North Sails LOFT NEWS
RACING YOUR CRUISER AT DESTINATION REGATTAS
One Of Many
It seems that taking your cruiser or cruiser racer yacht to a destination regatta in Australia is becoming a popular pastime if the most recent entry list for HIRW or ABRW is to go by.
150+ yachts alone raced in the HIRW cruising spinnaker & non spinnaker Divisions. This is not including multihulls, of which there were 32 entries. Total regatta entries was 200+.
Racing in these Performance Handicap regattas takes a little stealth sometimes, handicaps are set by the handicapper to best of their knowledge of the boats design and recent results ( not an enviable task. ) Some yachts are handicap bandits and some crews just know how to play the game when it comes to knowing when to hold em and when to fold em.
I have sailed in these mixed fleets at many regattas across Australia with mixed results, sometimes luck is on your side… sometimes the handicapper is not… but it’s all great fun.
With so many variables in handicaps, weather, tides and the fleet out of our control lets instead take a look at some of the areas we can control to improve the yachts racing capabilities and the way it gets sailed. Below are a few key points that I think should be considered to get the most performance from the yacht and sail just a little faster around the islands.
Here are a few simple checks and ideas to get the most out of your pride and joy
Bottom Clean – Pretty simple this one… but an easy one to forget if having the “bottom done” is usually more of an annual event. A smooth bottom reduces the water friction around the hull and foils. If you don’t do anything else to prepare your boat then make sure you do this.
Excess Weight – We love our floating home away from home comforts and the safety of a big anchor chain but getting the weight out of the boat, especially the ends will make the yacht more lively to sail. Removing weight will also help to reduce pitching when sailing upwind. Pitching is bad for the flow of air across the sails. Reducing weight where you can ( not beer? ) will have a positive effect across the entire wind range. Start with the Anchor & Chain, empty the water tanks, take off cruising or delivery sails.. Just have a good think of what you can do within the rules and what you can do without to lighten the boat.
Rig Tune – The rigs in most cruising boats are tensioned up very tight, this can make it hard to adjust the shape of the sails for the conditions of the day. Before you leave your home club ask your rigger or sailmaker to have a look at the rig to ensure it is straight side to side and how the mainsail sits on the mast in both light and windy conditions. Ideally the mast can be adjusted to allow the sail shape to be altered with the sail and rig controls as required on the day. Some small adjustments to mast trim and mainsail luff curve can make massive improvements to your performance and make the sails easier to trim.
Adjustable Backstay – Not all yachts come standard with an adjustable backstay, but if you have one or can up-grade to one, you will benefit from proper adjustment. The ability to tighten or loosen the backstay has a positive effect on the jib/genoa & mainsail at the same time. Tighter to de-power for a flatter main and jib when the wind is up, and Looser when we want power in the rig, a straighter mast and sagged forestay will power up the sails. Have your sailmaker make up a easy calibration stick or marks for repeatability.
Code-Zero & Gennaker – A good running sail and a code-zero for the “round the island” style racing are a must have. Being non-rating rule racing allows the use of a un-restricted mid girth gennaker, more like a big genoa which is a very efficient sail that has a wide wind range.. From light airs upwind to medium air reaching the Code zero is best set on a furler tacked as far in front of the forestay as you can get ie; Bowsprit or strong point on the anchor roller.
A running oriented G2 or A2 gennaker if you don’t have a spinnaker pole is your other downwind sail. A well designed A2 gennaker can have you sailing close to as low as a symmetrical spinnaker without the hassle of a pole, Some boats don’t quite have the winches needed to handle the sheets and guys for a pole anyway, so the running Gennaker is a perfect fit. For a bigger boat, you might also consider having a snuffer fitted to the sail to make the hoist and drop safer and easier, you can also snuff & gybe if you are not confident to gybe when the breeze is up.
Jib In-hauler and Traveller – Sheeting angle and traveller position are 2 great ways to improve the boats pointing ability, Jib tracks are placed pretty wide on many modern production boats to improve the cabin space downstairs, the downside of this is a wide sheeting angle for the jib, this directly affects the pointing ability or the “angle of attack” of the sail. A easy way to improve the sheeting angle is to have a “in-Hauler” or Barber haul system for the jib sheet. This can help narrow down the sheeting angle to a more race like 7-8 degrees from center line. Work with your sailmaker to ensure your jib has the correct clew height to suit.
Another good trick that may apply if your boat does not have a traveller, is to have a handy billy purchase system that you can clip onto the boom and the weather gunnel to bring the boom upto centerline without pulling the mainsheet to hard… especially handy in the lighter air..!
Downwind sail Cross-Over Chart
Know when the Code zero is faster than the jib or what true wind angles you can carry the A2 too is also and easy way to save trial and error racing.
Ask your sailmaker to help you create a simple X-Y chart that shows True Wind Speed and True Wind Angle across the top and side of the page, then its as simple as matching TWA & TWS for the sail you need !
Above all don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Your local sailmaker is always there to bounce ideas off and offer tips to help get the most from your boat regardless of how many creature comforts she has a board.
Aaron Cole, North Sails