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by Doug Snider - Dallas, Texas - USA

Sail OK 2012: Sailing in Ghost Wind, Tested, Verified, and Why it Works

At some point, most of us have experienced too much wind, or a nice day of sailing, .... and then NOTHING... NO WIND, anywhere... the water is flat like glass, and the wind went to Kansas to join Dorothy, and Todo....

And there you are, seemingly stuck out on the lake. If you don't have an outboard, it's time to paddle, or wait, ... wait, ... and wait some more...

One of the Sailing classes (at SOK-2012), offered information on How To Sail in Ghost Wind, and Flat Water...

Based on what I learned, I went to the lake and put it to the test...

Sailing on Flat Water, using Ghost Wind to move things along... Yep... it works, and it can be done.

The sail boat used to test, Ghost Wind Sailing, was a Sunbird, 16 Ft. Sloop; with traditional sails (Main, & Jib).

Ghost Wind:

Think about it... The actual reality of ZERO WIND... is a tough sell. Air is always moving, especially when out over a wide open space; its just not "flowing" sufficiently to "fill the sails" and vigorously move the sailboat along.

So, lets define Ghost Wind as follows:

* minor puffs
* minor streams of wind
* Short periods of virtual zero wind; wind that is of no use

So, there is a Ghost Wind to be tapped into.... Now, the question is how to configure the Sail Boat, such that Sunbird can make use of the Ghost Wind.

Sail Boat Set Up

* Center Board set to 90 to 100% deployed
* Full Jib, up and set Tight and Flat
* Main Sail: Full up, Tight and Flat
* Main Sail set to just over the gun'el (proper sailing lingo :)
* Main Sail, tied to park just over the gun'el;
* Point the boat to 55, 60 Deg off of Dead Up Ghost Wind
* Tiller: set to dead ahead; set the tiller to the center
* Sit on the Leeward side of the Sailboat to induce productive heeling

Tech Note: What's Happening..., Why should the Sunbird Sail in Ghost Wind?

* Virtually Zero opposition to Motion:

- The water is flat, and offers no opposition to motion, via waves
- The Ghost Air is aligned with the Sunbird, to be progressive to motion
- The Sunbird hull is designed to slide over the water, with minimal resistance to motion

Lake Lavon TX
SailOK 2012
SailOK 2012
Skipper of The Mystic Wind
Texas 200
Barge Passing

Sum of the Forces:

The sum of the forces (puffs of Ghost Wind, extremely minor resistance via hull-water interface), will result in the Sunbird obtaining a measurable sailing speed over a short period of time; it takes a few seconds to accumulate measurable speed.


The Sunbird, which weighs 500 Lbs; plus the skipper (and other stuff); brings the total weight to 800 Lbs of mass (in my case). Once the Sunbird begins moving, it has momentum. The Momentum of the Sunbird will integrate (sum) the minor puffs, minor streams of wind, and virtual zero wind.... into what seems to be a continuous Non-Existent Wind (Ghost Wind), which will move the Sunbird along at measurable speeds.

Why Set the Sails to Flat, and Tight:

Ideally, the sails should be set to Flat, and Tight as a bed sheet at a hotel... If the sail is not flat and tight, the minor amount of collective force available via Ghost Wind, will be absorbed by the loose sail; the loose sail serves as shock absorber; the loose sail consumes the energy provided by the Ghost Wind.

In light, mild, and high winds... the loose sail is filled with wind, pulled tight by the wind, and then... begins to generate a collective force to move the sailboat along. In Ghost Wind, a loose sail, is never pulled tight; hence, the sails must be set flat and tight to make use of Ghost Wind.

Why Tie the Main Sail just over the Gun'el:

Normally, the wind will place the Main sail out, dictated by the main sheet. In Ghost Wind Sailing, there is not enough wind to sustain the boom in one spot. Every time you move in the sailboat, the boom is liable to change location. Which is to say that if the energy provided by the Ghost Wind to the sail, is transferred to the boom to move the main sail back out... The Ghost Wind energy will be absorbed by the moving boom. The Ghost Wind energy will not move the sailboat along... Hence, the boom needs to be tied down.

Why Sit on the Leeward side of the Sunbird:

The Sunbird, has a slight v-hull. In as much, on flat water, the Sunbird will heel to starboard, or port side, with the slightest motivation to do as much. If you are sitting on the windward side of the Sunbird, the Ghost Wind, will attempt to heel the Sunbird to leeward. The energy consumed in attempting to heel the Sunbird from windward to leeward, will be wasted energy that will not be available to move the Sunbird along. So, sit on the leeward side of the Sunbird.

Why set the center board to 90 to 100% deployment:

At 90 to 100% deployment, the center board will deliver the maximum lateral motion resistance that can be generated. To the degree the Sunbird slides in a lateral motion, there will be wasted energy.

Since the amount of water flowing over the center board is minor, the resistance to forward motion, due to a pressure wave build up on the leading edge of the centerboard, will have negligible losses of energy, as compared to losses of energy due to lateral slippage, by not fully deploying the center board. Hence, fully deploy the centerboard.

How Fast did the Ghost Wind Propel my Sunbird:

I used a GPS to measure the speed.

The expected Speed Range: 0.5 to 1.7 [mph]

At speeds less than 1.0 mph, you are hard pressed to believe the boat is moving. However, if you rotate the tiller, the Sunbird will change direction. Hence, you are moving.

At speeds starting at 1.0 mph, you will begin to see a bow wave being generated.

From time to time, you will find a short stream of air, and the speed will increase to as much as 1.7 mph, or more.


Now, before you say that this info is pointless.... consider that sailing is about relaxing and enjoying the cruise... Within three hours, you could easily sail along the lines of 3 to 4 miles on Ghost Wind... It's very relaxing, smooth, and challenging to do... Just think of the stories you can tell, and the looks you will get, sailing in Ghost Wind...

How to determine the direction of wind that effectively, does not exist; Ghost Wind? So, to complete the article, you will need this answer:

I have a six inch piece of red yarn, hanging from both the port side stay (stroud cable), and the starboard side stay cable. The yarn strips, deliver real-time accurate information about the direction of the Ghost Wind.

See the Picture of a Barge passing the Mystic Wind:

Just after my Marine Radio informed me: "look behind you"... I quickly sailed to port, as a barge was coming up fast behind me...

I threw this in, as the picture is priceless... the Mystic Wind is literally 40 Yards at best off the port side of the barge.

... Real Pirates, Sail in Ghost Wind ....

D Snider, Dallas, TX Region of the ~ Mystic Wind ~

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