Bearish or neutral boat: which is better when sailing?

Nettle boat
A ClubSwan 50 upwind. A gyre boat in medium-light winds will also have more efficient appendages.

Sometimes it happens to hear a helmsman say with disappointment,“the boat is gilt,” or rather with satisfaction,“it is neutral.” In the latter case it means that we could also leave the tiller or wheel and the sailboat, upwind, would go straight without changing direction. On the surface this might seem to be a gift, since a neutral hull will generally be “easy” to steer and undemanding. However, the fact that the boat does not start to have a slight gyre tendency from 8 knots is not a sign of good performance.

Bartiera boat – what is it for

Having a nettle boat, starting to give us bite on the rudder from the 8 knots of wind, translates into a few degrees to the bowline gained, useful both if we do regattas whether in cruise we have to sail to reach a destination against the wind, and we don’t feel like starting the engine. There’s more: especially when we sail in winds below 10 knots and with little heeling boat, having a slight bearish tendency helps us increase the load on the appendages, on the rudder in particular, improving their efficiency. We will then be able to contain the drift a bit as well, achieving numerous benefits at least up to 15 knots of wind. Above this intensity having a boat that is too eared means having to clash the rudder often, slowing it down, and leaving a lot of mainsail behind. A balance needs to be found by adjusting the sail shape and finding a compromise with the mast adjustment.

Barca orziera – a lot depends on the rake

The rake is the measurement between the masthead and a point at the center of the boat’s stern line. The shorter this length gets, with the head getting closer to the stern, the more we will have a nettle boat, and vice versa. The rake of a boat is adjusted mainly in two ways: the length of the forestay and the position of the mast foot. The more we move the latter forward, the further back the head will go, changing the rake and increasing the load to the heave due to the shift in sail center.

Bearer boat – the length of the forestay

Choosing the right forestay length, beyond the adjustment we will later make to the tension, will be decisive in being able to change the rake. That is why it is important, if we buy a new forestay, whether it is for racing with tuff luff or with furling, not to mistake with whoever supplies it to us the length of the cable. Getting it wrong at fault, with a forestay that is too short, will penalize upwind because we will have a mast that is too bowed. Conversely, if the forestay is long, action can be taken by adjusting the forestay or in extreme cases by shortening it. Figuring out what the right forestay length is, and how much rake to give the boat, are tasks that need to be done under the guidance of professional sailmakers and riggers and change from boat to boat and depending on its use, cruising or racing.

Mauro Giuffrè


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