Monday, June 6, 2011



Last year “speed and smarts” went over the sail controls. Here is a picture of Melges 24 with controls indicated. On a Laser we have in order of relative importance the sheet, outhaul, vang and Cunningham. We have a traveler, but these days always set tight. If occasionally you want to point higher for a short time, you can pull the boom in and friction will hold the traveler in a little toward the center. Halyard and back stay are absent. Luff tension is all up to Cunningham and mast bend is shared with sheet and vang.

So here we go... Sheet to 8 to 12 inches from block to block at the end of the boom for light air. Put on enough vang to keep it there and if very light you can sheet out and bear off to get some speed while heeling the boat to leeward to reduce wetted surface. As wind picks up and you need to sit out to keep flat then sheet in to block to block. This tightens the leach and lets you sail higher, but also bends the mast and flattens the sail. When you sail out of pressure be sure to ease your sheet again to get more fullness in the sail. You will be working the sheet all the time.

Outhaul = out to eight inches of fullness from center of the boom to foot of sail for average going up wind. If you are having trouble holding boat down going upwind then pull bottom of the sail flatter. Increase to 12 inches going downwind and on reaches. Mark the boom end in inches or other reference, because different sails may be stretched more or less and not always pull out to the same mark. Reference you outhaul line so you can just pull or ease the right amount without measuring or looking around.

Vang off at the start so you can luff and stall more effectively. Then set up quickly just before accelerating at the start. Set for what you will need going up wind. See above for light wind setting. In Average winds only enough to accelerate when bearing off to duck behind a port tack boat when going up wind. When you get up to not being able to hold the boat down then you need to “super vang”. “Super vang” is to two block with the sheet and then pull on the vang as hard as you can. Now when you ease the sheet out the boom goes out mostly laterally and not much up. The mast stays bent. You can keep the boat flat in over powering conditions by just bearing off and sheeting out. When you are super vanged you have to duck low under the boom when you tack, because the boom stays low. When you approach the windward mark you need to get the vang off before rounding. When you are super vanged you will usually be going so fast it will be hard to get all that right—you need to get enough practice so at it is automatic.

Cunningham is to move the draft forward when the wind is up and the draft stretched back to the center of the sail or behind the center. Don’t use it to pull out the ordinary horizontal wrinkles in the sail as they are usually part of the draft. Cunningham off going down wind.


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