Surfing and planing a dinghy in waves is exhilarating and fast. High school and college sailors know that to make your boat take off, you must learn the art of the ooch. Ooching serves two basic purposes: Getting the boat surfing or planing and keeping it there. The principle is simple. The crew acts like a spring: when the timing is right, the crew “uncoils” transferring energy from their body to the boat by pushing on or slamming into some part of it. This has a temporary positive effect on boat speed in most conditions, but it’s most effective and legal in surfing and planning conditions where an appropriately timed ooch can get a boat on a plane or surfing down the face of a wave. A good ooch starts with the proper stance. Collegiate dinghies are often sailed by the lee with the jib winged out and the boat heeled to windward. Given stability and a little space, the centerboard is pulled up ail the way. The crew stands in the center of the boat with knees bent to maintain a low center of gravity. The windward leg —the one that is downhill because of the boat’s heel— controls the heel of the boat. Straighten that leg a few inches to reduce heel; bend the leg to increase windward heel. By squatting, the crew is able to keep his or her head inboard to avoid obstructing the skippers view. To anticipate puffs and waves, crews should frequently look astern. In anticipation of a puff or bit of chop, reduce heel and lower the centerboard a little bit to maintain stability. As the breeze picks up, stability becomes more important—it’s worth the extra wetted surface that results from reducing heel and having more board in the water. An effective ooch relies largely on good timing. When you are sailing slower than the waves—conditions where a good ooch is most beneficial—the ooch should take place as the wave crest is behind the shrouds and perpendicular to the boat. At this point, the skipper will feel the helm become relatively neutral. One good ooch should send the boat riding down the wave. Once you are surfing, ooching can be used to catch up to the next wave. With enough breeze and some aggressive steering, a boat can often surf through the trough of the wave it was riding and move to the next wave. If waves are clustered together or if the boat is simply moving fast enough to pass sets of waves, it’s important to shift your weight aft after the ooch so that the bow doesn’t dig into the next wave. Is Ooching Legal? Rule 42.2(c) of The Racing Rules of Sailing prohibits “

The Shroud Adjuster Ooch

This ooching technique, ideally used on reaches, can be done on either shroud. If you are the crew, sit to leeward with your inside hand holding the jib sheet and your outside hand firmly holding the leeward chain plate. Lunge forward with your upper body, using the arm holding the chain plate as a brake, and transferring the energy of the ooch to the boat. When it is windy and you’re sitting on the windward thwart or windward rail, it’s important that you quickly get your weight back near the skipper after the ooch.

The Kick Ooch

The kick ooch is effective in Collegiate FJs and 420s and Vanguard 15s. If you are an FJ or 420 crew, plant your forward foot against the base of the mast and spread your legs far apart. If you are crewing in a Vanguard, press your forward foot against the front of the cockpit. Aggressively shift your weight from your back foot to your front foot. Your upper body must stay rigid because too much forward motion with your upper body wastes energy.

The 420 Partner

Ooch Unlike any of the other dinghies being discussed, Collegiate 420s have mast partners that are perfect for ooching. If you’re racing 420s, place your hands against the partners on either side of the mast—or on one side—and forcefully press forward to make the boat surge forward. Make sure there’s a slight bend in your elbows, so that you don’t damage joints.

Is Ooching Legal?

Rule 42.2(c) of The Racing Rules of Sailing prohibits “ooching: sudden forward body movement, stopped abruptly.” However, the organizational authorities for collegiate sailing and high school sailing allow ooching under certain conditions. Both state in their procedural rules that, “RRS 42.2(c) is replaced by: ‘ooching: sudden forward body movement, stopped abruptly, shall be permitted only when the wind and water conditions described in RRS 42.3(b) exist.’”

Article Published in Sailing World 2001