If you want to optimize your speed and boat handling you need to learn how to use the traveler correctly.
The traveler is mainly used to:
- Help keep the boom centered when close-hauled
- Control the heel and handling of the boat in strong winds and gusts
When sailing upwind
- the traveler is dropped to Leeward to Flatten the Mainsail and Lessen Weather Helm
- first line of defense against strong puffs that tend to heel the boat up and not increase forward speed, slowing the boat. When a puff hits you traveler out a bit to spill the wind.
- when the wind is stronger you can set the traveler slightly lower than center. You should continue to spill the air as puffs hit the main before returning the traveler to its starting position.
- in light air putting the traveler to weather allows you to sail closer to the wind and point higher
If the boat is heeled more than is comfortable drop the traveler down to leeward. In general in heavier air, we drop the traveler to leeward as well as reef the main to keep the boat under control.
Upwind you can encounter weather helm in which case the wheel will be turned too much to the right. You’re counteracting the water pressure on the rudder which is trying to turn the boat up into the wind in order to keep the boat on course. You can drop the traveler by a few inches to leeward until the weather helm is gone and the helm is neutral.