Got a new boat and trying to get to grips with its foibles?

Paul Brotherton recommends the holistic approach
Q: We have recently bought a new RS800 and absolutely love it. But we are having difficulty keeping it upright! Please help! A: The trick is to learn to walk before you attempt to run! There are several areas that need working on whenever you step into a new class of boat. Well before attempting any difficult manoeuvres, you must first attempt to understand the boat. Learn to Listen Just as good human relations rely on listening, so do good boat skills. The boat will be constantly giving the crew (the team) feedback. This feedback mainly comes through the rudder; every push or pull from the rudder via the tiller gives us essential information on the boat’s balance. I define the boat as being in balance when it has a neutral feel on the rudder - the tiller is not pushing or pulling in your hand. This indicates that the centre of lateral resistance (or underwater pivot point) is directly in line with the centre of effort of the rig (above water push point) - and this is perfect balance. But don’t worry about the fancy names. What you need to know is what effect changing the sail trim, heel angle, crew position and so forth, have on the balance of the boat. And the feel of the rudder will give you tangible evidence as to how each of these things affects the balance. Developing this skill for listening to the boat through the feel of the tiller will allow a team to understand the boat’s personality. For example, it may be that jib trim downwind makes little difference to balance, but heel angle makes a huge difference. This would allow you to deduce that getting the correct heel angle was far more important than worrying about two or three inches of jib trim. This