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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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It is difficult to race any of the Folkboat derivatives (I used to own a Folkboat) and end up on the winners podium but I guess if there is enough wind it could be done. If I were trying to optomize a Contessa 26 for racing I would start with the bottom and rudder. There are acres of wetted surface down there and the first thing that I would try to do is to fair the bottom and apply a low drag bottom paint like Baltiplate or VC17. I would also look at the rudder and make sure it is fair and smooth as well. There is a pretty subtantial gap between the rudder and rudder post. I would install faired in mylar closer strips across that gap.

If you have the inboard, I would mark the shaft so that you can vertically align the prop with the deadwood.

I think that a light weight low stretch genoa would really make a difference in the light stuff and a well designed blade would be important as things pick up. I would run the halyards, outhaul, and vang back to the cockpt so that you can make on the fly adjustments. I would look at getting a full roach mainsail with a full length upper batten and partial length lowers. I would install a backstay adjuster to control headstay sag upwind and still be able to power up in the lulls.

Then I would put the boat on a diet. Empty every locker and storage area. Make sure the tanks are not full. Remove every bit of the boat that you legally can leaving only what is needed under the rules and to operate the boat. Make sure that you have center lifelines so that the crew can get their weight out to the maximum permitted.

Really spend time learning about sail trim and getting familiar with the target speeds of the boat. Practice good sail handling and spinacker raises and drops so that you can pick up time at the roundings. Keep your air clear. Boats that are not too good in light air really hate to be in bad air. You need to nail the start at the favored end of the line with a good long batch of clear air. Avoid taking extra tacks as these boats loose a lot on the tacks and take forever to get the speed back. Practice tacking, jibing and mark rounding so as to minimize speed lost.

Other than that go out there and sail alot until you know your boat better than everyone else knows their own boat. You should be able to correct out. (Especially in races sailed in building winds as that really favors the slower boats)
Good luck
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