Lesson Learned: how to trim a trysail

PHOTO 1. Sheeting the trysail with sheets led to the spinnaker blocks on the after quarter. 

The day before racing started at Key West Race Week, the wind blew 30 knots, which kept crews ashore – all except for one. I sailed on Joe Mele’s Swan 44 Mk II TRIPLE LINDY and we decided to go out and practice with our storm sails that day. Our practice was an integral part of the boat’s program since later this year the boat will race the Bermuda Race and then be shipped to Australia for the Sydney Hobart Race. It is nearly a given that as some point in that race the wind will blow hard enough requiring storm sails to be flown.

We learned a good lesson about how to rig and trim the storm trysail that we never learned in previous light air practices. We trimmed the storm trysail in both recommended ways to see which worked best. First we used two sheets, each led to the spinnaker sheet blocks on the aft quarter. This is the traditional set up (Photo 1). In 30 knots of wind we found that when the sail luffed, the lazy sheet, rigged over the boom, whipped around violently at head and should height, which was dangerous to those in the cockpit.

We then transferred the trysail’s clew to a reef line and then trimmed the sail off the boom with the mainsheet. This worked out much better and was much safer (Photo 2).   

Thus we learned two things that day. The first was which is better to trim the trysail and the second was that practicing with storm sails in heavy air is much different than practicing in light air.

PHOTO 2: Here the trysail is clew is secured to the boom with a reef line and then stropped to the boom with a separate line. With the sail attached to the boom, it can be trimmed with the mainsheet. Sailing TRIPLE LINDY in 30 knots of wind the day before racing started at Key West Race Week, we discovered this method was safer since there are no sheets shaking violently across the cockpit.