Keven Talks Sails: A Balanced Life

SinC Sail Tech Boat Balance

November 16, 2022

A cruising boat going upwind with nice balance

A balanced boat is key to performance and as the season winds down, let’s take a look at why and how.

It’s that time of the year that we put our boats to bed and clean up the sailing locker. Some of us also dig out our ice boats from the barn and/or get the RC model sailboats ready for some Sunday dockside grudge matches with our friends. It is amazing how much more aggressive our on the water friends can be with their model boats that have rubber bows. If it wasn’t for the rubber bow bumper, we would all be embarrassed with our rather poor depth judgement at a distance.

One of the things I have learned from sailing RC sailboats is that you can’t “feel” the balance of the boat. With a tiller it will give you gentle or even strong tugs to let you know the boat isn’t happy. The RC controller doesn’t give you that feedback, you need to find other ways to see the boat is out of balance. 

Left: RC65 RC sailboat. Here is an RC beauty, many of you will have the same boat as they are easy to assemble and very affordable to build a local fleet.

Right: Same cruising boat blasting upwind with Auto driving and a reef in the main

The RC boat will need lots of steering corrections to leeward if there is too much helm, and lots of pushes into the wind if it is lee helming. It may just lurch around and go into irons at times and fall over on its side at others. The fastest boats always make it look easy with almost no steering. Black magic some say. They glide upwind with the sail winch tight and almost no steering inputs to stay on a tight upwind course. When you bear off and ease out the winch the boat just rockets downwind. When the wind changes, the rake may be changed or the mainsail gnav (backwards vang) is adjusted, bowsies tweaked. On our club racing boat or cruiser, we can reef, drop the traveller, all sorts of things and while we are sailing. The RC boat needs the adjustments before the race, which makes it a bit tougher.

Sometimes I think of sailing with an Autopilot driving is almost the same as tuning an RC sailboat. You get some of the visual clues, and you can hear the Auto sawing at the helm if things aren’t perfect, but you don’t get the tugs at the helm in your hands that you can immediately react to. This is just more evidence that sailing a boat quickly and efficiently takes good trimming that gets the boat well balanced with regards to helm. 

Left: Unbalanced boat going slowly / Right: Balanced and fast

SinC Sail Tech Boat Balance 4 400SinC Sail Tech Boat Balance 5 400


Show me a balanced boat, and I will show you a fast boat.

Now time to charge up the batteries and get ready for Sunday racing starting at noon.


Keven Piper, two-time Shark 24 World Champion, founded Hamilton, ON-based Bay Sails in 1998. Email:

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