Tuning Guide - Bénéteau First Class 8
Rig and Mast Tuning
The headstay must be as long as possible (maximum mastrake). Use the longest possible length of the headstay adjustment fitting, weather helm must be accepted as this is the fastest setting. Measure between the chainplates to make sure the mast is in the middle (sideways) of the boat, note the masthole in the deck is not always in the middle! The mast must be held sideways with kedges, old sailbattens are perfect for this job. Using the mainsail halyard measure to see when the mast top is in the middle of the boat, next tension both the upper shrouds equally (tension as much as you dare to) untill they are really tight. The lower shrouds must be adjusted so that the mast shows a permanent curve (bend) of about 100-120 mm at the spreaders, tension the mainsail halyard to the mainsail tack to check this. The mast position must be as far forward as possible at the deck position, fix the mast in this position with kedges. Secure the kedges so they don't move! Take time to do this job precisely, and check the mast and it's bending characteristics on both tacks in as many wind conditions as practible and possible while exercising.
On the Water
Always sail with maximum crew. Keep the boat on it's feet, excessive heeling causes weather helm, thus slowing the boat down. Hike hard!! Stability is a very important speed factor.......!! The recommended weight for the crew is 400-425 kgs in total. The mainsail traveller must be kept in the middle (or close to the middle) when sailing with the #-1 genoa. When using the Inter Genoa the mainsail traveller must be 100-150 mm to leeward. The permanent backstay is not used at all, except for the lightest winds, trimming the mainsail gives enough tension on the leech to bend the mast, unless the boat is truly overpowered. In wind and waves the main must be as "open" as possible, with a fairly sizeable air bubble behind the mast. This is needed to power the FC-8 through the waves. Flattening the mainsail too much has to be paid for in pointing and speed. Do not overstretch the foot of the mainsail, keep some shape above the boom. The mainsail must be "fine tuned" at all times, the best way to achieve this is changing the mainsheet system with a "course" and "fine" tuning sytem. The helmsman should trim the mainsail himself, he has most "feel" of the pressure on the helm. The mainsail must be trimmed with enough pressure to keep the boat pointing high, otherwise the boat will bare down and heel too much, causing even more weather helm. Never sail with a fluttering mainsail, it's slow and causes the boat to drop off to leeward. Always keep the battens stable, in lighter airs the mainsail must be trimmed as hard as possible, checking the tell tail at the top batten from time to time. Pointing too high causes the tell tail to flow aft, pointing too low causes the tell tail to stall. To achieve this use the traveller, the permanent backstay and most important the mainsheet. In heavy air we like the long luff / short foot jib most in smooth water. For offshore in big waves I think the short luff / longer foot jib is slightly better. The narrower jib must be sheeted on an extra track, sitting on the coachroof sideways to the mast. Never reef the mainsail, that's slow, instead use the smallest jib.
The crew must be situated as far forward and as close together as possible, but not as far forward as the chainplate position. The helmsman must be as far forward as possible too. Feet brackets are essential so that the helmsman can steer the boat in heavy air and big waves in a relaxed position, and can concentrate on steering the boat, instead of falling off............. A good solution to providing a foot rest is to move the aft teakrail further inboard with a bracket, so that the helmsman's feet fit in between the aft seat and the teakrail. Also you need to fix a sail batten at the mast top to hold the permanent backstay away from the leech of the mainsail, so that it cannot "snag" at the top batten of the mainsail while tacking and/or gybing.
We hope this information helps you to enjoy your sailing more, in addition to the above you will also need a very good and optimized centreboard, rudder and bottom paint on your boat. Make sure all the fittings are small, lightweight and of good quality, and all the ropes and sheets are light and thin, even tapered if neccesary and sensible. Crew exercising is needed so your manoeuvers are quick and well executed, especially at the bottom mark! The FC-8 responds very well to well trimmed and shaped sails, but also needs a "firm" hand to steer it as fast as possible, both down and upwind.
Good luck on the water!