Tom Cunliffe has assessed hundreds of sailors for the RYA Yachtmaster exam. He shares a few skipper's tips with us...

Skipper’s tips

Stop the rolling

Skipper's tips

Poles rarely stretch the foot of a genoa enough for a stable run


The booming-out poles found on most yachts are fine for their official task of spinnaker work, but when used for poling out the full genoa on a run, they often prove a bit short for stretching the foot of the sail out properly. In flat water, this generally doesn’t matter a lot, but a following sea big enough to make the boat roll soon finds them out. The full sail with its round foot exacerbates the rolling tendency more than many of us realise. The answer is to crank two or three turns of genoa around the forestay. The foot is then stretched out as it should be, the sail is consequently flattened and the rolling of the yacht is eased. While you’re at it, vang the main down hard to flatten that as well, then ease the sheet as far as you dare.

Dodgy moorings

Skipper's tips

Before you leave her on a buoy, motor hard astern to test it

It’s generally a safe enough option to lie to a harbourmaster’s mooring that you’ve paid for. He won’t want owners of stranded yachts suing him for poor maintenance, so he probably lifts it every now and then and checks the tackle while he’s at it. However, life isn’t always ideal, and many’s the time I’ve pitched up late in the day to find anchoring untenable due to a proliferation of moorings, with nobody to tell me if they’re any good, and every reason from their appearance to fear they may not be. If it’s going to blow a gale, I go somewhere else. If not, I pick one up, give its vital components a careful visual check to make sure its shackles are tight and not too rusted, then I secure to it and motor astern as if I mean it. If all holds, I’ll be happy enough to hang off it for the night. If it breaks, what you do is between you, your conscience and the Almighty who, of course, sees everything.

Forget the pencil, use your phone!

Skipper's tips

Photos on a mobile phone are a great way to record your work

Whenever I was faced with dismantling a piece of gear I was unsure of, I always used to make copious notes so I’d remember where everything went when the time came to reassemble it. Somehow, the notes were never quite adequate. I’d always contrive to miss some critical item and be left with those two old imposters, Trial and Error. This summer, my grey water tank pump packed up and I had to wire up a new one, complete with a remotely connected float switch. I was groping for scrap paper when my daughter asked me why I didn’t just take a photo of the setup with my iPhone. Talk about obvious! The image (right) shows the result. Not even I could go wrong with notes like that.