 1000 other things.
This is just one story: I was able to witness the Single-handed Transpac boats racing to Hawaii last year as they sailed under the Golden gate bridge in San Francisco. The boats I mention all started together and were all close hauled for this 1st 6 mile leg. The W-32 Sunquest, sailed by Portlander Joshua Siegel was equal distance between a Valiant 40 and a Valiant 32.
I hope this info is of some benefit.
Norm, If you're up we will all benefit from hearing your numbers.
Good Luck, Dave

Norm Rhines

This post is not expressed exact #'s

I am not near the boats log book, But there are some items on the pointing that I have found to improve the pointing.

My last Maui trip was with the wind about 30 deg apparent at about 20Kts + the ugly is that we only made about 4.2 to 5.1 kts into 5 to 6ft wind waves and needed to keep falling off to keep speed and some sail form. = Not so nice sailing, but in an attempt to shorten the trip I decided to motor sail, (wow) this made a very big difference ( idling around 1400 to 1500 RPM = 4.2kts on the flat ocean) I boosted the sailing speed under the motor sail setup to 6.8 to 7.0 Kts. and better comfort +/-. still got very wet.

So How is this? I believe that pointing is greatly effected on our boats, buy pitch and roll (momentum of the heavy boat) , the sails just don't keep the required shape due to the changing angle and velocity with regard to the wind. So the added motoring in my case, kept the sails in shape better buy keeping them from going in and out of there preferred shape (roll) and thus allowing a higher pointing ability. Yes WOW I would not have guessed this, but it is true and after thinking about it, it does makes some since.

I also have old non battened sails (I have had them recut for balance) This?the balanced rig" I believe is a good trick in getting a little better windward performance. But some day when I have bigger billfold I do want to try a new main with Dave's recommendations of adding two top battens.

I drifted off topic (highest we can point ) but I think a few small tricks in the waves to help in the pointing is a bit more useful +/- give it a try next time you are trying to get some where where you have to head up from the preferred down wind sailing angles. here in Hawaii I never seam to find those nice flat seas, oh well.

Sorry on the lack of exact angle swing information (I will try next time I am on the boat to see if I can find some)



Thanks to all for some very helpful information to me. My motivation is to get a sense of windward performance compared with my Cape Dory 25D. I am considering upgrading to a W32, but want to improve pointing ability, not make it worse. I actually enjoy beating into the wind for some strange reason, but get frustrated when the tacking angle is too large. I had a suspicion that trim and rigging etc were more a limitation than the hull, and the information presented here seems to support that. Thanks Again.

Alright, since I am ignorant, what is the best sail configuration to get the max drive into a headwind for a W32, please?
I'm rereading Aldred Cole's book Heavy Weather Sailing and some are suggesting a storm jib provides more drive to weather, least in a storm, than a mains'l. Wow, that's news to me. Anyone share that opinion?


Yes, I share that opinion. And when just sailing close hauled under normal circumstances (decent breeze), the stays'l will help you point much higher.

A Westsails main is the first place you decrease sail when the wind picks up. Starting at 15 knots.

Thanks, that's great feedback. Must be a lot of folks haven't thought it over very much.
I also read (and briefly experimented with some favor) the stays'l is the sail to have when driving into a headwind under motor power to help drive the boat and stabilize it.

Aaron Norlund


Your question of "max drive into a headwind" is more complicated than it lets on. There isn't one sail configuration that works for everything, as you know. A 15kt breeze in the middle of the ocean with a developed 5' swell might warrant working sails (main, stays'l, yankee), whereas the same wind in a harbor or lee of land would have a big genoa flying.

In general:

<8kts: Main, asymm - maybe genoa.
8-18: Main, stays'l, yankee
18-22: Single reef main, stays'l yankee
22-25: Dbl reef main, stays'l, yankee
25-35: Dbl reef main, stays'l
35-40: Trpl reef main/tris'l, stays'l
40+: tris'l, storm jib/reefed stays'l

But it's more complicated than that. How baggy is your main? Full battens with a good shape or an old sloppy battenless sail? Can you sheet your stays'l tight or is it on a boom that doesn't come in past the cabin? Is your rig well tuned?

In general, in the open sea, a well tuned rig and main, stays'l, yankee will probably give the best performance.

Hope this helps!

Oh, wow,
Thanks Aaron. Great data. I'll print that out and put it aboard.

David Wiencke

If flying a super yankee, threading the sheet between the upper and lowers (sidestays) allows one to point higher. I have found that a W32 can point as high as any other "cruising" sailboat in flat water. Once waves get about 2.5-3 feet high I need to bear off about 5 degrees to "sail" over the waves. Being a sensable boat she refuses to bash straight into steep chop.

Narrower entry boats may slice through such waves only to fall off the backside, giving both its occupants and equipment a pounding.

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