Thursday, April 26, 2007

How to Uphaul Incorrectly

I spent much of Friday the 13th of April uphauling my rig instead of sailing. Some jealous observers may have thought that I avoided sailing only with the help of a strong wind to blow my sail down. They'd be wrong. Sure, the wind makes it easier, but the real reason I could enjoy most of the day uphauling had much more to do with skill.

Learning the proper uphaul techniques to defeat sailing isn't hard, but it will take some practice. Carefully follow these directions, and your days of uphauling will never be interrupted by sailing again.*

Technique #1, The Scissors (of doom):

The best place to sabotage your uphaul is before you start hauling. This is a simple beginner technique: tug on the uphaul line as you climb on the board. The board and the sail should pull together in the water, just like the closing blades on a pair of scissors. By the time you stand up, the board inconveniently points up or downwind. This should make sailing difficult.

If you find the board remains properly oriented in the wind, or if you have to yank really hard, you probably aren't pulling the right way. Gently tug the uphaul line while holding it a bit to either side of the mast. It will require little force to turn the board. Pulling straight up or back usually won't provide as much leverage.

Technique #2, The Wounded Pelican:

If the scissors fail, you still have a chance. Once you're standing on the board, lift the rig slowly. Hold the sail by the uphaul line for as long as possible. As the sail clears the water, you want to give it a chance to flap (luff) like crazy. Eventually the uphaul line will tear right from your hand as the oscillations grow stronger.

If you quickly get the sail up and the boom in your hand, you're not giving the sail enough time to misbehave. You can cheat a bit by swinging the uphaul line like you're trying to steer. Once you get the sail jumping around, there is little chance you'll be able to sheet in and actually sail.

Technique #3: The One-Claw Crab:

If you somehow manage to stand on the board and get the sail out of the water, you'll need stronger measures. As you move your front hand from the uphaul line to the boom, reach as far towards the clew as possible. Grab the boom far enough out and the sail will sheet in without needing a second hand. This way the board immediately starts moving, and the sail starts tugging before you can get positioned. The sail will rip from your grasp or pull you over. Either way, you'll be back to uphauling in no time.

The key to this technique is to get the sail sheeting in early, before you can adjust your stance from uphauling, and before your back hand can help out. If you grab the boom too close to the mast, the sail won't properly bite the wind. Try to reach your front hand near the harness lines -- that should put enough power in the sail to pull it right back into the water.

Some anti-sailing purists argue that this is a "walking" technique rather than an uphauling technique. They have a point because you and the board can be pulled downwind fast (almost sideways). This will eventually require you to walk the board back upwind (the desirable "walk of shame"). However, an expert can usually get several uphauls for every walk this technique provides. This is why I classify it as an uphaul technique, not walking.

There may be elements of both walking and uphauling to the crab, but either way it is still a useful weapon to add to your arsenal of anti-sailing techniques. Walking novices may wish to save this technique for later. You can easily end up in advanced walking or swimming territory (deep water, long walks, lost aqua socks) using the sideways run.

*Yes, this is all a joke. Normal folks will want to avoid these "techniques" which are based on my own mistakes.

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