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mikehoyt 08-23-2006 08:57 AM

How to fly spinnaker faster
We raced Saturday 40NM on a point to point race across an open Strait. Winds were over Stbd Quarter at start 18knots and continued with gusts to 21knots True wind. Coming out the harbour were rolling waves so we kept the wind just starbord of dead aft to prevent a gybe. Then we gybed to adjust to new heading with wind again behind but this time a bit abeam of port aft quarter. After a time the wind lessened and started to move forward until right on the beam at a strength 8 - 12 knots. Direction pretty consistent but strength varied. Current was Port - Stbd < 1 knot but both boats on same tack.

Our boat is a Hinterhoeller Niagara 26 (outboard) with PHRF 182. We have a 4 year old North dacron racing main in a 2+2 configuration. The spinnaker is 1979 original. Boat is fractional rig with swept back spreaders. 3 weeks ago tightened rig to about 600lbs ... not sure if this keeps mast bent too much or not. Good for upwind though.

Our competitor in our class is an extremely well sailed Tanzer 26 with outboard. PHRF 210. Masthead rig. Spinanker new last year. Both vessels have similar LWL, beam, displacement and ballast. Niagara is 4000, 1700 26'8" 23'0" LWL 8'4" beam 4'0 draft flat bottom aft of keel.
Tanzer 26 LOA 26' LWL 22'6" Beam 8'8" Draft 3'10" 4350lbs 1950 ballast, similar hull shape. keel a bit swept back compared to Niagara.
Niagara I 29, J 10.42 P 30 E 11
Tanzer I 29, J 10.50 P 25.17 E10.25

During the downwind run we were keeping ahead of the Tanzer but not pulling ahead as would be expected with a 28 point PHRF spread. Both boats were surfing. Once the wind went lighter and more forward the Tanzer started to pull ahead of the Niagara. By the end of the spinnaker run the Tanzer had about a 12 minute lead eaven after the wind came back but was still abeam. This was after about 33NM.

The Niagara came 3rd of 9 and was ahead and close to the competitors in 4, 5, 6 as expected. However the Tanzer finished 25+ minutes ahead on corrected time.

The obvious question is why was the Tanzer so much faster? I would have thought that being better sailed it might keep up to the Niagara but not that it would be that far ahead.

So the questions.

On a windy day should a slower boat of similar size be as fast?
Does the Masthead vs Fractional chute make up the 28 sec/mile or a part of it?
Does a new spinnaker make that much difference?

What should we be doing with the spinnaker trim to make the boat sail a bit faster when lightish winds and on the beam?
What about the mainsail? Any trimming techniques when light wind and spinnaker on the beam? Should it be overtrimmed or let off?

We had backstay off, halyard slack, traveller low, vang on, outhaul about halfway. Tried to keep bottom three leech telltales streaming and top one ducking behind the sail.

The pole was not straight in line with the boom. Always found main flew better when let out more. Perhaps this indicates pole too far fwd?

Crew was one on coachroof running the spinnaker sheet, two aft in cockpit.

Boat is not laden with cruising gear, has no water in the tanks, etc... was sleeping bags, kit bags , etc aboard as this was an overnighter after the race. Not particularly heavy.

Bottom is VC Offshore but has been three weeks since scrubbed. Not sure about hull on the Tanzer.

I think we are running the boat well but are now seeing a difference between the great skippers and those of us in the pack. Time to take a step forward and get out of the pack.


Mike Hoyt
Full Tilt 2
Niagara 26 #002

CharlieCobra 08-23-2006 11:52 AM

Time for a new chute.

mikehoyt 08-23-2006 01:27 PM


Care to elaborate? I had thought spinnakers did not lose their shape in same ways as the other sails. Am considering a new spinnaker but if it has no effect is a waste of money other than insurance when the old one blows.


noscreenname 08-23-2006 01:42 PM

I had a new chute made by a local sail maker and the difference is staggering! Our old chute was bigger and had broader shoulders but was so old that the air literally went right through it. We were having the same problem you describe in fact boats that were rated slower than us were killing us down wind. Not any more. Get a new chute.

sailingdog 08-23-2006 01:42 PM

While it might not be as important if a Spinnaker loses some shape, at least compared to other sails, the sail's material can age quite a bit and then becomes fairly porous, letting a lot of the wind it is supposed to be capturing through.

That sounds like what may be happening in your case. Even if the sail is properly shaped, if the material is so uv-damaged and the cloth has lost its ability to hold air pressure, then it will not be an effective sail.

CharlieCobra 08-23-2006 03:19 PM

Exactly, talked to many a racer that will confirm this.

paulk 08-24-2006 01:45 AM

You outline a lot of variables in your race. First off, your description of the two boats' displacement and ballast weights makes it seem that the Tanzer might be the stiffer of the two boats. with 1900 pounds in her keel vs 1700 in the Niagara. In a nice breeze like you had, this could make a difference. You mention crew placement. Your two in the cockpit may have been making your stern drag and cut down on your surfing. Overall crew weight on two boats could also have been a factor. Most, if not all of this race sounds like it was downwind. You should be aware that PHRF ratings are supposed to be based on boats racing a triangular (windward, reach, reach) course. If the race course doesn't include sufficient upwind work, the rating is going to be "off" for that race, just as it would be "off" if the race was only upwind. Some PHRF fleets allow rating adjustments for such situations. Perhaps your boat outperforms the Tanzer upwind, but not downwind. In this downwind race, the larger masthead spinnaker of the Tanzer may have helped them pull out despite their overall heavier displacement. Having the outhaul only half out in 20 knots of wind seems a bit too loose IMHO, but it's hard to say without actually being there to see it. As others have suggested, a spinnaker almost 30 years old is likely not speedy either. If you can't spring for a new one, go for races that use it less and let us know what happens.

mikehoyt 08-25-2006 01:27 PM

Thanks all. Never considered the porus nature of spinnaker cloth before. Looking into new one.

Yes the Tanzer is rated better in a breeze. The Niagara is better upwind. Interestingly the I measurement on both boats is the same so I would think that even though the Tanzer is masthead its shorter mast means the chutes on both boats should be same size and the main on the Niagara much larger.


sailingdog 08-25-2006 02:30 PM

A simple test for sail cloth is to hold some across your mouth and try blowing through it.

Good sail cloth will resist letting the air pass...even spinnakers.

Bad sail cloth, usually old or UV-damaged, will generally let most of the air pass through.

Laminates generally block all of the air, as the mylar film is almost completely gas impermeable—that's why mylar helium balloon last so much longer than the rubber ones. BTW, never seen a Laminate chute so far...but I could be wrong.

catamount 08-25-2006 03:34 PM

Take the chute, mistakenly use it as a ground cloth when staining your deck. Then try flying it again. Will look like hell, but the stained parts will hold the air better. This according to the Previous Owner of my boat...

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