View Full Version : What is the best way to go Downwind in Formula

24th June 2011, 09:07 PM
I am working of getting the maxium speed and eficiency going downwind in Formula Board.
I was told that the sail had to be slighlty sheet out and the outhaul released.
However, there are parts that I feel going faster going in a reach than going downwind.

Is there a good stance (legs, sail position, harness, body rake, etc)... for Formula Downwind.


25th June 2011, 01:56 AM

Deep downwind is not the fastest point of sail, but about 120-130 degrees off the wind is. As you transition from a beam reach (90 degrees off the wind), speed will increase until you max out in the 120-130 degree range, then your speed will begin to drop as you run deeper and deeper. It's the loss of the apparent wind as you point closer and closer to the direction of the wind that causes the slow down.

Regardless of sail size you will always be faster on a beam reach compared to a deep run. Formula racers carry the giant sails to maximize their downwind runs. They may use a 9.5 meter sail in 25+ knot winds for downwind speed, but they would likely get hammered if they tried to do a beam reach in the same winds with the same sail.

You are right about releasing the outhaul, it stabilizes the sail and increases the foil as the apparent wind drops. Sheeting out? Some for sure, but not a bunch. Stay in the outside straps until you think you will be killed, then go for the chicken strap (outside straps are ton's faster). Make sure your boom is high, otherwise you will feel scrunched up when you are in the straps with the sail racked back as you head downwind. Harness lines long for downwind (short for upwind).

Hopefully, some others will jump and add to my comments. I am a good formula sailor, but not the best around by any means.

It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable on the downwind runs with big sails, especially if there is a lot of big chop. Damn scary at times.

28th June 2011, 08:15 PM
Hi Ken,

Thanks for your clear explanation. I will use a zigzag course for downwind. When loosing power I'll try to get back to a R.beam for more power.

Here is something that you said that confused me a bit: "Make sure your boom is high, otherwise you will feel scrunched up when you are in the straps with the sail racked back as you head downwind".

I thought that when going downwind the sail was racked to the nose of the board.

I also want to know about leg/foot position. Is the front foot in a straight position pointing leeward and the back foot bent for shock absortion. Or both legs bent and and back/body back of board for balance? Is the back leg pulling the strap or also pointing leeward?

Just curious. I've notice that few sailors never bend front foot when either going downwind or upwind. Is this a good classic technique?

29th June 2011, 01:24 AM
I will try to answer your questions.

When on a beam reach, your body is close to the mast and mast base and the boom height is not so critical, at least for comfort. Heading upwind, you still want it high (shoulder/neck/chin) range to keep the sail more upright.

When running downwind, your body extends over the back/side of the board (as opposed to the side) and is much further from the mast base, which causes the rig to lean toward the back of the board, which results in the boom being much closer to the deck of the board. If the boom is too low, you will not be able to keep your front leg straight and you will be in somewhat of a squat position. The front leg should be straight and the back leg is either straight or bent depending on how much chop you are in. A few times, my boom has slipped down my mast while on the water 10cm or so. It's almost impossible to head deep downwind with a low boom. Try it sometime at low chest level, then at neck level and you will see what I am talking about.

Downwind, the rig does not lean forward, otherwise you would get tossed over the nose. I am talking about planing with speed. Most of the weight is still on the back leg/foot

Upwind, both legs tend to be straight, with most of the weight (90%+) on the back foot. When cresting chop, legs should bend, absorbing the bump in order to keep the board on the surface of the water.

Hope this helps.

29th June 2011, 03:26 AM
Unreg. I think you are confused with turing downwind from a beam reach when you initiate a jibe. That is when the rig goes forward. As Ken noted, rig forward can lead to a catapult and a jibe is a controlled catapult.


29th June 2011, 05:02 PM
whenever i go downwind, my sail feels lik it suddenly loses power...why is this so??? and how do you keep your board flat on the water as sometimes mine just flys up and i lose speed....

29th June 2011, 11:00 PM
Hi Ken,

I also use the mast to the front when going downwind. Sometimes the board pushes me leeward and I feel like catapulting but that feeling gives me more downwind angle. Usually this happens when I sheet in the sail abruptly. It is a scary feeling but very cool.
So what you are saying is that I should
stick my butt at the back of the board bringing also the sail (raked back) as going upwind?
I also tend to press the front foot instead of the back for more control and angle.
I will try using the back leg with more presure.
With your technique should the sail be also sheeted in?

30th June 2011, 01:54 AM
You are probably going too deep down wind which is why your sail is losing power. Head up wind a few degrees to regain power.

The sail is raked back as you go down wind. When heading downwind the apparent wind is at a much different angle then when on a beam reach or sailing up wind. As you increase your speed on a beam reach the apparent wind moves more from your side to the front of the board. This also occurs when you head up wind. But the deeper downwind you go the more your apparent wind starts to move back toward your side as it slows down.

Staying sheeted in or slightly out has much to do with your outhaul. If you have an adjustable outhaul or you have set your outhaul to minimum, then stay sheeted in as that will trim your sail best to the slower apparent wind. If your outhaul is set at max then you will have to sheet out slightly to try to match your sail to the slower apparent wind. If you sheet in a flat sail going deep down wind you will stall the sail.


30th June 2011, 02:18 AM
Knowing your sail size and wind speeds, plus your weight will help us understand what is happening.