You’re comfortable hooked into the harness and you can sail in the foot straps, but your board never seems to cooperate, bouncing on even the smallest of chop. When the chop is big, your butt hits the crests of the waves. After only a half-hour of sustained sailing, despite the harness, your arms and elbows are sore. In addition, you have a lot of trouble sailing upwind on a plane.
Sound like you? These are all signs that your harness lines are too long. A lot of sailors get used to hooking in as soon as they get going. But the problem is as you shift gears — or in other words begin hanging out and raking back the sail — the booms become progressively lower and, consequently, the harness lines get too long. With long harness lines, most of the sail’s pressure is transferred to your arms instead of the harness, which wears you out a lot faster. Because you can’t fully sheet in with just your arms, the sail is only partially sheeted, which results in a bouncy ride.
Solution? It’s relatively simple: Just shorten your lines so you feel the full load of the sail on your harness, rather than on your arms. You should be able to “play piano” with your hands on the booms. You should feel the power of the sail directly transferred to your harness when you sheet in. When fully hiked out, your butt should be in line with your feet and shoulders. This is the setting for being moderately powered in flatter water.
Because of the shorter harness lines, however, you must sheet in only after you’ve raked the sail back, even after getting into the foot straps. The advantage of this technique is that you have less chance of getting catapulted and will suffer less arm fatigue. When overpowered, lengthen the lines to keep your body farther away from the rig.