One Handed Sailing

1-Handed Sailing

This month we are looking at our stance and specifically a drill to really improve it. Stance can be the root of our ills, or it can be the foundation of effective and efficient sailing. Having a good stance will enable us to control power in gusts and keep speed through lulls. The ability to blast fast whilst in control means we can:

  • Have more speed for our transitions
  • Get out on smaller kit
  • Sail upwind faster
  • Get out through waves easier
  • Catch more waves
  • Complete more moves in a session

I hope you are now sold on tuning up that stance. Ooops, almost forgot, a fast stance will also mean you will overtake more people, most importantly your mates!



This drill can be practiced in winds from light to strong and whatever your ability. When I coach harness use for the first time I get people to do this drill. Initially there will inevitably be a bit of shakiness but after a few runs their stance is transformed into a solid and efficient position, where they are so much more resistant to those early intermediate catapults. Therefore, please do practice this move in light winds and also in planing conditions. 


Lets look at the simple parts of our stance:

  • Rig away – Keeping distance from the rig will get the mast upright and with your shoulders outboard we are more able to resist the sails power. This is typified by extended arms and pulling down on the boom.
  • Flat board – This creates less drag and maintains your board speed. Your front leg is extended to lock the board down and the back leg is bent, from where you can raise or lower the hips
  • Look where you want to go – Look forward and upwind for gusts. Look upwind to turn upwind and to get back in control. Look downwind to accelerate and turn downwind. Basically. WHERE YOU LOOK IS WHERE YOU GO.

Power Control

Lighter winds or lulls – Lift your hips and lock out with your upper body. This transfers the sails power through the board and will get the board flying. Push down through the toes to trim the board flat. Bringing the arms together can further exacerbate your distance from the rig.

Stronger winds or gusts – Drop your hips to sheet the boom in more. Dig the heels in to control the windward rail, by lifting up on toes. Spread your arms slightly and pull down on the boom.

If you can remember back to when you learnt to windsurf, your initial power control came through bending or straightening the back leg. Essentially you were lower or raising the hips – that’s it! In that time we might have forgotten how effective this is so lets keep it simple, raise the hips for less wind and drop them for more wind.

In this sequence and the clip I am well powered on a 5.7 on a 110 freestyle board in choppy water. I am blasting comfortably with the board flat and rig upright.


From my stance I have dropped my front hand. This means I have to flatten the board by really extending the front leg and lock the windward rail down by lifting up on my toes. My back leg is very bent in order to drop my hips thereby sheeting the boom in, back and down. I am crunching my stomach to drive the board. The dropped front arm gives me lots of space and keeps the rig away and I have to get down.


Here I have moved inboards and over the board, the resulting control problems are evident. The windward rail has come up (poor tilt); the board is not flat longitudinally (poor trim). I am just too upright and the rig is not away. The way to check this is my head is now above boom height. A good stance comes from having your head often below boom height.


Back in control now. Head is looking forwards, arms are extended and pulling down on the boom. Board is flat. Essentially I am lower, and am more commited to the harness.  The stance I assumed whilst one handed is very similar to my stance now, it’s just that both hands are on the boom.

View video of this move:

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Hot Tip

  • Whether you are learning 1 handed back loops or taking your first steps into the harness, learning this move properly will do wonders for your sailing.

A Final Thought….

The results from this drill are awesome; it forces you to get lower.  If you get lower you go faster. I have got heaps of clients to do this and they find their stance much improved. It helps you to appreciate the body position required. There is also a certain realisation of the value of longer lines and their positioning on the boom.

Next time you are in control and in conditions you can cope with get into this drill. Improvers will be readying themselves for more power. Intermediates will become more comfortable in their blasting. Advanced sailors will really increase their speed. Experts are setting up for all manner of one handed stunts – including one handed jumps and loops.



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