Dinghy Racing Tips: 4 Ways to Increase Upwind Speed

Dinghy racing is a competitive sport in which like-minded individuals share the passion of being out on the water and reaching for a goal, whether that be to win the race, set a personal best, or learn something new. One thing to help in some races when needed is to know how to increase upwind speed, this means sailing as close to the direction of the wind as you can. A few ways you can do this include; effective steering, look at the body position, sail control and balance.


What is upwind speed?

It's a given that a boat can’t head straight into the wind, so when sailing upwind it's important to follow the direction of the wind as much as possible. This often means following a sort of zig zag route, it can often be a challenge, but with the right techniques you can use it to your advantage. How close you can move towards the wind may depend on the shape and size of your dinghy.

Tips to increase upwind speed

Following a few simple tips and tricks will put you in a much better position to increase your upwind speed, continue reading to find out more…


When you plan on going windward, the aim is to point your boat as closely to the direction of the ever changing wind as possible. This often takes a lot of practice! It's not quite as simple as steering towards the shore or a buoy, instead practice and concentration are needed when sailing close hauled. Before you even set off, you should take into consideration your surroundings, feel the wind on your body, study the wind ripples in the water and watch the way the burgee flies to get a vague idea of which direction the wind is blowing. Then turn the boat so that it is facing perpendicular to the wind. The jib is a great point to focus on to ensure you're travelling in the right direction. A basic technique is noticing when the front of the jib begins to backwind, then you will be sailing as close to the wind as you can.

Look at body position

Another thing to look out for is the body position or the angle of the heel, this refers to the stability of the dinghy.  When vessels are subject to the wind, they will often heel, it's important the positioning is effectively considered to ensure the boat does not topple over or steer off course. Is the boat sailing comfortably at the angle of heel? Is it being overpowered and heeling too much? Or, is it not being powered enough and standing too upright? Each class of boat will have an optimum angle of heel and trim for each wind condition so watch the guys at the front of the fleet and copy their technique.  

Sail control

The depth of the sail helps to control the power, drag and acceleration of the boat. The more depth there is, the quicker the boat will go, however it won't point as high, but when a sail is flatter, there will be less drag, less power but better pointing ability. By keeping the sails rimmed correctly, it will help to generate lift and generate speed when steering towards the wind's direction.


Balance and power combined make the perfect recipe for increasing upwind speed. When these components harmoniously work together it helps to reduce drag and maintain depth. All vessels are slightly different so the power and balance they need may differ to another, reiterating what was mentioned earlier is practice makes perfect.

When it comes to increasing upwind speed, the whole boat crew needs to play their part in feeling how well the boat is going and the direction of the wind. Upwind speed can be a difficult obstacle to tackle, however, by perfecting techniques and fully getting to know your boat you will be able to increase your speed in no time. You'll know when your  boat is 'in the grove' and there's not a better feeling in the world!


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