North Sails: News Details


Tuning Notes for the J/70 from KWRW

Report by Tim Healy

Tuning Notes from Team Helly Hansen

Notes from Key West!                

 Report by Tim Healy
North Sails One Design, Team Helly Hansen

The 2014 J/70 Midwinter Championship, held in Key West Florida during Quantum Key West Race Week, did not disappoint those of us looking forward to a fun and challenging break from winter weather. Key West is an incredibly welcoming community, going so far as to close off a street for the week to facilitate shore side parties and gatherings, and a festival atmosphere was prevalent in every store and restaurant. The race committee work was top-notch with an army of efficient, knowledgeable sailors running the races, measurement, registration and parties.

The racing fleet was the largest registered fleet with 60 J/70s from around the country attending, many of whom were new teams and new owners.  Ten races were run over 5 days in a variety of challenging conditions. The first day of sailing brought sunshine, warm temperatures and, unfortunately, no wind!  However, starting Tuesday the reliable Key West breezes began to appear and, as the week progressed, we saw more and more wind each day culminating in a full out, breeze-on, hike hard 20+ knots on Friday!  Overall the race course also dealt a variety of conditions as we found a light chop at the top of the course while the rest of the track gave us heavy steep chop, especially towards the leeward marks and starting areas due to boat traffic.

North Sails held a clinic on the water, led by North Regatta Services, Saturday afternoon followed by a debrief session with videos and pictures.  On Sunday morning the North One Design J70 Team hosted a shore side clinic covering tuning and trim.  There were several questions at this clinic that seem to crop up often, so I will put my notes into a more legible form and post those questions and answers soon.  For now, however, here are a few brief points that helped our team during this regatta:

Midwinters Tuning Notes for the Week
Most of this year’s Midwinter Championship was sailed in 10-18 knots. For these conditions we set the rig to the below shroud tensions as measured on a PT-2 Tension gauge. 

  • no sailing light wind
  • Initial setup:  18 uppers and 7 lowers
  • Wind 10-15 knots
  • 2 races
  • Initial set up: 24 uppers and 16 lowers
  • Did not change
  • Wind 12-18 knots
  • 3 races
  • Initial setup: 28 uppers and 24 lowers
  • Decreased tension as breeze dropped
  • Went off 1 turn on the uppers and .5 turns on the lowers between each race and ended up at 25 uppers and 22 lowers
  • Wind 12-16 knots
  • 3 races
  • Initial setup: 28 uppers and 24 lowers.  Sailed first two races at this tension 
  • Breeze dropped slightly for 3rd race to 9-14 knots so we went off 2.5 turns on the uppers and 1.5 turns on the lowers.  This felt very fast! We ended up at 25 on the uppers and 20 on the lowers
  • Wind 17-23 knots
  • 2 races
  • Left the dock at 30 on the uppers and 28 on the lowers.  Did not change


Mast Rake
We sailed the entire regatta at 4’ 6 ¼” on the headstay when measured per the North Tuning  guide.

We used the standard North J70 sails.  These are the same as the sails I used in all the regattas in 2013.  They are proving to be fast and versatile over a large sample of regatta. From light air and flat water at the North Americans to windy and choppy at Key West .   The Radian cloth is outstanding with its low stretch construction and proven durability in both the main and the jib. 
The sails we used are:

  • J/70 Radian Race Mainsail 
  • J/70 Radian Race Jib
  • J/70 Asymmetrical Race Spinnaker

Learn more about the North J/70 products.

Upwind Trimming and Setup
Generally speaking I feel that, it is best to set the tuning up towards maximizing performance in lulls and work harder through the puffs.  To achieve this we were looking to have slight headstay sag so as to make certain we were able to add depth to the jib and therefore add power when you need it.

In bigger puffs (closer to 15 knots), we put the backstay on hard to tighten the headstay which keeps the jib flat. Backstay tension will also depower the main by flattening it and opening up the leech. Because of the bend in the rig, the uppers should go just slack and the lowers should go slightly loose on the leeward side.  If the shrouds are swinging in the breeze, than you are probably too loose and will overbend the mast when the backstay is pulled hard. Because of this compression of the rig, the headstay will not get tight in the puffs and will not keep a flat heavy air jib shape.

Downwind Trimming and setup
Downwind in the J70 is not only fun but very tactical and a great chance to gain distance and boats with good solid technique and tactics. We have found, in lulls, we furl the jib, move weight forward, and keep the boat between flat and a slight weather heel when lanes allow us to go low. When soaking low, we raise the tack of the spinnaker a few inches. If you need to jibe in a lull it is really important to keep your spinnaker full. You can do this by waiting to pull the boom across. Let the spinnaker come over first and then jibe the main, thus keeping the spin full and pulling.

In puffs, the jib should be unfurled to help get planing. Once you are planing, the apparent wind will cause you to head lower and make good distance on the leeward mark. In the J70 planing will happen when your boat speed reaches 10 or 11 knots. It’s important to keep the boat planing at this point, so watch for puffs and lulls and head up to keep the boat on the step (planing). If the breeze drops and it is difficult to keep the boat planing, we try to decide quickly whether to keep searching for height and speed or to break low and go into displacement mode.  I find, when in doubt, I go to soak mode, meaning we go low if traffic allows. To do this, we get the crew weight forward, raise the tack of the spinnaker a few inches and, if conditions allow, we may go for a slight weather heel.  As the wind increases, the jibing angles narrow, so it is important to remember to stay away from lay lines downwind due to the danger of over standing.

With a wide range of conditions, great company, excellent competition, and a friendly atmosphere, the week was a resounding success. While my team was fortunate to win the event it was not as easy at the scores make it appear as we were pressed each race by a slew of teams. This was the second year that Key West hosted the J/70 Midwinter Championships, and they once again put on such a fantastic event that  our team is already talking about plans to attend again next year.

J/70 US Midwinter Championships, Key West:
1. Tim Healy
2. Brian Keane
3. Ian Atkins
4. Joel Ronning

For full results go to