During the Sunburst Nationals at Easter (2000), Hayden Whitburn and I were asked a few times "Why were you always out in front?" I have had time to think about this, and with the help of Hayden, here are a few things that we have come up with.

The Rig:

We felt our sail and mast combination worked well for us. With the mast there was no stiffener init. This was because of the extra weight a stiffener produces up in the air and the fact that a Sunburst mast has a nice "low down" fore/aft bend as it is. Windage in the rig was also kept to a minimum. Each halyard ran through an exit box sitting flush with the mast, and even the wind pennant was fastened inside the top of the mast. The smallest possible working diameter ropes were used for the internal halyards and when the halyards were cleated they changed form 4 mm cordage to 2 mm for weight saving and windage. We also made sure that the mast was sitting as high up on the boat as allowed in the rules. As this gets the mast higher in the air where the wind is better. In keeping with this theory, we made sure that the mainsail went right to the top of the mast.

We set the mast rake up for power and balance at 5650 mm and at that rake the rig tension on the 2.5mm diaform side-stays was at 25 pounds. This was measured with a Looges rig tension gauge. We also had a windy rake setting of 5350 mm, and a firmer rig tension of 28 pounds. This did de-power us, but we mainly did it to balance the boat up.

All three of our sails were Graeme Robins sails. He has gone down the design path of flatter mainsails for less drag and fuller jibs to get the drive and power needed upwind. With using a flat mainsail it was important to change the outhaul for the conditions to keep the power in the bottom 1/3 of the sail. The spinnaker made out of Dimension Polyant 6611 polyester cloth was very impressive. The spinnaker had a speed advantage on both reaches and the runs. Downwind is where we had the biggest speed advantage.

The Hull and Foils:

We found having a centreboard of maximum thickness really good. This gave the boat more power and lift (pointing). Having a maximum thickness centreboard also meant that the board was stiffer and did not bend off in the breeze. In a Sunburst the centre-case is usually slightly wider than the centreboard, so therefore the centreboard is sloppy in the case. We pack the case with 18mm teflon tape. The teflon makes the centreboard slide more easily in the packed case. Removing sloppiness gives you better acceleration off the start, and out of the tacks.

The hulls we used at both nationals were quite stock standard design wise. One was a Grant Bourke, Fibreglass hull and the other, a well-proven 25-year-old wooden hull. We made sure that the hulls were within 1 kilo of minimum weight and tried to keep the weight out of the ends of the boat. They were both false floored with non-skid on the floor. Make sure the non-skid is not too rough or it rips your knees.

Grant Bourke set up the boats simply, with minimal clutter. In the 4:1 kicker system we used Harken 226 and 244 Blocks to have less friction within the system. To cut down on friction is very important as only allowing a :1 ration in the class rules makes it hard to get enough kicker on. We used stern sheeting for controlling the leech tension more directly. Again it was a very simple system and also lightweight as it was on the stern. From the stern the sheeting ran right forward inside the boom, to keep the middle of the boat clear of a traveller and the mainsheet coming down from the middle of the boom.

This meant that the helmsman could stay further forward during manoeuvrers and did not need to move back behind the mainsheet system. The last control I felt was critical to our speed was our jib barber-haulers. This let us control the leach of our jib. In all conditions except the extreme light and in over 22 knots we have the barbs on, giving us a tighter leach and fuller foot. With the Robins jib we were using, we measured 1200mm up the luff then set a straight rule on the mark intercepting the clew. This was the angle we wanted to sheet to follow when we had the barbs on. If using jib barbs are new to you, think of them as an outhaul. If you have the barbs on you close the leech and make the foot of the jib fuller. And if you ease the barbs the jib leech opens and the foot of the jib flattens.

On both boats we had a self-launching spinnaker retrieval sock for ease of handling the spinnaker. When it came to hoists and drops this system made manoeuvrers easier and quicker to perform.

Crew Work and Training:

We had a limited amount of time to prepare for the nationals so we picked on the two most important things we felt we could get most advantage from. Boat handling and speed, concentrating on downwind kinetics. Why mainly downwind we were asked. This is where the most time is gained or lost on the racecourse. We did around 12 hours of short course boat handling and about 8 hours of speed work, where 5 of these hours were two-boat testing our different techniques.

Another major factor to our speed was our light crew weight. We said to each other that we would only do the nationals if we were under 115 kgs. We were 103 kgs in 1999 and 111 kgs in the 2000 nationals. Being light we could put a big emphasis on fitness leading up to the nationals so we could hold on the ’heavies’ upwind in the breeze, which we did, then we took advantage of our downwind speed. We came to the conclusion that being light gave us advantages in all conditions, not just the light to moderate winds.

Those were the main things that contributed to us always being near the front. Hopefully at least, this has got you thinking about improvements to be made on both your boat and in your training for the upcoming season.

Rig Settings:

These are the things you need to check between big regattas.

Mast Rake:

The mast rake is measured from the top of the mast to the middle of the combing on the transom. The measurement should read 5650 mm. In the breeze when you are over powered drop the rack to 5350 mm. This corresponds with the the ...

Rig Tension:

Which is measured a foot up a side stay. This should measure 25 pounds on the normal setting and 28 pounds when on windy setting. This is on a Looges gauge. These settings need to be measured together as a change in one of them changes the other one.

Jib Sheeting Angle:

On the luff of a Graeme Robbins jib measure up 1200 mm and mark it. Get a straight rule and place on the 1200 mm mark and have it intercepting the clew. This line should be the line the jib sheet follows directly from the jib to either the cleat of the jib barbs, The next list of things are done on the water, between races or during them. There are three settings for each of these "on the water" adjustments.

Jib Tracks:

0-8 knots (light winds): They should be set IN on the track.
8-20 knots (moderate winds) Shift out one hole
20+ knots (strong winds) Shift out another hole. This is to keep the slot open since the main sail leech goes to leeward as the wind increases.