How can I improve pointing performance on my cruiser-racer (Catalina 270)?
Dan Dickison responds:
Having good upwind pointing ability depends on several important factors: boat speed, sheeting angle, and the configuration of your underwater appendages. Almost any boat, but particularly cruiser-racer designs like your boat, really need good speed before they can begin to point, which depends on how clean the bottom of your boat is and how good your sail trim is. Once you know you've got a clean, smooth bottom, make sure you get both the headsail and mainsail telltales flying as you build speed. Start by sailing fairly low and then coming up gradually. As the speed builds, continue to trim in. Remember that it's actually the leech and the back half of your mainsail that gives you pointing ability, so it's important to make sure those parts of the sail are trimmed properly. The best indication is to get the telltales along the leech streaming, then you know your trim is pretty much on target.
The second place to look for pointing ability is the sheeting angle on your headsail. Is there anything you can do to create a slightly smaller sheeting angle? In other words, can you narrow the slot between the headsail and the main? You might look at moving your track inboard, but an easier fix is to add an inhauler to the jib or genoa sheets. Both the 1D35 and the Farr 40 use an inhauler to make their small headsails more versatile.
The last item that affects your pointing ability is the keel and rudder combination, which you probably can't change very easily. The most important thing to do here is to make certain that the keel and the rudder are clean and fair. The next time you're out sailing, make it a point to concentrate on pointing ability. Just remember that you need boat speed first. For additional information, check out the SailNet racing list or the Catalina Discussion Group, both of which you can find in our Members' Center. There's a good chance you'll stumble on some information that's expressly directed toward this aspect of the 270. Best of luck.