Tell tales

Ever wondered what those telltales are for on a race boat or a cruiser with new sails? First, they’re for getting the boat bang in the groove sailing to windward. Trim in, then steer so as to keep the telltales on both sides of the luff flying parallel. If the leeward ones flop about, luff up a little. When the weather ones fly upwards like this, bear away. The difference can be a good quarter-knot – an hour or so in a twenty-four hour passage. On a reach, ease the sheets until the same effect is achieved.

To set the genoa sheet car exactly, come closehauled and shunt it back and forth until the weather tell-tales all lift together when you steer a few degrees ‘high’.

If your haven’t any telltales, grab a sail needle and punch a length of wool through the sail about seven or eight inches abaft the luff. Knot it on both sides and put in three equidistant sets.