Ched Procter, Tac Boston and Ethan Bixby hosted a debrief session on Saturday after racing at Charleston Race Week 2009. Ethan and Tac took detailed notes on the debrief session and many still consider these notes and “tips” as the the “GO FAST GUIDE” . Here they are:-

Tuning –

We went through some of the tuning points and it is best to use the sailmakers guides specific to the design.  In general, we were decreasing the shroud tension in lighter air, and a rough guide can be that the leeward shroud will just go soft when the mainsheet is at max leech tension. When you give a small ease the leeward shroud would then take tension. As the wind increases the rig is increasingly tighter, and I also like to record the gaps in the turnbuckle stud so you can return to your base settings at the end of the day regardless of how bad you memory is!

On the lowers we found that we decreased tension a little in the light air to promote some pre-bend and flatten the lower section of the main. Once looking for max power in hiking conditions, we would tighten up the lowers a little, but after that they were left alone as we tightened the shrouds as the wind increases  This again allowed the lower section to bend a big more which flattened and depowered the rig, and allowed the pre-bend from the increased rig tension to set the rig in a safer mode for downwind. We also use a spectra line around the mast to always hold it forward in the partners and maintain pre-bend.

Concerning the actual mast chocks our range is about ½”utilizing two ¼” chocks plus a shaped one to fit the front of the partners. In very light air we are in our middle bend position. In light/medium we add one ¼” chock to straighten a little and power up. Next step w  go back to one chock, and then in a breeze we remove both chocks. As the  conditions got windier, the middle person would play the mainsheet to ease in the puffs and keep the boat from getting bound up. When doing this use enough vang so that the leech opens just a little when you ease the main. You can also use the vang tension to increase lower bend in the mast to further flatten the main there and clean up the slot between the main and jib.

Later in the day with the big puffs we found it best to ease both the main and the jib. If you only ease the main, you get a leeward helm and it is hard to push the bow up to feather or sail a lift. By easing the jib a touch it kept the helm more balanced and it would require less loading. Make sure your jib cleat system allows for easy adjustments.

We discussed the fits of the jibs and recommended that you keep the tack low to help close of the foot of the jib to the deck. Also remember to trim the jib hard when you need max pointing.

We all realize that it is difficult to hike at the maximum all the time, so pick your times that you can. These should be at the start for as long as possible, every leeward mark rounding, out of tacks, and whenever on a close boat on boat situation.

Sail handling

There are a few tricks for a quick hoist at the weather mark. As the hoist starts, the spinnaker trimmer should pull the new sheet out of the launcher almost to the shroud then release it. This pulls a lot of cloth out of the tube and will make the hoist faster. Then the trimmer does the same with the sprit line. You can cheat the sprit line out a bit on the offset, but the clew side is more beneficial so as the hoist starts make sure that the sheet is already being trimmed out of the tube.

I recommend treating your spinnakers and if possible the sock with Holmenkol or McLube to make them more hydrophobic and slippery. This will really help the hoist and the douse.

One trick you don’t want to do is hoist the kite on the offset leg in a big puff! I made a call for a hoist without seeing the huge puff descending on us and we were on our side briefly.

Equipment tips :

In heavy air you really need to do a skiff- type jibe. What this means is that you want to do a high speed planning jibe going quickly from one planning angle to the exit angle after the jibe. This puts the least load on the rig and helm as you bear away for the jibe and there is the least amount of load on the main, and you carve a turn around the spinnaker being eased and jibe with very little load on the sails. Don’t hesitate or it will get ugly.

It is important to flip the main over at the right time and not have to oversteer to get the boom across. If the boat gets too by the lee when the boom comes over you might end up too high on the new reach and immediately broach when the main and kite load up. So timing on flipping the main over is important, as is the ability to do it at the right moment. With a center mainsheet the helm can just grab parts of the purchase to get a 1:1 purchase and get it done. On an end boom sheeting system, I would recommend taking the tail of the mainsheet back up and secure it to the bail on the mainsheet block. Or use a block there with a becket. You must make sure that the mainsheet is long enough for this. Sometimes I will use a separate line about 4-5’ long that is a different color so I can easily pick out the1:1 part just prior to the jibe, and just secure it to the bitter end of the mainsheet. With this setup the helmsman can get the main across early enough.

Hope this helps, and email me or call with any questions.

Ethan Bixby

North Sails 727-898-1123 Sailing with the Savannah team of David Guggenheim and Mark Cribbs on Black Mamba

Tac Boston from Doyle-Boston sailmakers ran a coach boat during the regatta. He posted on his blog with many useful tips and pointers.

Here they are:

Good day All!


I am just back from Charleston Race Week, where I sat in a RIB each day, watching, coaching and rescuing flip flops, hats and missed beer cans. It is always an interesting time when you are at a regatta and not sailing. Can’t say that I totally enjoy it but you always learn a lot by watching how others are doing things.

I was there supporting Brad and his Viper 640 team of Lee Shuckerow and Eric Vigrass. This is the second event that we at Doyle Boston Sailmakers have done in the Viper fleet and it certainly will not be the last. If you remember I sailed the St. Pete NOOD regatta on the Viper.

Anyway, I wanted to talk more about my observations from the ‘Coach boat’ then how the sails looked or how the team sailed. One thing that the Viper class does that I really like is the top to bottom flow of information between the best of the fleet to the new comers and folks back in the pack a ways. One of the reasons that I went down in the RIB was to help the fleet out with observations and give folks that were struggling some help to improve their position in the fleet and that in turn increases their FUN factor.

The fleet is very open to help and is often rather spongy in wanting more help and more info on how to get better and get up the fleet farther. The Viper fleet, lead by Class President Justin Scott try very hard to have a debrief at the end of the day where the top boats from the day talk about how they were set up, how they sailed the day and what they might have learned. All of this to immediately helps the fleet get better and have closer sailing. I truly wish that more fleets did this!

For this event we only were able to hold one such debrief, on Saturday night, but the information shared was helpful for the fleet and I noticed that many of the things that we talked that night suddenly appeared on more and more boats. This shows that these folks want to learn and want to get better. For the debrief Ethan Bixby and Ched Proctor from North Sails and myself answered many questions and gave tips of what we saw, how they sailed that day from Ethan and Ched’s perspective as they sailed. It is always interesting to see how other teams come to the same solution using a different path.

Some of the things that I noticed from the Coach Boat are as follows.

1) Not trimming the jib hard enough.

Many of top crew have the sail geometry/dynamics set up so that when they are fully sheeting in going upwind in most breeze the clew of the jib is either two blocked or very close.

2) Having the jib tack way up in the air

Setting up with the tack to high in the air changes a couple of important things. 1) It changes the whole geometry of the jib, sheeting and set up. 2) It opens the end plate effect up. You will find that if your tack is up much more then 2” you will be quickly running out of jib track and you will not be able to slide the lead back to open the leech and “out haul” the foot.

3) Not having the main halyard hoisted all the way

Again this changes the sheeting geometry of the sail. It makes your leech appear longer, which with the bridle will not allow you to trim your mainsheet hard enough. It also means that you will end up with big wrinkles in the luff of your sail as the Cunningham will bottom out.

4) Forgetting to pull the outhaul back on before heading upwind

In the big breeze on Friday and Sunday, I noticed many times that as boats rounded the leeward with their outhaul eased way out, they would not hold the lane with the boat that had the proper set up. The boat with the eased outhaul was always over powered, heeled too much and going a bit sideways. All bad when trying to hold that lane either in front or behind the boat around you.

5) Not sailing with enough Vang/GNAV in heavy air upwind.

What happens here is that when you ease the mainsheet in the big puffs your boom raises and actually powers the sail more! Not at all what you want when you are already over powered.

6) Not playing the jib sheet enough in big puffs

With most sport boats, you will find that as soon as the breeze is enough to start washing out/flogging the mainsail you need to start to ease the jib sheet as well. Otherwise the boat loses balance and the jib starts to pull the bow down away from the breeze. The good guys are adjusting the jib with each puff to keep the bow moving forward.

7) Sailing with the rig too loose in big breeze

Again this allows the sails to power back up and makes the boat heel more and go sideways.

8) Great big giant smiles on faces going downwind in 20 knots of breeze!


Only cure for this is to go back to sailing lead mines!

I would like to end this little blog session thanking the Viper fleet for welcoming us into the class with open arms, say thank you to the Charleston Circle 1 Race Committee for running an excellent regatta and thanking you all for paying to attention to this blog.