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Its all in the rig setup

The more I sail IOM's, the more I realise the devil is in the detail on rig setup. Craig Richards recently put a post on the Facebook Alioth page and made some comments on my rig setup at last weekends event at Chipstead in the morning. As always he was spot on with the faults in my set up. After missing three races in the morning due to sheeting issues, I had hurriedly put the boat on the water without paying too much attention to detail. You can see the faults in the pictures due to my lack of care, however I was just grateful to get back on the water but the lesson is learned. Taking 6 races to get up to speed is too long. At least I got back to within 5 points of Craig by the end of the day.


Most club racing is done on ponds or custom lakes where the water is flat. Hull designs are not so important but getting the most power out of your rig is an essential skill. It does not matter if you have a Kantun, Britpop, Sedici, Vision, Pikanto, Red wine, V11, Alioth, one of Dave Hollon's creations or any other design. With poor rig setup, you will fail deliver the potential performance of your hull. We have a good selection of sailmakers in the UK and all deliver great quality products.


Having said that, having one of the best designs on open water, say at an International event where you are likely to sail longer legs on open water is essential because the margins between competitors is so small. Any edge gives you an advantage. Even then, the best design and rig setup is no good if you cannot position yourself for a good start and head the right way up the first beat.


There are some skippers who just have the knack of setting their boat up perfectly, either using the designers number or just using their eyes. My experience of watching skippers at club level tells me that with a bit of help on rig set up they could be a lot faster. What are the sort of things I see:


  1. Jib or main leech too loose

  2. Jib sheeted in to tight

  3. Mast rake too far forward

  4. No telltales

  5. Too much mast bend distorting the mainsail

  6. Using very old sails


When I first sailed my first Alternative, I was in the dark as to how set the rig up. I have a few basic dimensions from the plan and from the designers (BG) web site but my knowledge was incomplete. Then when I acquired my first Britpop, I got hold of the detailed setup guide so I knew how to set the boat up with confidence. The only thing lacking was an understanding of rig tension. When Brad Gibson sold me his boat after winning the 2022 Nationals, that final piece of the jigsaw was answered. Incidentally he was a constant source of help (from the time I built the first boat) in my seeking ways to set the boat up for all conditions. He also provided invaluable feedback and direction on some of my blogs Thank you Brad for all your help so far.


So, what is the secret to a good rig setup.

  1. If you have notes from the designer, use them constantly as a baseline

  2. Read the notes on this web site. If you have a DF read the detailed notes from Craig Richards on this site.

  3. Ask top sailors at your club to look at your rig. Quite often a different set of eyes can reveal shortcoming which we are blind to. eg I always sailed with too much depth in the sails until it was pointed out to me that setting flatter sails sheeted out a bit was faster.

  4. Remember that no one set up will cover all conditions. Flat water requires flatter sails with less twist. Open choppy water require more power (depth) and twist. It takes time to build up this knowledge but if you are curious, ask question of the best and experiment, you will get there.

  5. Lastly if your boat is balanced upwind and will sail without your finger on the tiller and the leeches look parallel then you are well on your way to a good setup.


Finally in case you feel frustrated about the challenges of getting things right, I saw a presentation from one of our greatest coaches Jim Saltenstall who was presenting at a dinner after some RORC yacht racing. He asked the question what is the hardest sport to master. Of course the answer was sailing with equestrian close behind. Unfortunately I can find no hard fact behind this but would like to think it is true. This is not an easy sport but with patience and application, it can be mastered.


If you see me at your club I am always happy to help. My knowledge is still not the best, but if I can help you on your way, just ask.


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