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Barry Hayes from UK Sailmakers Ireland gives his top tips on the backstay and using it to get the most out of your boat

Now that we are back open making and repairing sail, getting back into sailing will be foremost on everyone’s mind.

Proper application of the various controls on your boat is critical if you’re looking to get the best performance out of your boat whether sailing doublehanded or fully crewed. The backstay is one of the most important controls on a boat and can be the go-to control to quickly and easily shift from power-on or power-off modes.

Here’s what to do:

UK Sailmakers Ireland Top Backstay Tips

1. Make sure your mast is in column side-to-side in base settings. Next, having the right amount of luff curve/mast prebend is critical for properly setting-up your mainsail. To check this base setting on the dock, fully tighten your backstay and see how flat your mainsail gets. You’re looking for a flat main sail that still has power (camber) as seen in the photo below (A). You can then use the backstay as needed to bend the mast and depower the boat or straighten the mast to power up. When checking at the dock, the mast should not be over bending. Consider this your base setting with max mast bend in 8-10 kts. To add a little more camber in the main sail, tighten your diagonal (lower) shrouds and D’s. Remember, a single turn on the D’s does a lot, so go easy.

A flat main sail that still has power (camber)Photo A: A flat main sail that still has power (camber) Photo: Barry Hayes

2. Your boat should be fully powered up and at hull speed using your base settings in 8-12 kts. At any higher wind range, your backstay is the tool that will help you control heel and power. In this photo 'B' below, see how the leech twists open with the backstay applied. Also notice how the tip of the mast starts to sag to leeward. This happens when the middle of the mast pushes forward letting the tip fall off and there isn’t enough leech tension on the mainsail leech to pull the mast back into column. This is a common issue that diminishes performance

Leech twists open with the backstay appliedPhoto B - Leech twists open with the backstay applied Photo: Barry Hayes

3. In winds from 12 to 18, working your traveller up and down the track and putting the backstay on hard. This should give you the correct rig tune for this wind range. Be careful not to over bend the mast as it will make the mainsail too flat. The boat should be fast, pointing, with a straight forestay. You can put marks on the spreaders to see how much forestay sag you have relative to the mast bend. These marks should be viewable from the mainsheet trimmer’s seat.

4. Use the backstay to help you “shift gears” in the 12 -18 wind range, tightening it to power off and easing it to power up the mainsail. If you need to balance the boat, adjust the backstay first, the traveller second, and the mainsheet third. The reason the mainsheet is the last adjustment is that you need a tight main leech to help balance the boat and keep it pointing.

Hiking hard traveller down backstay on hard pointing wellPhoto C - 12-18 kts of wind. Hiking hard, traveller down, backstay on hard and pointing well

5. Over 18 kts, its backstay on hard and leave it. To control the balance of the boat in heavier winds, you can control the amount of mainsail twist with the mainsheet and traveller. You will know you have enough backstay tension when there is almost zero forestay sag. This is critical to get the boat pointing while also maintaining power. Only ease the backstay going downwind.

6. Over 20 - 30 kts., the backstay is full-on all the time regardless of whether you’re reefed of not...upwind and down. It’s of little use easing it as it only takes time to get it back on at mark roundings. Keeping it on also stops your mast from pumping on a reach and down wind.

7. Below 8 kts. the backstay is hardly used. Only use the backstay to control forestay sag. Reduce the amount of luff curve as the boat speeds up and gets to hull speed. It’s like changing from 3rd to 4th gear in the car; adding backstay controls the sail shape and resultant speed. In this photo below, with the boat in less than 8 kts., you can see the first 50 of is fully powered up and has sufficient backstay to control the forestay sag.

First 50 Mermaid using her Uni Titanium sails to win DL RegattaFirst 50 Mermaid using her Uni Titanium sails to win DL Regatta Photo: Barry Hayes

Knowing when to use the backstay controlling boat speed, heel angle and main sail shape takes experience; but these simple tips will keep your boat up to speed with the perfect sail shape and pointing angle.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

When the story of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland finally comes to be written, there’ll be many individuals - both voluntary and professional - who will be recognised as having contributed way beyond the call of duty in helping to fight the scourge. In choosing Claire Morgan of UK Sailmakers of Crosshaven, who worked night and day to change and operate the company’s production line to meet the unprecedented demand for PPE gowns, we are honouring one in order to honour the many to whom we all owe our heartfelt thanks.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland goes through the different options for racing boats going 'Symmetrical' or 'Asymmetrical' with their spinnakers. What’s best and why?

In the past 15 years, spinnaker options have increased considerably. Prior to that, it was fairly straightforward. You bought a light air symmetric spinnaker, a heavy air version of the same, and maybe a reaching spinnaker. In recent years, however, asymmetric spinnakers have become a lot more efficient and some yacht builders, particularly J Boats, feature them almost exclusively on their models.

The following is an analysis of which option is better for racing inshore/offshore.

First the pros and cons of each option:

Asymmetric Spinnakers


  • Easier trimmed and handled
  • IRC rating allows larger asymmetric spinnakers for the same rating, relative to symmetric spinnakers
  • Very efficient when reaching as the shape allows better exhaust of the air across the leeward side of the mainsail.
  • Code zero models (very flat asymmetrics for close reaching) is a must for offshore boats


  • Needs a sprit or prodder to set them properly away from the bow.
  • They don’t run as deep and efficiently as symmetric spinnakers.
  • In heavy air, they sometimes can wrap around the forestay when gybing
  • Time is always lost gybing, compared to boats with poles

black VelvetFirst 34.7 Black Velvet

Symmetric Spinnakers


  • Once above 12 knots, they are very efficient running with pole pulled back.
  • Tactically, they offer an experienced crew greater options downwind.
  • Very little time lost while gybing.


  • Expensive on IRC rating – On a J/109, converting to a symmetric costs about 7 points if you want the same sized spinnaker
  • Not as efficient when reaching due to shape
  • More difficult to hoist and trim properly

UK Sails J109The J109 Outrageous

At UK Sailmakers Ireland, we had a J/109 client that opted to go for symmetric spinnakers on a boat that is designed for A-sails. Before we went down this route, we did extensive testing and trial certs to see what the benefits would be. We found that there is no perfect answer. If you were able to have two IRC certificates (one symmetric, one asymmetric), and be able to select which one, each race, then you would have both set-ups.

However, IRC does not allow this, and most regattas insist you don’t change your cert in the last 10 days before a regatta, as long-range weather forecast details may play a part in your decision.

Jackknife andrew HallAndrew Hall's Jackknife

A-sails are generally more efficient on normal cruisers in less than 12 knots than symmetric spinnakers. Why?

Up to 12 knots, most symmetric boats struggle to get their spinnaker poles back far enough, as the spinnaker will collapse. So, an A2 asymmetric boat will likely be able to run as deep as an S2 symmetric boat, but the A2 asymmetric usually will have a larger spinnaker area and a lower rating. IRC, it appears, penalises a boat with a pole by about seven points (on a J/109), for the ability to be able to pull the pole back and go deep.

In light airs, if you can’t get the pole back, then you are at a disadvantage. Add to that, an asymmetric sail is more efficient going at higher angles compared to boats with symmetric spinnakers.

Symmetric spinnakers are more efficient running in more than 14 knots. Why?

Once a symmetric boat can get its pole fully back, it can normally nearly run square, or maybe 10 degrees off square. A similar designed boat with an asymmetric spinnaker will likely go the same speed but be 10 degrees or higher. When the two boats get to the bottom mark, the symmetric boat has likely pulled out 30 to 60 seconds. Add to this, the symmetric boat can throw in gybes easily to stay in wind or get away from other boats' wind shadows, and the gain becomes even larger. If the wind gets up to 20 knots or more running, the symmetric boats have an even bigger advantage.

Rockabilll VIPaul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI

Asymmetric boats are generally more efficient offshore and on Coastal racing

This is because the two scenarios above relate to running square downwind, as you would have in Windward Leeward racing. On offshore and coastal races, often there is a lot of reaching and broad reaching. The A sail boats then have their rating advantage, and the efficiency of the A sail when reaching.

What are the crewing considerations?

Trimming a symmetric spinnaker is considerably more difficult to do well, than trimming an Asymmetric spinnaker. A symmetric spinnaker needs the sheet adjusted constantly, the guy adjusting the angle of the pole is constantly being adjusted, as is the pole height and the spinnaker tweaker.

On an Asymmetric sail, it is generally just the A sail sheet that is adjusted. You may move the tackline up and down, but not that much. As a result, to get the best out of a symmetrical spinnaker, more good crew are needed to trim it well.

What about boats having both sail setups?

Any boat opting for a symmetric setup should also be planning to take some Asymmetric spinnakers as well. To do this efficiently, it needs a small sprit or prodder, to use with the A-sail for reaching conditions. The IRC rule allows a prodder (or sprit) on a symmetrically configured boat, as long as the prodder does not extend out further than the pole does.

However, the A sail size (SPA) on these A sails cannot be any bigger than the largest symmetric spinnaker. So in the case of our J109 which went Symmetric, we opted for a 102 sq. metre Symmetric spinnaker, which is six sq metres smaller than the Class A sail size. This saved two points off the rating, so the seven-point hit for the pole was lessened to five points overall. The new A sails added, to cover her reaching requirements were a code 0 for light air reaching and an AO, for light air running. The AO can be used off the prodder, or can also be transferred to a lowered pole, with the pole being pulled back to allow further depth.

warship 36 UK Sails 2In these photos, you can see the Warship 36 using both the pole (above) and Asym set up (below) with her UK Sails A0 and S2 spinnaker

warship 36 UK Sails

Cost Considerations

For an existing Symmetrical boat, changing to No pole and just using A sails would require,

  • A sprit
  • New Spinnaker specific A sail sheets
  • New Asymmetrical spinnakers
  • A tack line to attach the A sail to the Sprit

For an existing A sailboat, to go to symmetrical configuration requires,

  • A pole
  • A track on the mast
  • additional Blocks etc. to cover sheets and guys and pole downhaul
  • Symmetrical spinnakers and perhaps some A sails as well.

For someone ordering a new boat—it is best to try and incorporate both options from day one, even if only opting for one setup.

So, which option to go for?

As I said in my opening paragraph, there is no perfect choice, but here is a quick plan:

  • For Light planing boats - Go A sail, as you will always be going higher angles
  • For short-handed - A sail is a lot easier for Handling
  • For Offshore/Coastal - A sail will likely be best, as more reaching than running
  • For Inshore, in lighter air areas, go A-sail
  • For Inshore in stronger wind areas - go Symmetric
  • For Inshore in mixed conditions - Either works, but Symmetric with a good crew might just have the edge if you also have some good A sail options as well.
Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland reports that gowns (pictured above) made at his Crosshaven sail loft are destined for care homes and GP surgeries across the country in the fight against COVID-19.

'Our not-for-Profit makeshift gown making endeavour has also just secured a contract with the HSE to supply our healthcare heroes', he said on social media. 

'We‘re sewing as fast as we can to keep these frontline services supplied!' Hayes adds.

As Afloat reported previously, the Cork Harbour sailmaker joined the fight against Covid-19 and are deploying their resources to help make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for local healthcare workers at the front line in the fight against this disease. 'Primarily, we are doing this to help fill the gaping hole between demand and supply of PPEs for healthcare workers', Hayes said.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

Cork Harbour sailmaker Barry Hayes and his UK Sailmakers firm at Crosshaven have joined the fight against Covid-19 and are deploying their resources to help make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for local healthcare workers at the front line in the fight against this disease.

'Primarily, we are doing this to help fill the gaping hole between demand and supply of PPEs for healthcare workers', Hayes told followers on social media.

First conceived by UK Sailmakers Norway, the UK lofts in New York, Canada, the Irish loft has made refinements on the design and material selection. Hayes is currently sourcing cloth to create the gowns.

gown UK SailsThe UK Sails gown prototype is modelled at the Crosshaven loft by Clare Hayes, much to the approval of the loft Sheltie, Layla

Published in News Update
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UK Sailmakers Ireland’s Barry Hayes looks at the differences between Code Zeros and Flying Jibs on IRC, what are the best angles for each and tips for using them. Both sails are used reaching, but at what angels and why are they effective?

Flying Jibs

Flying jibs are the newest additions to many sail inventories and provide an effective reaching sail selection when the angle is too tight or there is too much wind for a Code Zero. Importantly, there is no penalty on IRC for having a flying jib. The main difference comes into play when you’re cracked off in heavy airs, where you can keep the Flying Jib up powering the boat up without all the heeling the Code Zero would have generated.

Flying jibs are the same size in area as your J 1 headsail and are set flying off the bow on a cable, normally off the end of the bowsprit. The head of the flying jib is normally set level with the top of the forestay. This gives it the best aerodynamic set up as the sail is far enough away from the forestay (a metre or so) so as to not affect the headsail or backwind the mainsail.

Photo C D

The Flying Jib is less than half the area of the Code Zero resulting in a lot less aerodynamic drag on the sail. The overlap is a lot less as well, so you can push the flying jib much higher and harder than a Code Zero. The halyard tension is quite low compared to a code zero as is the sheet load.

The shape of the Flying Jib is relatively full, normally the same shape as a J 2 headsail with a hollow leech to meet the IRC rule of less the 50% of the LP. The sheeting point is well behind the keel near the genoa winch, but not to the stern of the boat. As you don’t have full control of the sheeting angles for different wind angles, I’ve found that sheeting it at a point ¾ of the way back along the deck is the best spot. If possible, this sheeting location can be adjusted slightly while reaching to open and twist the leech while upwind you want the leech more closed.

The normal upwind sailing angle for a flying jib is around 45 degrees true in up to 8 kts of wind and as broad as 100 degrees for winds of 20 + kts. If you’re sailing broader than 45 degrees in 8 kts, you’re bearing away and adding a lot of speed to the boat. At 60 degrees true in 14 kts, which is too much wind for a Code Zero, you’re normally sailing a full knot faster than with just a headsail.

Photo E F

A Flying Jib always hoisted and dropped to windward. It’s set using a cable and furler system with a ratchet at the bottom. The clew will usually have a Velcro patch it to keep the sail closed once it’s furled tightly. This lets you leave it up so you can open or close the sail when it’s needed. I normally attach only one sheet to the sail as you never tack it without furling.

Code Zeros

Photo H

Today’s Code Zeros are the go-to sail for offshore sailing because they are versatile and easy to handle. One of the great uses of the code zero is at night or offshore when you are racing. It’s an excellent sail when it’s too windy to hoist the kite, and, when you broach, you just furl the sail up and get back on the road.

Nearly all Code Zeros are set and doused using a top-down furling system with a cable in the luff. The reason for top-down is that it gets the furl tight onto the cable so there isn’t a big roach hanging out of the leech when its furled. You can hoist a Code Zero and leave it up, furling and unfurling it as needed.

The Code Zero is much bigger than a Flying Jib and it has double the power. The sail is normally sheeted to the same point as the Flying Jib, ¾ way back the deck by the genoa winch, with one sheet on the sail for ease of use. This also keeps the spinnaker sheets free to use as needed.

Photo I

The true wind angles and wind speed range of most Code Zeros are from 45 degrees in 6 kts. to as broad as 110 degrees in 20 kts. You can also use them at lower angles in heavy airs, like 160 degrees in 30+ kts., and you can simply roll it up if you get into trouble.

The design of the Code Zero is similar to a flat A3 asym with a mid-girth greater than 75% so it fits in the IRC rule. The leech carries quite a bit of twist allowing you to open and close the leech as need.

In this video attached you can see a top-down furling Code Zero

You can see the head of the sail furling onto the cable while the tack stays free allowing the main body of the sail to create a tight furl on the cable. 

Top benefits:

Flying Jib
• 45 to 100 degrees true
• Cable and sheet low load.
• Can but used in higher wind strengths and angles

Code Zero
• 45 to 110 degrees true or 130+ in heavy air
• Cable and sheet high load.
• Can but used in lower wind strengths and angles

The cable and the furler you use in both sails are the most important part of the system. Some furlers can cost more than the sail, and they also may not work as effectively as they say they can. It’s always best to buy a furler that has a top-down option specified.

Photo X Ubi Maior FR125 RWM furler Ubi Maior FR125 RWM furler

The best value for money is the Ubi Maior furler. This furler comes with a ratchet lock and top-down option. The ratchet lock means you can stop the furler, open and close the furl at any point with the quick and easy ratchet trigger.

The cable has to be a torsion cable. Now there are lots of these on the market but only 10% of them do what they say on the box. Most are just ropes that are called torsion cables. If you turn the cable at the bottom, then the top should turn at the same time--this is an anti-torsion cable. We normally recommend Hampidhan Dynex Pro Furling cable, great value and it will do exactly what it says on the box.

Photo J

Halyard Tension

This is a common question regarding Flying Jibs and Code Zeros. How much tension does the cable need to furl? With a proper cable then you can use it with low or high tension. If you’re using a rope cable then it needs to be bar tight for the system to work. For example, if it’s not tight then the cable can twist and tear the sail. With a Hampidhan Dynex Pro Furling cable, for example, you can have the halyard soft or hard and still furl the sail without any issue.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
Tagged under

In light of the Government's safety guidelines, UK Sailmakers Ireland in Crosshaven has taken the decision to close the loft to customers, both for the safety of our staff and customers.

This has not affected the production or delivery of your new sails which will be available to you prior to the start of the sailing season.

During this extraordinary time, if you have sails for repair, please drop them into our sail bin at the loft, Royal Cork YC, DL Marina sail bin or Howth YC sail bin and please call us and we can then arrange collection.

If you need to pick up sails or have them delivered, please call us and we’ll arrange for them to be left in the sail bin at the loft or shipped to your local yacht club or marina sail bin.

Note - we are still operational - and we will update you if this changes.

Thank you for understanding.

Tagged under

Barry Hayes from UK Sailmakers Ireland gives his top tips on how to be the best bowman 

Any bowman worth his salt is fast on his feet, strong as an ox, and agile enough to climb the mast. The bowman is also the first to arrive at the boat and last to leave. Consider this about the bowman's role: there are very few changes or evolutions that happen during a race aft of the mast; they all happen forward in "bowman territory." The bowman must be prepared to deal with any call that's made from the afterguard and prepared to cope with any mishap that happens. Here are some top tips for a bowman spending the season on the pointy end.

Photo 2The bowman must be prepared to deal with any call that's made from the afterguard
1. Wear the right clothes

If you don't go out suited and booted then you're coming home wet. A smock/spray top with closures at the collar, wrists, and waist-worn over layers is the best option to you stay dry. It's light and you can fit into any area without wearing a big offshore jacket. Non-adjustable trousers are a must as are shoes that stick to the deck. (Never consider going barefoot!). Test the shoes well before buying. A soft rubber sole is best, and boots with gaiters are the best option for offshore. Most of all, have dry socks if you're wearing shoes or boots.

spinlock harnessSpinlock harness

2. Must-have gear

The best harness in the business is a rock-climbing harness. Which you can get from Spinlock.  These are light and simple to use. And excellent on the backs of your legs as they are wide. It's also vital to have hanging from your harness:

  • A Leatherman skeletool
  • An aluminium fid for spiking snap shackles
  • soft shackles (different sizes)
  • A roll of rigging tape

Going offshore, I prefer to wear a drysuit rather than traditional foul weather gear. I unzip it when I am below, and I'm always dry on deck. It's quick and straightforward and you can be on deck in seconds. A good quality suit means you can get out on the bow and now worry at all about being wet in any shape or form. They fit well with the latest life jackets.

3. Prep your boat 

A good bowman will be first on the boat and last off, so he's ready for the next day's sailing. It's a bowman's job to check that all your luff tapes are stacked correctly and that the spinnakers are packed and prepared to go. Clean any furlers, check running rigging, and get it all prepped and ready before the rest of the crew arrives to a clear boat.

Photo 3It's a bowman's job to check that all your luff tapes are stacked correctly and that the spinnakers are packed and prepared to go
4. Before the start

Have a thorough conversation with the tactician and helm well before the guns start firing. Review your starting sequence hand signals. Discuss the course, work out what sails will be needed, when and why. Getting angles for these sails will also help in terms of stacking sails below and pre-setting leads on the deck. If you're going upwind then changing to a code zero and later on to an Asym it will dictate a particular bow choreography. And those steps are up to you to take as the bowman. Perhaps you have the code zero plugged into starboard, and the kite plugged into port before the race has even started; you've already discussed this with the afterguard. I always try and hoist my code zero to windward and get it set ready to go before the start drop it back down, available for the first mark.

5. The start

Your job is to work with the helm and tactician to get the boat into the best position possible (and not over the line) when the gun goes off. Getting a good start is 90% of the race. Having clear communication with the helm is critical. With clear eye contact (tell the crew on the rail to hike out), hand signals are crucial if you don't have a headset on which are very common on big boats these days. Finger pointing up for come up, pointing down for down, fist for hold, hand opening for ease, hand closing for tighten. You need to know your boat lengths; practice a few approaches and get your lay lines and line sights before the start.

Photo 4The least amount of time spent on a bow the better; keep your eyes open and focus on your job

6. Plan ahead

Before you rush to deal with something that comes up unexpectedly, think ahead about what needs to be done and be prepared. The least amount of time spent on a bow the better; keep your eyes open and focus on your job. Most pro bowmen spend less than 1.40 seconds on the bow in any windward-leeward race; aim for this target. Plan ahead, do quickly what needs to be done and get off the bow.

7. Always hold on

Nothing in this job is worth your life. It's great fun, but being clipped on with a good life jacket is worth everything. I use a carabiner with a short strop to my harness when I am working in heavy weather. I can quickly clip on and not worry about being washed away by a big wave.

8. Always look up

Whichever boat you're on, masthead or fractional, fast or classic, take time to learn which halyards are going where, make sure they are free to run. Make a drawing and determine which halyards do what with which sail like a 2:1 code zero halyard. If you cross a halyard in a change, then don't waste time uncrossing it; instead plan your next sail change so you can uncross it. I always leave the spinnakers halyards on a 2 ft strop higher up off the deck then the genoa halyards whereby they never get mixed up at night when you go to get one.

Photo 5Working with people without shouting is the objective
9. Communication is key to your job

Working with people without shouting is the objective. I always call the name of the person you want to address before you tell him or her what to do. If you say, Bob, (pause till he's looking at you) ease the tackline," is much more effective communication. Plus (theoretically) only Bob will leave the rail to ease the tackline and not half of the crew!

10. Understand how vital the pit person is to a bowman's success

There is a secret kept between the bow and the pit: they run the boat. The afterguard may point the boat in one direction or the other, but the manoeuvres don't work unless the bow and pit are working in concert. Having a very tight bond with your pit person is key to your role.

Remember, be prepared, anticipate, have your gear ready, stay in control of "your bow," and communicate effectively, no race is won without a bowman.

Photo 6Manoeuvres don't work unless the bow and pit are working in concert

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

Barry Hayes from UK Sailmakers Ireland gives his top ten sail trim tips for the coming season

1. Know your sails, know your settings

Many boats sailing inshore with non-overlapping headsail setup regularly use up to three headsails. It is vital that you have go-to settings for each sail. I assign a colour to each sail, green for J1, blue for J2, red for J3. I then whip a mark on my jib car adjustment line in each colour, on both sides, so I have a good starting point for each sail. This is particularly helpful if you have been reaching and the car went forward, or if the wrong rope was uncleated at the windward mark, you have a quick reference point in the cockpit go to.

Pre-set markings also should be made on the jib halyard using a scale on the deck in front of the halyard clutch. Set each sail to good halyard tension (looking at the draft position of the sail) and mark the scale with the sail’s corresponding colour.

These will give you baselines to work from for each sail that you can tweak as conditions require and will allow anyone to step into the pit and easily set-up the baselines.

2. What is Twist?

Twist, in its raw form, is the difference in your sails “angle of incidence” when measured at points of increasing height up the sail’s leech. Twist is when the top of the sail opens compared to the lower sections. We increase twist in light winds and take out twist as the wind increases. This also has a lot to do with how the wind is performing at various heights. Friction from the water slows downwind on the lower portions of the sail relative to wind further aloft. The lower, relatively slower wind changes the angle of the different than higher sections, so we need to twist our sails to make sure they are trimmed correctly in up and down the entire sail. This is particularly important in lighter conditions where the wind angles up the sail vary more than in heavier conditions.

It is fundamental to understand that twist gives us the ability to control the lift and drag produced by our sails. As the wind speed increases and the surface friction has less of an effect on the wind angle, there ends up being less difference between the top and bottom of the sail. As such, less twist is needed to trim the sail correctly.

Wow B

3. Watch those telltales…

.. but not the ones you may think. The headsail luff telltales are a great indication of where the sail is in terms of power and car position, but, when sailing upwind, the leech telltales are absolutely crucial as they show how close you are to max trim. Unlike the mainsail, where some stall is good, we want as little stall as possible on the leech of the jib; but we want to be right on the edge, as close to stalling as possible. Our leech telltales are the best indicator of this.

Generally, your top leech telltale will stall first. Trim the sheet until the top telltale starts to fall to leeward. It is being sucked into the leech by the air separating off the leeward side of the sail. Once you have this stall, ease the sheet a touch to get the telltale flowing 95% of the time with a 5% stall. This is a good indicator that the jib is fully trimmed for average conditions.

If the conditions allow it, stay to leeward and check this constantly. If the breeze drops, the sail will stall so ease the sheet. If a puff hits, the sail becomes under-trimmed and, always looking for that little bit of telltale stall, trim the sheet as necessary.

C lively lady

4. Ease your inhaulers during pre-start

If you have a boat with a non-overlapping jib trimmed through inhaulers, this tip is for you! When you are manoeuvring during the pre-start, make sure your inhaulers are fully eased. Inhaulers are a great tool for improved trim, but only when sailing fully upwind. When reaching or bearing away during pre-start, it is important to keep the boat at maximum power and speed (when needed). If you inhaulers are trimmed inboard, your jib will twist open when the sheet is eased, the inhauler will hold the clew inboard, leaving the bottom of the sail over trimmed and sacrificing power. Only trim the inhaulers to your marked upwind setting on your final approach to the line.

5. Keep an eye on the “big” sail

Mainsails on cruising and racing boats have evolved into much bigger sails. On racing boats, the main has grown because of rating advantages, while the mains on cruising boats have grown so that they can be sailed under main alone.

Luckily, methods for trimming the mainsail are virtually identical for all boats, fractional or masthead, racing or cruising. The cunningham, backstay, outhaul and running backstays are all used for the same purposes.

Upwind mainsail trim breaks down into three basic modes: Maximum Point, Cruising Speed, and Fast Forward (I’ll discuss Fast Forward in the following tip and the others in future articles). Cruising speed is used 90 per cent of the time when sailing upwind, while max point and fast forward modes are saved for particular tactical situations. For the following tips, I'm assuming the jib/genoa is trimmed properly.

Sailing upwind is the slowest point of sailing; therefore, small differences in heading and boat speed are significant. For racers, upwind sailing is critical because most races start with the first leg into the wind.

6. Fast Forward

I call the third setting for upwind sailing the Fast Forward mode. This mode is useful in several tactical situations such as when you have over-stood the weather mark, or when you are trying to reach over the top of the fleet in anticipation of the next header. Another condition is if you have come off the starting line and have just a slight advantage over the boats leeward of you and you want to foot down over the top of another boat causing it to tack.
As in all settings, the jib should be set properly for beating with, perhaps its outside telltales lifting slightly applying more pressure on the genoa and generating a few extra tenths of boat speed.

Set the mainsail with the maximum depth it can carry without excessive heel and without stalling the leech. Do this with the cunningham and outhaul while keeping the boom on centreline and ease the main sheet and the vang slightly allowing the boom to lift and twist off the top two battens. If your boat has them, ease the runners to twist the main slightly. Your speed will continue to rise.


7. Trim

“If in doubt – ease it out” There is nothing slower than an over trimmed spinnaker. Always ease the sheet so the luff of the sail is showing a slight curl. If the curl becomes too big and is threatening to collapse the spinnaker, trim in to stabilise the sail.

This is the foundation of good spinnaker trim. A slight curl means the sail is producing max power with minimal stall. From there, your sheet should be trimmed in and out a few inches constantly. The spinnaker trimmer has no time to look around and take in the sights downwind, it is a constant job. Always be checking if you are at the point of curl. If the sheet isn’t moving then the spinnaker isn’t being trimmed. Small subtle adjustments to keep you at top speed.

8. Symmetrical Spinnaker Fore & Aft Trim

Once your sheet is eased and spinnaker showing signs of curling, we can now look at our fore/aft spinnaker pole trim. This is adjusted using the guy and foreguy.

spinnaker diagram
The objective is to make the vertical mid seam of your spinnaker parallel to the mast, i.e. vertical. When this seam is vertical your fore/aft pole trim is correct.

If the mid seam is angled to windward, trim your pole aft which will make the seam vertical again.

If the centre seam is angled towards the mast , ease the pole forward until the seam is vertical once again.

The guy should be trimmed about half as much as the sheet with the foreguy adjusted accordingly. The guy trimmer should listen to the sheet trimmer and always work together as too much “unauthorized” pole adjustment will confuse your sheet trimmer.

9. Pole Height

Optimum pole height is determined by where your spinnaker curl begins. Easing the spinnaker sheet should create a curl at the mid-section of the luff that will then spread evenly up and down from this point.

spinnaker pole height

If the curl begins above the middle section (towards the head) then the outboard end of your pole is too low. If the curl begins lower than the middle section (towards the clew) then the pole end is too high. Adjust inboard and outboard pole hight until the curl starts at the middle section.

10. Forces Sailing Downwind

As the breeze freshens, it’s important to understand the forces being generated by your downwind sails – the mainsail force and spinnaker force combine and determine where the boat is going. The goal is to have these combined forces align with your course.

spinnaker force

We have all experienced the unsettling rolling motion when sailing downwind in breeze – in extreme cases, this can result in a broach gybe. This rolling is caused by pole being too far aft. The spinnaker force overpowers the mainsail force – causing the spinnaker to pull the boat to windward. Ease the pole forward which realigns the spinnaker force and brings the boat back into balance.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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Busy UK Sailmakers Ireland loft in Cork Harbour is preparing for another hectic season afloat while Loft manager Barry Hayes is also out and about meeting sailors on all four coasts of Ireland.

Last Thursday night, Hayes led a talk at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire that featured a great turn out of members and non-members alike for the hour-long presentation.

This week, UK Sailmakers will give a talk at Kinsale Yacht Club on Thursday, Feb 13th at 7.30 pm. All are welcome.  Hayes will talk on top sailing tips while colleague Harry Lewis - well known for his rigging work and expertise in Harken deck gear - will demonstrate winch servicing.

The next talk is in Foynes YC on the Shannon Estuary on the 26th of Feb at 7.30 pm. Again, all are welcome.

Below sailmakers at the loft prepare a gennaker for furling.

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Page 2 of 8

Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.


Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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