Roll Tacking - and Roll Gybing - a 505

Bill Green asked the 505 e-mail list.......
"i know that roll tacks are very important, especially in light air, and i know basically what they are. could some of you wonderful people explain how to do them? if you use terms like windward and leeward please specify if it is (l or w) before or after the tack. are roll gybes worth trying to figure out or is there enough going with the spinnaker at that time that a new sailor like me should not worry about them yet?"

Like most college sailors, I have spent the last 4 years of my college(read sailing) career practicing, and attempting to perfect the "roll tack". I will break down how we roll tack college boats (420's/Fj's), in light air(helm on rail & crew sitting in middle)

1.) Trim the main a little harder, to help the bow thru w/o using to much rudder, at the same time working up to ~1/2 of max rudder(depending on size/effectiveness of rudder). The crew begins to move from the center of the boat towards the rail. ***The helmsman slides back a bit so they can clear the c/b trunk.***

2.) As the jib begins to backwind, the crew is on the windward rail, and depending on the type of boat 420/FJ(420 is like the 5o5, very wide), the crew and helm are rolling very hard. At this point the helmsman has the rudder hard over, only for a moment as the boat will turn very quickly, and the mainsheet has been let out to the tank(this will give you power and speed in the tack, because you are bringing the apparent wind aft as you roll, so you ease the main)

3.) The boat will seem to be on top of you on the old windward side, this is where the foot race begins. The helm and crew use the straps/tanks/sheets, whatever they can, to pull into and "fly" across to the new windward rail. The crew brings the "new" sheet with them as they travel across(they of course took all the slack out of the sheet before the tack started), as they travel across the sheet will come in. Again don't have the sheet's trimmed to tight, because as you flatten the boat the apparent wind will again move aft(on the new windward side). As you flatten trim in the main rapidly, with one pull.

4.) after flattening the boat the crew moves back into the center of the boat quickly, so as not to have the boat heel to windward, and the helmsman move back to his upwind position, as they bring the boat up to its upwind trim.

***When I roll tack I slide back, so that I have a clear shot across the boat, this is only because I have trouble as a short guy stepping over the c/b trunk.***

are roll gybes worth trying to figure out or is there enough going with the spinnaker at that time that a new sailor like me should not worry about them yet?

I imagine that they are, but I have not sailed 5o5's enough to even begin to describe how to do them.

Chris Bagemihl
SUNY Maritime College

At risk of offending your knowledge and/or experience, I'll try to walk you through a tack. In fleets of boats, particularly large fleets with experienced sailors, roll tacks or lack thereof can be the difference between the front and the back of the fleet. So can many other things but this statement is made assuming that all skippers abilities are the same. We've all heard the statement that the guy who makes the fewest mistakes generally wins. If you are just getting started, I think you will find that the most value added exercise for getting better (not to exclude roll tacks from your training) is simply time @ the tiller. Boat speed. After establishing your boat speed(straight line) you will probably want to begin to incorporate mark roundings, tacks and other tactical maneuvers. In the absence of boat speed, all the tactical wizardry in the world is not going to propel you much further up in the fleet. I am a Thistle sailor but I believe that the 50 would be sailed flat as well. The goal of a proper roll tack is to maintain or accelerate your boat speed through the tack and have enough energy through righting moment after the tack (tack here is used as a legal term), to accelerate the boat as it is sailed out of the tack. A boat with NO air can literally be roll tacked up the lake. We are on Port tack in enough air to have your crew fully trapped. At such point as you announce your tack to your crew, they should hike hard as you trim the main thus gaining a momentary increase in speed. You should have them hike in anticipation of your mainsheet trim. The boat should be dead flat and moving. You then announce your intentions. As you begin slowly to put the helm down your crew should move their weight inboard to allow the boat to round up into the tack without have to steer it up. Every time the helm is "moved" by the skipper the boat is slowed. Steer with the sails and crew weight only.
As the boat heels to leeward and rounds up just prior to the tack, the sails take a big bite of air which will be used to "fan" the boat through the tack. As the boat rounds up the main is snug, the boat slows minimally and the apparent wind moves further forward. As the boat goes head to wind and just prior to the jib luffing, both crew still on the weather rail snap the boat over on them with enough force to leave a few inches of the old weather rail and your butt in the water. The skipper just prior to the roll trims hard on the main. The crew should hold the jib trimmed for upwind performance and at the roll ease it slightly. Easing the jib allows the sail to have a better angle of attack on the "wind" that the roll created. As the skipper crosses the CB trunk enroute to the new weather rail although not yet close hulled, he/she eases approx. 16 inches of mainsheet. As the crew crosses, they take with them the new sheet. The boat ends up on a closehauled or lower in light air, course. The boat will exit the tack heeled which gives the crews weight the ability to further propel or accelerate the boat out of the tack
The crew rough trims the jib and hikes like hell. The skipper then is hiking and will trim in that 16 inches of main driving the boat even faster. As soon as the boat is flattened out and driving the crew fine trims the jib. ( maybe only 1-1/2 to 2" of jib trim.) Neither sail should ever luff throughout the tack particularly the main. As the main due to the roll has been "tricked" into thinking it was still working to make the boat go fast, it suddenly realizes its error after the tack has been completed and goes "Whomp" over to the new leeward side of the boom. The tack should take about four seconds to complete with minor adjustments over the next ten seconds. Follow any of that? Find someone in your fleet to show you the principle of the tack and this info might seem a little more clear, then again maybe not. Roll gybes: I think the 505 has a gybing board so I can't really tell you what is the fastest for this boat. Find a class hotshot.

Bryan C. Jerman

Bill et al,

I need to learn to do better roll tacks, but here is my two cents worth anyway.....

I think some of the details of the roll tack depend on where the crew and driver are sitting when the tack starts, which depends on what breeze there is. One of the nice things about the 505 is that it has to be pretty light for the crew to be sitting on the lee side..... (if the crew is spending a lot of time to leeward, you may wish to ask yourself if there is enough wind to be sailing )

There was an article in a recent Sailing World about roll tacking a Snipe, probably worth reviewing (I have not yet).

We normally sail upwind with the skipper sitting forward and on the tank, and the crew wherever they need to be to balance the boat. If the crew is not on the tank, the skipper is sitting further forward.

In very light air, or when I have time, I will try to get the boat to heel slightly to help start the tack. (Also if it is very light, I slide aft somewhat so I only have to go back a little more to get around the back of the CB case and behind the mainsheet.) Pre-heeling the boat also depends on whether I am sailing dead flat or slightly heeled to start with (flat in any pressure, heeled in the lulls). In any case, all I would do is pull on the mainsheet to tighten the leech slightly (I must confess that though this should result in a little weather helm, I have never felt it on the tiller), and have the skipper lean in slightly. Start heading up as you do this, and then have the skipper lean out. The crew can help on this first roll by leaning out, or coming to the windward side. If the wind is very light and the boat was not moving fast, you may be able to roll a little further to weather, if there was a little more breeze, you probably do not want to roll as far - I think you can slow the boat down with too much heel (not a factor if you were going slowly going into the tack, but if you had some speed, why burn if off immediately?) The amount of roll and how hard also depends on your combined weights. I believe the lighter you are, the less subtle you need to be. Anyhow, back to the tack.....part way through the heel to windward, I ease the main.... This increases the rate that the boat is heeling at and gives me more room to get underneath the boom.... at about the point of maximum windward heel, with the boat past head to wind, driver and crew move to the new windward side - again, the lighter you are together, the harder you can do this. In my opinion, heavy guys need to be a little more subtle. Without changing hands on tiller and mainsheet, I lean out on the new windward side trying to push the rail down, and pull the main in (one long pull). The crew comes across at the same time (being careful to judge what they are doing to match the conditions), sheets the jib in, helps flatten the boat, and then moves in enough to stop the boat heeling to windward.

Driver switches hands on tiller and mainsheet and slides back forward.

In my mind there is quite a contrast in the way to light weights can roll tack a 505 (quite quickly like a collegiate boat), and the way heavy weights roll tack (a little more slowly and gently). I believe this is because you slow the boat down when you dig the rail in to far. You want to go to the point that you are almost taking on water over the tanks (watch out for the aft corner of the seat tank digging in if you are heavy!), without actually taking on any significant water. I tape up the shroud tube holes near the rail to minimize how much water comes through them.

Some other thoughts.... Driver should know going into the tack at what angle the boat will emerge... look over your shoulder before the tack to judge it. If you come out to high, you won't get back up to speed fast enough, if you come out to low, you give away a little height you didn't need to.

My understanding of the Means of Propulsion Rule is that you are not supposed to come out of the tack faster than you went in or actually gain by tacking multiple times....

The 505 is so fast, even in light air, that I think the focus should be on a) not losing too much speed while tacking b) minimizing the time you are not at full upwind speed

If huge roll tacks are not working, chill out, and focus on less of a roll tack but getting the boat up to speed ASAP.

Roll gybes. We roll the boat slightly in lighter air on a run to run gybe.. That helps gybe the top batten. I have not figured out how to fly the chute through the gybe, and turn the boat (tiller between my knees) and roll it. This is probably a problem with the way I steer through the gybe. One trick is to try to turn most run to run gybes into more reach to reach gybes. Even in light air things work better if you have the additional boat speed...

Ali Meller

P.S. I would love to hear how some of the really good 505 roll tackers handle it....

simple. imagine that you want to keep the main sail full of wind throughout the tack: now how do you roll the boat to accomplish this? Use lots of energy. You should be getting your seat wet on both sides of the boat during the tack.

Regarding roll gybes.....
Much less important. I would concentrate on trying to keep the chute full through the gybe.

Rick Leir

Ok, the basic idea that you first need to know with a roll tack is that you are trying to generate relative wind over the top section of the mainsail.

So, As you come into the roll tack, you allow the boat to heel over to the leeward side (leeward before tack). This does not need to be a whole bunch. What you are trying to do is encourage the boat towards windward without alot of helm doing it.

As the boat comes to head to wind, you and crew keep on the now becoming leeward side of the boat (old windward).

Now, two things need to be done at the same time.
1) Sheet in your sails onto the new tack as if they were full of air. Nice sheeting angles...etc...whatever the appropriate setting is.
2) STAY ON THE NEW LEEWARD SIDE, and allow the boat to heel over to the new leeward side about 30 degrees. Yes, this is alot. You should be digging a rail.

Now, the boat is heeled over onto the new tack at a 30 degree angle with sails in their proper position. You and your crew should be close to the leeward side at this point.

Next, *slowly* *slowly* start moving your bodies to windward and *slowly* bring the boat down towards flat from the 30 degree heel. The result is that you are causing the top of the main to be pulled through the air creating relative wind over the top of the sail.

If you do this action too quick, the air becomes unattached from the main and produces very little power.

This takes practice to get it right. It's not a comfortable feeling either, to have the boat that heeled over.

Geoff Cashman

I find the only time I find that a roll jibe comes in handy is at a leeward mark in light air with traffic. Once in my 470 I came into the leeward mark on starboard with inside rights on a Laser fleet. I dropped the chute a little early, rolled to leeward and turned towards the Lasers. Then as the mark came abeam we roll jibed keeping the boat heeled after the jibe. In this mode the boat just pivoted around the mark. As we reached the up-wind track we accelerated away by quickly pulling the boom up to center line while flattening the boat. We left the Lasers in the dust. I heard the guy in the Laser behind me muttering something about it being impossible for sailboats to do what he just saw happen.

Ali's explanation of a roll tack is pretty much what I do. He has transom sheeting as does my current 505. With those boats overtrimming the main is hard to do. If you have center sheeting with a bridle you can overtrim the bridle thus hooking the boom and leech to weather. This helps induce heel and lets you power further into the tack. I'd say the only difference with the way I roll tack is that I ease the main as I sit down hard, not before. If you have a bridle you can ease that instead of the mainsheet. I try to time sitting down just as the jib breaks when the boat reaches head-to-wind. If you are too early the boat won't roll, if too late it does a wimpy roll with you in the wrong part of the boat (and often the boom in your face!)

The important thing to keep in mind is that when heeled a 505 develops weather helm and wants to turn. The trick is to put your boat in a mode where you can use this to your advantage in tacks and jibes without slowing down. Conversely, keep it flat to minimize the helm and the drag which a helm induces when driving for speed.

Peter Mignerey
USA 7148