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  • There's a lot of exaggeration about gybing, especially in a breeze. I think this probably dates back to the 1930s, before the kicking strap was invented. If you were a reader of Swallows and Amazons in your childhood then you'll probably remember that gybing in a breeze was regarded as quite an adventure. Although its fair to say that people fall over more often gybing than tacking, in a properly rigged modern boat with the kicking strap firm enough its really not a major issue. Funnily enough on the old Square rigged ships it was tacking that was a challenge, and gybing was the easier maneuver!

    In the beginning people get confused between tacking and gybing. Both are maneuvers where you change which side of the boat the wind is coming from. When you tack you push the tiller towards you so that the boat goes through the no-go zone (remember the points of sailing, pointing towards the wind, and the sail goes from pulled in one side to pulled in the other side. Gybing is the opposite: you pull the tiller towards you and the boat goes onto a training run with the sail right out on side, and then the sail swings right across from right out one side to right out the other side. So the big difference is that when gybing the sail is always full of wind, not flapping as it does half way through a tack.

    How to gybe a sailing dinghy


    Like tacking, gybing can be though of as a series of simple stages.

    1. Look around, make sure you're not going to turn into someone.
    2. Pull the tiller towards you and get onto a training run with the wind almost but not quite coming from directly behind you.
    3. Pull the mainsail in a little - a foot or so.
    4. Make sure the boat is balanced (flat), otherwise it can get a bit out of control.
    5. Your front foot should be across the other side of the boat, your back foot on your side of the boat.
    6. Check the crew is ready (call stand by to gybe) and wait for an OK
    7. Change hands so that the tiller extension is in the front hand and the main-sheet in the aft hand. This is quite different to tacking, and gives you better control.
    8. Helm moves to centre of boat and "changes side" with the tiller extension so that its already pointing to the other side of the boat. Crew balances boat as necessary.
    9. Helm calls gybe-oh or just gybing and pushes (remember the extension is now the other side and helm in the middle of the boat) the tiller towards the windward side. Crew releases the old jib sheet and grabs the one the other side.
    10. Duck! As the stern goes through the wind the boom will start to swing across. In centre main-sheet boats its a good idea to give a quick heave on the main-sheet to help it across at the right moment, and in two handed boats an experienced crew may also do this. As the boom comes across the helm centralises the tiller to stop the boat turning
    11. The boat should now be on a training run on the other gybe. Helm and crew sit down, trim and balance the boat, then get on the desired new course.

    Mind Your Head
    As boats get bigger the booms get heavier and so do more damage
    Knocking yourself out is a good way of losing a race and hurts! Its more of an issue with gybing because the boom is traveling faster and with the full force of the wind in it.


    Boat Balance/Control is Essential

    In all this good boat balance is essential to make the maneuvers smooth and easy. If you are fighting the boat then something is probably wrong, and the most probable thing is that the boat isn't flat enough!



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