Black team tips: Harness lines

You might find a lot of harness line articles as this one. This time we will focus more and only on the flat water theme by going through each detail.

With the Black Team we have been working a lot on this product, and there are lots of details to take care on what you think might be a basic part of our gear. Use to be a simple rope to hook on to get less tired while windsurfing, but now it has become one important tool to get the maximum performance while sailing, and that could even give you the advantage after a jibe in a PWA race.

The next advices we will give, will get you to have great advantages, but only if you will learn to relax your grip on the boom while sailing with your hands. Does not mean that if you grip your boom harder, you will use less power and you’ll be going faster. The hands need to only be guiding the boom, but it’s the harness which needs to have all the pressure. If you grip hard on the boom, it’s because you are not using enough the help that the harness can supply. Hold the boom only with the fingers.  While windsurfing try to remember to relax your arms and hands. You will realize how the board will actually start to accelerate! Concentrate in feeling which muscles you are actually really needing to use, and relax the others. You will be surprised to see how less power is needed compared to just the second before!

How to balance the harness lines on your boom.

If you have a good sight to see how a sail works, you could probably place the harness lines in the correct spot without even going on the water. Leave your sail on the ground, and from a distance, check out from far where the sail has the deepest point. That’s the area where you want your harness lines to be placed on the boom. The micro cm positioning setting you can then do it once you are on the water to get it at 100% in the right place. Once you are on the water, without thinking too much, if the sail pulls forward, place the harness lines forward. If you feel that the sail pulls more on the back hand, move the harness lines more back. Move the harness lines till you feel that both hands have the same pressure. If at one point, the sail feels like it’s pulling more again on the back hand, it means that the wind got stronger. At that point, pull more outhaul on the boom. You will decrease the profile of the sail, especially at the back of it, and the positioning of the harness lines will be feeling balanced again.

Light wind or for sails bigger then 7.0:

For this conditions it’s nicer to have the harness lines a little further back that the front hand gets a bit more power than the back hand. We are talking about putting the harness lines about 2cm more forward then the perfect balanced position.  This allows us to close more the gap of the sail on the board, with the weight of the body and to rotate the mast more upright for a better efficiency of the sail. You will be able to put more pressure on the fin, and get more power.

Strong wind or smaller sails then 7.0:

Exactly the opposite as for light wind. Push the harness lines few cm more forward on the boom, so that the back hand gets a bit more pressure than the front hand. This will allow to windsurf keeping the sail a bit more opened at the back. As it’s windy, and the sail is full of wind, you would not need the full close the gap to make sure you catch all the wind. What you need is to depower fast the sail if you get in a choppy wavy or super strong gust. So the sail with this forward position stays a bit opened, but when you feel that you have an easy condition than you use a bit the power from your back hand to close the gap. The moment the gust come, you relax the back arm, and you will not lose control. Keeping the harness lines forward also allows your body position to be more central on the board, putting your stance more forward to keep the board more under control and down in strong wind. If your body and position keeps the sail always fully closed, and lots of pressure on the fin, you would risk to fly away in the moment a stronger gust gets in.

How far do we keep the distance between the 2 attachments of the harness lines?

This is also changing according to the wind:

Light wind sails: Keep them between 15 to 20cm from each other. This allows the boom to be less blocked by the harness lines, and to swing according to how the wind direction enters the sail, allowing a better efficiency in the acceleration. To make this happen, remember not to squeeze to much the boom with the grip of your hands. Let the sail position automatically to the direction of the gusts.

Strong wind sails: Keep them wider by having them 20-30cm from each  other.  It’s important you don’t go wider then your shoulder width. This way the boom will not swing too much which is better in strong wind as swinging can be violent and could cause a loss in control for a few seconds, which could mean also a nice catapult.


There are 1000’s of theories, but to convince a person that his harness lines are too short and uses too much energy it’s like telling him that the world ends tomorrow!  It’s not that if you have shorter harness lines you use less your arms, and if you are taller you use longer harness lines.

These need to be adjusted according to conditions and sail size. The more power you want, the shorter they shall be. The less power your want, the longer they need to be. So short for power, long for control. So the mix is to keep them as short as possible, but that allow to control. Short is better in flat water. Longer is better in wavy conditions.  This is what most people are using in PWA racing when they are about 185cm up. If you are smaller then 185, try 2 points less then the sizes given below:

9.3 to 8.6:  wave and strong wind 26-28, easy condition or light wind 24-26.

7.9 to 7.2:  wave and strong wind 30-32, easy condition or light wind 28-30.

6.3 to 5.6:  wave and strong wind 32-34, easy condition or light wind 30-32.

Long harness lines, allow to absorb better the waves and chop without losing control. You can keep the sail further away from your body, allowing it to be more straight and keeping the board more straight without it flying away while passing over a wave or chop. Your position is more sitting like and allows to push the board back against the water. Less pressure on the fin from the side, but more from the top. You sit lower, and allowes to use more your weight to keep everything down. The sitting position allows you to have the legs more bent, but ready to follow the surface of the waves, to make the board go over them smoothly and with a steady and constant power on the fin. Short harness lines would lock you in a position which gives zero chance to move from, but would allow you to have more power so this is the game to play. Stay shortest possible, but make them long enough to have control. According to the water surface and spot you will always will need to change them in length.

Going upwind or half wind the harness lines can be kept shorter to have more power and comfort. Downwind longer give more control.

If you had doubts whether your would have to buy vario or fix harness lines, we guess you got now the answer. Why suffer with some fixed ones!!

Going Extreme.

  • The harness lines could get you to win a race. There are harness lines which swing a lot when the vario is at maximum length. If you want to hook on and the rope is not there as it’s swinging opposite, you lose time in hooking in, and this causes a delay in closing the gap of the sail on the board to accelerate. You could lose that important metres needed to jump infront of group and win the race. If they don’t swing a minimum, there is a high chance that you don’t unhook easy, and are not able to jibe when you need. So the amount of swinging they need to have is important.
  • The handle to make them short needs to be wide enough to comfortably place the fingers in and pull easy with at least 3 fingers. Otherwise it gets hard to make them short.
  • The cleat which holds the webbing needs to run smooth and last long enough to justify the cost of the harness lines.
  • If the harness lines can be replaced without taking out the back end of the boom, specially during a racing day, it’s of great help in saving time and being less stressed.
  • The rope used in the harness lines needs to be good and not cheap and stretchy. Some on the market get even cm longer once you hook in. This makes you lose the acceleration in the sail and tires out your arms more.
  • The parts which are attached to the boom need to be firm on the boom, but at the same time, if you want to change by few cm their positioning while you are on the water, they need to slide when applying a bit of power with your hand. This way you can adjust the positioning to be more comfortable without going back to the beach.

How many of us do not have 1 boom for each sail? Therefore ones you find the sweet spot for the position of the harness lines on your boom, take a marker, and mark direct on the boom the position of them. Next to the position the size of the sail. Do this also if you have 1 boom per sail. Often while you transport them in your car, or trailer, there is a chance that accidentally they could move and then you will lose time again to find the right position!

If you see that the positioning of your harness lines is different from one tack to the other, do not worry about it. This happens due to the profile of the sail, the direction of the waves and wind and many other small things that you should not worry about…. It’s not about you having to go to a chiropractor to straightain up your body!










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