Sailing Catapult

Light winds: sailing upwind

Home Page


Rigging and



Beating in light breezes, weight is kept well forward to lift the transoms clear of the water. (The fleet in action at Carsington, 2016)

(Below) In light winds at Carsington 2013, the boats are slipping along smoothly, with Cliff (orange hulls) and Alastair (blue) watching the telltales and flag to respond quickly to shifts.

Alastair demonstrates the strain of keeping a comfortable position well forward to do this, and Cliff has lain back on the trampoline, to see the indicators easily, with easy tiller control.

  (This carries the anxiety of a restricted view of other boats, but on this afternoon Cliff knew he was moving steadily ahead, so he could afford to relax)

In these conditions, Alastair has reduced his sheet purchase from 4:1 to 3:1, to speed the  response to wind shifts (sheeting in or out keeping flow steady before changing direction.)

Running in light winds

   Running downwind, the outhaul is released, and the mast is fully rotated.

Light wind means weight well forward, and John T (right) illustrates the option of standing at the front beam to achieve this.  (Photo Paul Hargreaves.)

 A gentle breeze from aft can push on the helmsman as well as on the sail. It is easy to watch a wind indicator on the forestay (but not the sail tell-tales)

It has its downsides---the tiller extension is less easy to control, and sudden puff or shift means a dive back down to a less vulnerable position.

(A Catapult fleet with the helms all standing  has a distinctive meerkat appearance across the water) 

John also illustrates "flipping" the boom (up or down) allowing the sail to go slightly further forward against the shroud. (The fierce expression is optional, but definitely increases speed.)

catamaran sailing
  (Left) Alastair shaves past the spit at Bala, dead downwind.

This forward position brings the transoms nicely out of the water, and the boat is slipping along well, as the wake and bow wave show.

The position is good for getting a feel of the speed of the boat, and can be held without moving about, which would shake the flow of the gentle breeze.

There is no view of the sail, and he did not have a vane on the forestay that day, so if the speed drops there is a delay looking up to the flag, and jolting about, to find the reason.

However the run of the little waves ahead gives a good idea of wind direction.

As with other light-wind sailing, getting into a familiar position in the boat lets the helm pick up the feel of the boat, and whether the speed feels right for the breeze.
catamaran racing in light:Stuart

In drifting conditions at Rutland Water, Stuart takes this to extremes, and seems very happy and in control, although most sailors will want to keep some contact with the rudders!

He has "flipped" the wishboom, to allow the sail to be pushed further out