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Changing direction and sailing away from the wind is termed gybing. In gybing it is the stern, rather than the bow, that turns through the wind with the mainsail staying full of wind throughout the manoeuvre. It is the swing of the boom across the sailboat which can be sudden and violent unlike tacking where the sails lose drive and flap until the turn is completed.
The helmsman decides when to gybe and ensures that the new course is clear and makes sure the crew is ready. A gybe requires a large turning arc to complete the manoeuvre and it is therefore vital to ensure sufficient clear space ahead.
Throughout the gybe, the helmsman changes hands on the mainsheet and tiller, while maintaining control of both while moving across the sailboat during the turn. After gybing, he steers onto the new course and checks sail trim and boat balance.
The crew releases the old jib sheet, picks up the new jib sheet, and then moves across the sailboat sheeting in the jib on the new side as the gybe is completed. He is responsible for balancing the boat throughout the gybe.
When learning, starting from a [ training run ] allows more time to prepare and to adjust your weight to balance the boat. Start on a training run with the wind behind at an angle of about 5-10° off a true run. It is vital to keep to this course before turning.
It can be accomplished by choosing a landmark to bow or stern that helps in steering a straight line while preparing to gybe. After gybing the point of sailing will probably a broad reach.
The helmsman watches the mainsail leech for signs that it is about to gybe, being in the middle of the sailing dinghy as the boom comes across, centring the tiller. The sailing dinghy turns through a wide arc and, if the tiller is not straightened quickly enough as the boom swings across, the boat turns onto a broad reach on the new tack.
The sudden application of power in strong winds, against a centralized tiller causes the sailing dinghy to turn slightly away from the wind on the new course. This can be correct by the skipper by gently easing the tiller to leeward and then centralizing it again.
Gybing begins with bearing away until the jib hangs lifelessly behind the mainsail which indicates the course is a dead run. Luff up slightly with the jib just filling on the same side as the mainsail. The point of sailing is called the training run.
A [ centre-mainsheet system ] requires the helmsman face forwards during the gybe and change hands on the tiller and mainsheet towards the end of the manoeuvre. This forward-facing position enables the helmsman to watch the course and the mainsail. When competent in gybing, the helmsman initiates the boom's swing by tugging on the mainsheet when a gybe is pending.
To carry out a gybe in an [ aft mainsheet ] sailing dinghy differs from gybing with a centre-mainsheet with the helmsman changing hands on the mainsheet and tiller prior to the gybe and facing aft during the gybe. The helmsman cannot see in front of the boat during the manoeuvre, necessitating the gybe to be completed quickly. The crew crosses the sailboat facing forwards.
The common problem with aft mainsheets is that the falls (loops) of the mainsheet catch on the corners of the transom as the boom swings across. If this occurs, incorporate a flick of the mainsheet into the gybing sequence when the boom moves toward the centre. This flick procedure produces an ‘S’ bend in the sheet lifting it above the corner and requires trial and error to perfect it.
It is possible to gybe while sailing on a dead run with no course alteration at all, or only a minor one. On a run, the sails are set to their farthest extent. Gybing requires the sail to be rotated through approximately 160° from one side to the other.
Gybing on a dead run with negligible course change, requires the crew or helmsman to pull the mainsail across to the new leeward side, rather than causing the wind to move it.
On a dead run the helmsman positions himself in the middle of the sailboat with the crew balancing the boat where necessary. On the helmsman calling "gybe-oh", the crew clutches the boom vang swinging the boom across.
On a centre-mainsheet sailing dinghy, the helmsman grasps the mainsheet tackle using it to swing the boom. When a spinnaker is being used then the control of the boom by the skipper is required while the crew gybes the spinnaker.
Continuing to bear away from a broad reach to a run, sailing further away from the wind, the sailing dinghy eventually gybes on its own with the wind swinging across the stern. This is termed an 'uncontrolled gybe', which can result in capsize because the boat has not been balanced correctly.
Continually check the wind direction whenever sailing downwind to make certain a gybe does not happen accidentally. A warning sign of an unplanned gybe occurs when the jib attempts to blow across to the windward side of the boat meaning that the sailboat is a dead run, so bearing away causes the boat gybe.