JONS TIPS FOR AN OLD YACHT
Jon Whitehead N2996
For those sailors that don't want to or simply can't afford
to put seven grand into a new twelve foot boat, there may be
another way! One can be competitive in older boats given the
right set up, the right water and a favourable set of circumstances.
My son and I have been campaigning a 22 year old Windfall
design for the last 3 years. We have had some success, notably
on the smaller inland waters in light to mildly moderate winds.
What we have found is that there are a few tricks to getting
a result in such a boat both in terms of the setup and the way
the boat is sailed. The boat is nothing special, its over weight
(like its owner), it has an old rig and, other than the addition
of a leeward jib pole, it has no go fast goodies.
SET UP TIPS
1. Weight - don't get obsessed with the weight of the
hull. It's probably 50 lbs over the top. Check what can come
out due to overbuilding but don't compromise the strength of
the hull. The older build systems are no match for the latest
composites so it's doubtful if one could cut out enough wood
to get near the new minimum. Check out your waistline
instead. If it has had a major venture capital injection from
Boddingtons like mine, then the weight problem may be closer
to home than the certificate suggests.
2. Keels - We took our keels off, not really for weight
reduction, but more to improve tacking since we figured that
our main competitive chance would be on small lakes and rivers
where the low rocker and wide transom new designs would be stalling
out of the tacks. We counted how many tacks, gybes and mark roundings
we did in a typical race - it was 70 plus! We were pretty awful
at manoeuvres at first. We figured that we could improve our
boat handling by about 1/3 boat length per tack / manoeuvre and
save about 20 -30 boat lengths ( 1 leg) per race. We wanted
to improve speed out of the tack and although we also saved 7
kgs of weight (including about 10 layers of paint on the hull)
this was not the main objective. One has to take care that the
hog is sufficient to support the loads when the keel is off and
watch for the bilge keel being a part of the hull strength (Rowsell
used these to good effect for this).
3. Rig - Keep it simple. Small waters have short legs.
Complicated rigs need more maintenance from the crew during the
race. If the rig is complex, the helm may not even get his head
out of the boat before he's at the next mark! Our boat has kicker
and cunningham controls led aft and jib pole and boom mounted
outhaul for the crew. The crew also operates the on/off seasure
shroud levers. The outhaul is preset on/off too, so one just
uncleats it at the mark and it set up for a force 2 broad each.
No point in going too fancy
4. Jib Pole - I have to bring this up as a separate
tip. The jib pole is a great invention. It increases the life
of an old jib, it improves boat handling in a blow and its easier
to use than the old jib stick. Ours is a telescopic fishing
pole (8 quid) with two of the five sections araldited together.
Then we took off the old barber haulers and salvaged the cleat
(on mast) a pulley and lead eyes from it. It took about one hour
to fit and I parted with ten quid
1. Manoeuvrability - The major advantage that one has
with an older boat is the manoeuvrability that it has over the
modern designs (say post Baggy) so one has to learn how to use
this to good effect. That 1/3 of a boat length gain I talked
of earlier is about right for our gain over a Chapter or a Foolish.
If you spy a new helm in a double bottom boat make that a one
boat length gain! I'm not joking, even the most skilful of twelve
sailors has had to learn how to tack these new boats. If we saw
a wide transom ahead in a race, we would try and engage them
in a covering dual - we hardly cared if we tacked on a
shift or not - just as long as the lead boat covered us, and
when he did that was the excuse to bang another in. And another
4 foot gain was had.
2. Rig - the keep it simple idea works great at the
approach to a mark. One can see frantic handfuls of multicoloured
rope flashing through frenzied hands each side of us as the mark
draws near. Some guys it would seem, have about 10 bits of string
to pull and then when they get around the mark they don't seem
so happy with the string pull results so they do some more! Wow!
We use a system - two lengths off the mark outhaul is set, plate
is set if not too windy, cunningham is set. Now we're at the
mark, we make the turn then shroud lever off, kicker set, helm
takes jib sheet (if pole required) crew sets pole, helm gives
crew jib sheet. The changes are done simultaneously between the
crew and the helm so they happen more quickly. We do some in
the 2 boat length approach since there is now no need to look
for the "water at the mark" hunters. We're done with
our changes way before the new boys and look around for a quick
killing. Since we can rarely pass over the newer boats due to
lack of boat speed, we look for the next mark, which way do we
round it? Which side should I go to get water on him?
3. Starts - These are always vital and more so on a
smaller water. Don't give anybody a head start. At least be on
the line at the gun. One small tip though. I have noticed that
there is a link between those that have purchased a new boat
and their owners ability to consume large amounts of alcohol
on a Saturday night. Sunday mornings first race looms and the
old head isn't quite getting it together...is it? Well, here's
another opportunity to get up that beat and engage that wide
transom again! We checked our results and noticed that we
won the first race almost twice as often as any other. . . Funny
4 Dodgy but effective - yes, there are a few tips that
are amusing but verge on the unsporting. Far be it from me to
bring these up here but there is one that I can share with you
concerning the speed difference of the new craft and that of
the old Windfall. At Middle Nene this year we were usually in
the top 5 at the first mark, which we were really pleased with.
The depth of experience was such in this fleet that one couldn't
rely on any superior upwind tactics to make gains. We simply
had to slow these guys down so they couldn't overtake. A little
diversion perhaps? We were losing about 4 boat lengths per downwind
leg but by making therm bunch behind us, we could always get
away on the beat. We did this by making sure that we went dead
slow in the 2 boat lengths before each downwind mark At one time
there were 8 boats in a line right on our ransom, all bawling
at each other for some room that they couldn't have from us.
By the time they had sorted themselves out we were well clear
and back on the beat!
So don't despair about that seven grand, sort the yacht
out so that its ship shape, get on that start line and go look
for a wide transom.