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the bnwc top tip pages

"Top Tips" (or Tip Tops) is an expression shamelessly stolen off "Bindi", famed instructor formerly of Sunworld Sailing, now Gybemasters, Moon Beach.

Any suggestions or comments on this page would be most welcome. Please email it/them to. How about sending me toptips for publishing on: beach starting; flare gybes; slam gybes; uphauling tiny boards in large swell & no wind; short board tacks; etc, etc.

tiptop topics currently include:

Glossary Of Terms
Positioning The Board
Beach Starts
Spin Out
Rig Recovery
Water Starting
Flare Gybes
Carve Gybes
Duck Gybes
Carve Tacks
Guy Cribb's INtuition articles (external link)

Glossary Of Terms

Port - Left hand side (or type of after dinner drink)

Starboard - Right hand side

Tacking - Turning the board so that the nose of the board swings upwind and passes through the wind

Gybing - Turning the board so that the nose of the board swings downwind. The turn of choice for a short board as it is generally a much faster turn

Mast Foot Pressure - Applying weight via the boom (usually front hand or harness) down through the mast to put pressure on the nose of the board. (Instead of leaving the weight on your feet where it goes through the back of the board.)

Spin Out - When the tail of the board slides away from you at speed, caused when the fin loses grip in the water. See the Spin Out section for causes and remedies.

windward - The side closest to the wind.

leeward - The side away from the wind.

UJ - Universal Joint, used to attach the rig to the board.

Parts of a rig


Parts of a board

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Positioning The Board


Positioning the board is a matter of using the wind to help line the board up rather than fighting it. If you find yourself fighting it, you are doing something wrong.

Flip the sail so that the sail is correctly set up and rotated for the direction you wish to sail in.

Arrange the board so that the tail of the board is as close to your body as possible. This can often be achieved by using the foot of the sail to pull the footstraps towards you.

With your front hand on the mast a few inches above the boom, and the second hand in the normal sailing position. Positioning the board is now a matter of pulling up with the front hand to spin the board into wind, or pusing down with the front hand to bear away from the wind.

The key to this positioning is to keep the tail of the board close to your body at all times. With the tail close to your body, the board will pivot round the tail and by pulling or pusing with the front hand you can control the direction of travel.

Often when positioning the board, it is necessary to allow the rig to flip. Just hold onto the mast with the front hand, control the power with the back hand and flip the rig when your ready, allowing it to pivot round your front hand, keeping the sail clear of the water at all times.

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Beach Starts


Beach starting is one of those skills that looks effortless when performed by a confident beach starter, but is actually surprisingly involved....

The idea is to allow the wind to pull you up onto the board while you hang your weight from the boom. Instead, what is more often seen is people lift the boom as they step onto the board. The later approach puts all the sailors weight on the back of the board and spins it into wind.

The whole process should go like this:

  1. With the board lined up across the wind, tail under control and ready to go, raise the boom as high as you can - over hand grip, hands close together, arms straight.
  2. Straightening your arms above your head should bring the back of the board towards you, ready to the back foot on the board - don't try and put your weight on it at this point other than sufficient to control the movement of the board (in deep water, just rest the heel of the back foot on the board, toes pointing skyward). Use the back foot to pull the back of the board even closer to you. Aim to have your foot on the centerline of the board in between the front and rear footstraps but as close to the front straps as practical.
  3. As the back of the board comes towards you, rolling your shoulders forward and over your back foot.
  4. Keeping your arms above your head and your head looking down and forward (towards the mast foot or nose), bend at the waist and place your front foot on the board up near the mast foot. Keep your arms as straight as you can and your legs very bent, hanging all your weight through your front arm to prevent the board spinning up into wind. Keeping your weight hanging off the boom applies massive amounts of mast foot pressure which stops the board spinning up into wind and keeps your body weight low so that you don't get overpowered and thrown round the front.
  5. As the board picks up speed, extend your legs and move outboard into your normal sailing position.

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Spin Out


Spin Out is something that happens to you at speed when the back of the board slides away from you. Underneath the board, a small air pocket has formed around the fin, causing it to lose its grip in the water, hence the slide.

Spin Out Causes

There are three main causes of spin out:

  1. Sailing in chop, as the tail of the board goes over the chop you expose some of the fin to the air. If you come down from the chop with weight on the back foot, then the board is likely to spin out.
  2. Fin damage, or weed wrapped round your fin. Damage to the fin interrupts the flow over the fin, increasing the chance of spin out. Weed has a similar but more dramatic effect.
  3. Finally, the most common cause is too much weight on the back foot while sailing. This puts too much sideways pressure against the fin and it steps out.

Spin Out Prevention

When sailing in chop, anticipate the chop and un-weight the back foot as you pass over the top of the chop by either pushing out the shoulders to put more weight through the harness or apply weight to the front foot to help push the board down the face of the chop. The fin is working hardest while you are working up wind, so if you are having a lot of problems with spin out, try adopting a slightly different line over the chop. Instead of sailing in a straight line through the chop, aim to bear away slightly as you go over the crest of the chop. As you run down the face of the chop, you can turn back onto the original course. The actual angle you have to move through is very slight and for a short period of time. An untrained observer probably wouldn't notice the change in path, however it is enough to take some of the load off the fin at the critical moment as you pass over the chop.

Curing spin out problems due to fin damage is simple - repair the fin. Either sand down the damage or build it up with car body filler or something similar, then sand it back for a smooth finish.

Weed induced spin out is harder to prevent, particularly when sailing on inland waters. If you hit weed at full planing speed, the chances are the fin will cut straight through it, however just below planing speed the fin is likely to get caught round the fin and end all chances of successful planing. Options to remove the weed include learning to sail backwards with weight on the nose of the board, lifting the fin out of the water and allowing the weed to drop off. Another option is to try and brush the weed off with your back foot but if both of these fail, you will probably have to stop and remove it manually.

Spin out due to back foot pressure is usually caused by poor stance or incorrect harness lines / boom height. If you lines are too far forward, you will be using the back hand to sheet in the sail, this immediately transfers weight to the back foot and can cause problems. While sailing, aim to sail with the body weight hanging from the harness to apply mast foot pressure. This is easiest to achieve by ensuring your hips are driving up and forward into the boom with straight arms and shoulders back - effectively arching the back. The remainder of your body weight which goes through the feet should be evenly distributed between both feet. If the boom is too low, it is very difficult to apply mast foot pressure through the boom, so increases the weight on each of the feet. Aim to have the boom around shoulder height or slightly above to allow weight to be efficiently hung from it.

Spin Out Recovery

The simplest and most reliable way to recover from spin out is to slow down, align the board with your direction of travel through swivelling your feet and wait for the flow to reattach itself to the fin.

A slightly more advanced option is to use your feet to kick the nose round so that the board lines up with the direction of travel. Hang your weight off the boom through the harness and pull the back foot back underneath you. After a short while, normal flow should resume round the fin and you can start applying pressure again.

A final option for recovery in choppy conditions is to do a small hop. Find a small wavelet and bounce off it. Use your time in the air to pull the tail of the board back underneath you and land off the wind without and weight on the back foot. By far and away the most satisfying way to recover spin out.

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Water Starting


General water starting tips...

Practice on a fairly floaty board - something like 140l or so should do the trick, although ultimately, you'll find a lower volume board is easier to waterstart (as you'll be able to sink the tail & keep the nose off the wind).

Ideal conditions for practice are force 4, with a 5.5m - 6m sail. If you're big & heavy, go for a bigger sail. If you're a lightweight, go smaller.

First, recover the rig.

Getting going:

The idea is to try to get back on board in the sailing position (or a sailing position!).

The technique for this varies depending on the wind strength & how lardy you are. In stronger winds, the force of the wind in the sail will be perfectly capable of lifting you out of the water, over the board & flinging you in downwind ready to go through the whole business of trying to sort the rig out again. In lighter breezes, the wind won't lift you out of the water unaided and you need to put a little more energy into it. Let's tackle the lighter breezes 1st:

Lighter Winds:

With the rig flying, place the heel of your back foot on the board somewhat in front of the rear strap. Your front leg is treading water, keeping you high in the water. Your back leg controls how close you get to the board, the rig controls the angle of the board to the wind.

You want to aim to to have the board dead across the wind, or possibly very slightly downwind. Maintaining mast foot pressure to keep the board lined up, lift the rig until you start to feel it becoming weightless as the wind lifts it. At the same time, you need to bring the board closer to you by pushing down on the heel of your back foot & bending your knee. You're aiming to be right up by the board, with your arms extended vertically above your head, back leg knee bent at a right angle. DO NOT TRY TO PULL YOURSELF UP ONTO THE BOARD! All you'll do is pull the rig back down on top of you. Keeping your arms extended, bend your head forwards & look down at the mastfoot, trying to get your head vertically above it. Push (tread) water with your front foot, and let the rig lift you onto the board.

Keep the mast foot pressure up by pulling down on the boom such that the force is going into the mast foot IE: Down along the mast. Keep you head bent forward & looking at the mastfoot. Place your front foot somewhere up by the mast to avoid placing too much pressure on the back of the board: Too much back foot pressure will make you spin into wind. The motion of getting lifted onto the board is not just "up", but more "up and forward" - so as you come up, try to move your body forward whilst still keeping your feet where they were.

If it's a little breezier, as you come onto the board, you'll need to keep your weight low, & be ready to sheet out slightly with the back hand so you don't get overpowered & hauled over the side. Congratulations, you're now sailing. (actually, that would be difficult unless you're reading this on a laptop PC strapped to your chest).

Stronger winds:

Aim to get the board lined-up across the wind or pointing slightly upwind.

Place the heel of your back foot just in front of the rear footstrap, upwind of the board's centre line. Don't try to get too close in to the board just yet.

You'll find the rig flies quite readily with the mast only 40-50cms out of the water. The trouble is, if you don't anticipate the amount of lift, the rig will either get ripped out of your hands, or, if you forget to let go, you'll get hoiked out of the water, describing a majestic arc through the air, and deposited unceremoniously downwind of the board. If you're lucky, you'll not have broken any body or board bits.

The trick is to anticipate being lifted out of the water, and being suddenly overpowered when you've got both your feet on the board. Things happen fairly quickly! Remember to keep the board across the wind or preferably, pointing slightly upwind - NEVER point it downwind in a strong breeze.

Place your hands fairly wide apart on the boom, & don't try to sheet in too much. Remember - just like when you're sailing - you control the force in the sail by sheeting in & out. Gradually bring yourself closer to the board by bending the knee of your back leg (which, if you remember, you placed on the board some time ago). Keep the sheeting angle such that you can feel the rig lifting you, but don't oversheet. When you feel like you're close enough, sheet in a little and place your front foot on the board, somewhere very close to the front footstraps. As you start to get lifted out of the water, try to keep your weight balanced evenly between your feet. As you come on board, keep your weight low by keeping your knees bent and don't sheet in too much or bear away downwind. As you start to accelerate, feel your way into the straps, rake the rig back, straighten out your knees. You're now doing 30 knots!

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This page last updated: 3rd Sep, 2021.