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The headsail trimmer is a crucial member of a boat’s “speed loop” along with the mainsheet trimmer and the helm. But often headsail trim is overlooked and is reduced to “pull it in and hike” mentality. Without good headsail trim, you will be going very slow, or simply not as fast as you could be. In this article, Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers Ireland takes us through his top 5 tips for headsail trimmers.

For this top tips article, we are going to focus on the headsail trimmer on a keelboat with a non-overlapping jib setup.

I recently had the chance to back over the footage of Fools Gold’s IRC European Championship and IRC/ORC World Championship campaign during the 2018 season, skippered by Robert McConnell of WHSC. My primary role aboard the boat was primary trimmer (T1 / Trim 1) – headsail trim upwind and spinnaker trim downwind. Pressure events like European and World Championships are all about the small details – good hoists and flawless tacks were not racecourse gains in these fleets, they are the minimum requirement to be on the pace.

I’ve trawled through our footage to find examples of the crucial big picture and little tweaks needed to be an effective trim one. We won’t go too deep into the technicalities of sail setup for different conditions, rig tune, car positions, or twist control. We’re looking for the simple things that lead to big gains. To help you do your part to improve the overall performance of the boat. This article is by no means exhaustive – see below my top five tips for headsail trimmers.


When you are manoeuvring during the pre-start make sure your inhaulers are fully off. 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 on your jib will twist open when the sheet is eased, but the inhauler will hold the clew inboard, leaving the bottom of the sail over trimmed. Leave those inhaulers off and increase the reaching power of your headsail. Pull them back on to your marked upwind setting on your final approach to the line.


... but not the ones you may think. The headsail luff tell tails are a great indication of where the sail is in terms of power and car position, but the leech tell tails are absolutely crucial as they show how close you are to max trim when sailing upwind. 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 tell tails are the best indicator of this.

Generally, your top leech tell tail will stall first. Trim the sail in using your sheet until the top tell tail starts to fall in behind the leeward side of the sail. It is actually 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 tell tail flowing again. 95% flying with a 5% stall is a good indicator that the jib is fully trimmed in average conditions.

If the conditions allow it, stay to leeward and check this constantly. If the breeze drops the sail will stall and the sheet will need an ease. If a puff hits the sail may become under trimmed and will need a squeeze on the sheet, always looking for that little bit of stall.


In light airs tacking is expensive. Reducing the pain as much as possible is key. This is why we roll the boat and try to use as little rudder as possible. Do your part by holding the headsail on the windward wise for 2-3 seconds after the boat has passed through the wind. The sail will fill on the windward side and help the bow come around. Release quickly and snap it in on the new side. This will give instant power to the helm coming out on the new tack.

It is important to discuss this with the helm and be consistent. The helm will become used to having the small back of the jib to help him, he will use less rudder to turn the boat as he knows the jib will help, and the boat will lose less speed as a result. If you suddenly decide to not back the jib he will then overcompensate with more rudder – and likely give you an earful.

It is also helpful to count into your release for your second trimmer, so they can quickly snap in the jib on the new side. Entering a tack is usually say “small back” or “big back” and count “2 … 1 …” as the jib fills on the weather side.


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.

This can also be done with the jib halyard jib by having a scale on the deck in front of the halyard clutch. Put a white whipping on the halyard at the middle of the scale when the sail is hoisted hand tight. Set the sail to good halyard tension (looking at the draft position of the sail) and mark the scale with the sail’s corresponding colour. The sails luff lengths, particularly the J3, could be different so keep this in mind when laying out your scale.

These will give you a solid and consistent baseline to work from for each sail, which can be tweaked for the conditions of the day. Update each of these as your find good settings and as your sails, halyards, ropes change.

This will also make your skipper very happy as the day you cannot make it for sailing doesn’t mean that the headsail trim falls apart. Anyone can step in and use our basic settings as an immediate guide for good trim.


Your last job at the top mark before switch to spinnaker trim is to ease the jib for the bear away. This is extremely important and has roll on consequences for the entire crew.

Do not over ease the jib sheet. The sail needs to be eased just enough for the top to twist open and depower the boat so the helm can bear away. Usually 8/9 inches of sheet is enough. If too much is eased there will be a large space between the leech of the jib and the back of the main. The wind will blow through this gap and suck the spinnaker, now being hoisted, into it, filling it prematurely. This will make your mast man and pit person very angry.

By having the jib trimmed in a little it also sucks the spinnaker onto the back of the sail, allowing it to go up the back of the jib and not fill prematurely. Once you get used to this smaller ease you will be able to move straight to your spinnaker sheet and be ready for the fill once the jib is on deck. It also has the added advantage of making life on the point end a little easier as the jib will be less likely to go over the leeward rail.

If on a spreader leg or in bigger breeze it is ok to ease the jib to allow the boat to bear away and be at max speed for the leg (don’t forget to ease those inhaulers) but trim is back in a bit before the hoist to close the gap. Remember you are in no rush to get to your spinnaker sheet, it isn’t going to fill until the halyard is up fully and the jib is coming down, provided you’ve done your job right!


Doing the simple stuff right makes a big difference across the race course. Take these tip aboard and put them into practice next time you are on the water.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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IRC is an ever-changing rule, adapting as our sport evolves at both the Grand Prix and club racing level. At UK Sailmakers Ireland we are always searching for advantageous gains for our customers. With a new year comes an amended IRC rule. Below we go through some of the changes of note (full details available from the IRC website) and give some advice on how to take full advantage of the rules without finding yourself on the wrong side of them.

Links for referenced documents for ease of use:

2019 IRC Rules and Definitions
Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020
World Sailing Offshore Special Regulations

IRC 2019 – Spinnaker allowance

The IRC rule rates every boat with an assumed number of three spinnakers on board while racing. Should a boat wish to carry a forth spinnaker, a particularly popular option for offshore races, there is a penalty (usually one point) applied to their IRC rating.

Under the 2019 rule, a boat may declare that they only carry two spinnakers aboard while racing for a rating reduction (assumed to be one point).

Currently IRC Rule 21.6.1 describes how boats will be rated for carrying more than three spinnakers on board. The rule does not explicitly state that they should not carry more spinnakers than declared on their certificate. In addition, whilst three spinnakers is generally considered to be a minimum number for boats competitively racing, it does not consider that a significant number of club level boats only use 1 or 2 spinnakers. Feedback from the owners of these boats shows that they feel at a disadvantage as they have a reduced sail inventory and are not able to compete. To encourage boats within this sector of the fleet it is proposed to allow boats to declare that they will carry a number of spinnakers less than 3. This will open up the possibility for the technical committee to consider a rating decrease for either 1 or 2 spinnakers on that basis.

Rule 21.6.1

2018: Boat carrying more than three spinnakers in total on board while racing will incur an increase in rating.

2019: Boats shall not carry on board more than the number of spinnakers on their IRC certificate while racing.

This change makes it clear that the maximum number of spinnakers that shall be on board while racing is as per your IRC certificate. It also allows a boat to consider an advantageous rating decrease for using less than 3 spinnakers. If you wish to change the number of a spinnaker on your certificate you can do so on your 2019 revalidation after having your sails remeasured in our IHC approved sail loft.

With the above in mind it is also important to consider rule 21.1.5.d:

(d) During a regatta run on consecutive days, including any lay days, the sails on board shall remain the same and be on board for all races. This Rule may be amended by Notice of Race.

You could have five spinnakers to choose from for a week-long event but the sails you use for day one must be the same sails used on day five. Hot swapping sails depending on the day's conditions is not allowed – unless explicitly stated in the event Notice of Race or Sailing Instructions. If you damage a sail beyond repair consider point f:

(f) exceptionally, in the case of significant damage or loss, sails may be replaced with similar sails. A Notice of Race may require that boats obtain permission from the Race Committee before replacing a sail. This Rule may be amended by Notice of Race.


Crew Positions & Lifeline Deflection

Hiking is extremely effective in terms of generating righting moment and boat speed. According to Farr Yacht Design; in general terms, crew weight hiking is approximately 1.45 X as effective as bulb weight, so adding one 80 kg crew member is similar to 116 kg on the bulb. This means that crew weight is more “efficient” when considering righting moment versus displacement. As such it is important to clearly define what constitutes hiking and what doesn’t.

22.6.1 RRS 49.2 is modified by deleting “sitting on the deck” in the second sentence.

The IRC rule change removes the ambiguous term “sitting on the deck” while maintaining the original intention of:

  1. When there are two lifelines, competitor facing outboard with their waist inside the lower lifeline may have the upper part of his body outside the upper lifeline.
  2. Lifelines shall be taut (by the OSR definition).

With hiking now clearly defined – what exactly is a ‘taut’ lifeline?

This is a point which raises some debate – likely due to the digging required to actually find the definition.

Loose lifelines are a major advantage when hiking. It allows more bodies to project further outboard, increasing righting moment as a result. Having the lifelines as loose as possible, without breaking the rules, is critical. So what is the definition of taut?

Lifeline deflection specified in the Offshore Special Regulation 3.14.1.i is as follows:

  1. When a deflecting force of 4 kg (8.8 #) is applied to a lifeline at the midpoint of the longest span between supports that are aft of the mast, the deflection shall not exceed:
    1. 50 mm (2”) for an upper or single lifeline
    2. 120 mm (4 ¾”) for an intermediate lifeline

So when a 4kg weight is applied to a lifeline it must not be deflected more than 120mm from the straight line between its two support stanchions. This should be done between the two stanchions aft of the mast with the greatest distance between them ie. The longest part of the wire.

There are some, shall we say, creative solutions to bypassing this rule. These are under investigation by rating/rules authorities to determine their legality.

With equipment inspections likely to become more common in Irish sailing, in the interest of fairness, it is best to be within the OSR lifeline definitions. The looser the better for hiking – but not so loose that you land yourself in hot water!

P & E Definitions – Confirm your black bands!

IRC Drawing

A boat’s P is the maximum allowable mainsail luff length. A boat’s E is the maximum allowable mainsail foot length. These are generally known as your “black bands”. The 2019 IRC rule clarifies the definition of both measurements. This is for the benefit of measurers and sailmakers rather than the sailor. However, what is of particular interest to the sailor is that if there are no black bands on the mast or boom then the extremities of the spars will be measured.

P: “If there is no upper limit mark (black band) the upper measurement point shall be taken as the top of the highest sheave used for the halyard.”

E: “If there is no outer limit mark the outer measurement point shall be taken to the aft end of the boom.”

Check your black bands versus your certificate and sails. If they are not marked already be sure to do it to avoid being caught out at a later stage. If you sails are smaller than your defined black bands you may be able to reduce your P & E measurement for a rating advantage.

Remember – your P & E measurements come from your mast, they are not measured from your mainsail. Mainsails are built to be within the bands. The bands define the mainsail, the mainsail does not define the bands.

STL Measurement – How long is your pole?

Similar to the P&E definitions above – the STL definition has been amended to improve clarity.

IRC definition STL addresses horizontal spinnaker tack point distance from the mast. The current rule does not make it clear that the spinnaker pole track and any fittings to the mast should be ignored in the measurement of STL. The current rule does not make it clear that bowsprit outer limit marks should be ignored in the measurement of STL.

It is therefore proposed to amend IRC definition STL to make it clear that fittings on the mast and bowsprit outer limit marks are ignored when measuring STL.

IRC drawing 2Amend STL definition as follows:

The greatest horizontal distance from the forward face of the mast spar, ignoring any fittings and tracks, measured on or near the centreline of the boat, to any of the following:

  • the extremity of the spinnaker pole, whisker pole or bowsprit, ignoring any outer limit marks;
  • the spinnaker tack point on deck projected vertically as necessary;
  • if a headsail may be tacked forward of the forestay, the headsail tack point on deck projected vertically as necessary or to the extremity of the bowsprit.


The pole track and any fittings at the mast are ignored when measuring a boats STL. So your STL is clearly defined as the measurement from the front face of your mast to the outmost extremity of the pole, rather than the length of the pole itself. This is worth checking to ensure your certificate is accurate.

Single Furling Headsails

The definition wording for furling headsail has been updated to ensure the rule is restrictive as intended.

IRC rule 21.8.1(c) defines how a furling headsail is used. In the rule restricting the use of headsail to be not less than 95% of HSA there is a permissive “may” when the rule actually requires a restrictive “shall”.

Amend Rule 21.8.1(c) as follows:

Only a single headsail shall be used while racing, whose HSA may shall not be less than 95% of rated HSA except that alternatively a storm jib (see Appendix 1) may be used.

The change makes it clear that using a furling headsail of not less than 95% of the rated HSA is a requirement.

Other Changes and Clarifications

The remaining changes for the 2019 IRC rule are general clarifications on definitions or additional rules for Grand Prix racers. For example – a rule has been added to rate all boats with systems to adjust their forestay’s while racing. There was also a small change in the rig factor definition for clarity and to better reflect current rating practices.


Staying up to date with the IRC rule is critical for optimum performance at our national regattas. The offseason is the perfect time to confirm and check measurements, tinker with lifeline tension, and renewing your sail measurements to ensure you are being fairly rated. Do all of this and you will be ready to hit the ground running come Spring.

As always our doors, phones, and email are always open to offer advice and guidance.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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There was a full house to hear solo sailor Tom Dolan outline his 2019 plans in the new foiling Figaro 3 at Kinsale Yacht Club last Thursday. 

As previously reported, the evening also featured Mark Mansfield from UK Sailmakers Ireland present slides on his recent top tips articles on It was an engaging session that produced a half hour of questions and answers.

Other similar club events from UK Sailmakers are planned over the next few months.

Published in Tom Dolan
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Following on from his top tips articles for upwind and downwind helming techniques, UK Sailmakers Ireland agent and sailing professional/coach Mark Mansfield gives tips for prepping your race boat for the sailing season ahead.

Tip #1—Improve Bottom Finish

So many boats I have sailed on last season have bottom finishes that would range from average to poor. A poor bottom finish likely costs up to 2 % in speed at least which is 72 seconds an hour. Grand Prix boats will spend weeks prepping and fairing their bottoms and foils. This is over the top for Irish racing, but a very smooth bottom finish is easily achievable with a bit of time and effort.

Spraying two or three coats of hard antifouling, like Nautix, on a smooth sanded bottom would be best, then allowing it to harden for a few weeks, then sanding it back with a light 600-grade sandpaper will get a great finish. Even applying it with a very good roller will work nearly as well, especially if you sand it afterwards.

Jump Juice spray paintCruiser Zero campaigner Jump Juice gets her bottom prepped by Colm Dunne of Yacht Services Ireland Photo: Facebook

Tip #2—Get Sails Remeasured

If you sail IRC, your largest sails should be remeasured reasonably regularly, as sails shrink, particularly headsails. Most of this shrinkage happens in the first few months when new, but it is not unusual for a boat to drop two points or more in rating, after remeasuring, which is a gain of seven to 10 seconds an hour. Jib luff lengths and both Jib and mainsail girths regularly drop in size. Spinnakers rarely shrink, so best to just do the largest upwind sails. Dropping the sails into your sailmaker is well worth the effort and relatively small cost and the sails can also be inspected at the same time. UK Sailmakers are an In-House Certification (IHC) sail loft so your sails are endorsed and measured by certified IRC - ORC and ISAF professionals. Contact UK Sailmakers (details at the foot of this article) if you want to organise to get your biggest sails remeasured. 

Tip #3—Upgrade Running Rigging

So many times I go aboard boats when tuning their Rig or doing some Coaching and I find halyards and Sheets not fit for purpose. In very many cases the halyards are too stretchy, are oversized and heavy or are hard from salt and UV damage. Likewise with jib and spinnaker sheets. Rope technology has moved forward a lot in recent years and keeping weight out of the top of the mast is a priority. If possible, backstays can be changed from wire to Dyneema, large main halyards can be changed to a lighter 2:1 alternative. Heavy metal shackles can be changed to light soft shackles. Never knot a jib sheet or halyard as they will break easier and because it is a knot it is hard to reproduce settings later. Specialist Rope providers such as Rope Dock in Dublin can easily customise an updated package for an owner.

HalyardsA comparison of a replacement 8mm Halyard for a 10mm old halyard (red) prepared by Dublin firm Rope Dock. The new rope has less stretch and is significantly lighter

Tip #4 – Make Sure Spinnakers Are Fresh

You might say, as an agent for UK sails, I would say that. But the reason I particularly pick out spinnakers is when a spinnaker gets a year or so old, it starts to lose its shiny, waterproof finish. This then means the spinnaker is always heavier, with salt and moisture, which means it does not fly as well.

In addition, because it is not that shiny, it is harder and slower to launch. An asymmetrical sail, in particular, is affected even more, as each time you gybe them, they take an extra few seconds to set, while the spinnaker slides across itself.

One design sailors will always try and get a new spinnaker each year, even if the shape of the old one is still pretty good. If not getting a new sail, at least wash it well during the winter, and if possible coat it as much as you can with a lubricant like McLube. This will certainly improve it.

mclube sailkoteMcLube dry lubricant spray—great for improving an older spinnaker

Tip #5 – Buy Racegeek or Volicetek Prostart Type Start Line GPS Device

Trying to figure out how close you are to the line is a nightmare. For those who sail at a top level it gets a bit easier, as you get used to it, but even still it is a challenge. I will always suggest to an owner to buy one of these types of instruments. In particular, it allows you to push the centre of the line, and get a great advantage as often there is a bow in the line midway down, which can allow you to get a jump on the boats around you if you are right on the line. You just ping both ends before the start and the device will tell you the rest.

In recent years, these devices have become even more sophisticated and can interface with a boats normal instruments, like the Irish designed Race Geek, Marketed by Ric Morris from Dublin. This Racegeek was on the winning J70 at the J70 worlds in 2018. The second advantage of these devices is they also act as a backup for your Normal instruments as along with starting options, they will have speed, heading and a lot of other information.

RacegeekA mast mounted Race Geek instrument shown working on a 30 footer

Tip #6—Look at Optimising Rating

Most boat owners at this time of the year just renew their IRC rating, look at the TCF compared to last year and that’s it.

There are a host of things that can and should be looked at. It is not unknown for there to be inputting errors and if it happens that yours was input incorrectly the first day unless it is pointed out to the Rating Office, it will stay incorrect.

Sailmakers have access to a database of all the sail measurement data for all IRC boats, so can compare your boat's figures to other similar designs to see if there are differences.

In particular, they can look at successful boats within a design and see where they are different and give you the option of duplicating this.

For owners who may think of changing a boat from overlapping headsails to non-overlapping Jibs, all this very often can be seen from other owners who have already done this, to see if it was a success.

The bottom line is to consult your sailmaker who not only has a wealth of knowledge but also has IRC data that he can use.

IRC Sample CertA sample IRC Cert

Fair sailing for the season.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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Cork Olympian and sailing professional Mark Mansfield from UK Sailmakers will be giving a talk at Kinsale Yacht Club on helming and sail trim tips on Thursday 17th, January at 8 pm. 

Mansfield will be joined at the club by Figaro sailor Tom Dolan from County Meath who will give an insight into this season's plans for 2019 in his new foiling Figaro 3.

In his talk, Mansfield will refer to his recent popular articles on where he gave tips for upwind and downwind sailing as well as rig set up advice.

Published in Tom Dolan
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Olympic Helmsman Mark Mansfield, who is a Consultant for UK Sailmakers Ireland, gives his ten top tips on sailing fast – and in control – downwind. This article follows his previous tips on upwind helming

Tip #1 Downwind steering in strong winds, while running, can be a challenge, the big worry is broaching. Broaching up to windward is one thing, but the Chinese Gybe broach is the really frightening and sometimes dangerous result. Older IOR style boats love to roll downwind and this Chinese Gybe can often occur. To try and reduce this happening, first try and ensure you don’t have too much power on the windward side while running. That means leave the pole forward a bit, oversheet the spinnaker sheet, maybe keep your crew on the leeward side. Also, it is very important to have your Vang (kicker) tight, because if not the balance of the boat is too strong to the windward side, where the spinnaker is.

UK Sails downwind 1Fools Gold, soon after a hoist on her way to winning 2017 Sovereigns week. Wind is already around the other side of the main so the dreaded Chinese Gybe is coming

Lee helm is the big issue in these conditions and the big mistake, when you feel lee helm, is to react by continuously applying further lee helm pressure as, eventually, the rudder will stall, and the Chinese broach is then inevitable. Best, when you feel this lee helm becoming very heavy, is to pull the helm the other way for a second, which allows flow to attach again to the rudder, then push the helm hard. This is best practised outside of a race first to get used to it.

Tip #2 Gybing in strong winds. This is another worry for many helms and it shouldn’t be that hard if you prepare. Always make sure you have, what will be your new sheet, well strapped down before the gybe. If you use twinning lines, get them fully down. This means you don’t come out of the gybe with your spinnaker all over the place. Try and pick a moment to start the gybe when the helm is fairly neutral. If possible do the gybe on a wave, as the boat is steadier at speed when the apparent wind is less. Then move the helm and get the mainsheet man to whip the main over. Important after the boom gets to the new side that you have adjusted the helm to approximately where you expect the new gybe angle to be. If the boom hits the new side before you get to this, you are in danger of a Chinese Gybe again. After the gybe, and before the pole gets set, if the spinnaker makes a big swing to windward, follow it with the helm, otherwise, the balance of the boat could get too strong on the windward side.

UK Sailmakers 2Going downwind in big winds

Once settled after the gybe, if the spinnaker is rolling around and you are struggling to control it, use these methods: If the spinnaker is rolling left, steer left. If the spinnaker is rolling right, steer right. Always follow the spinnaker in the roll.

"If the spinnaker is rolling left, steer left. Always follow the spinnaker in the roll"

Tip #3 When hoisting, especially in stronger winds, going onto a run, Initially bear away hard, but not to a fully downwind state. Remember the spinnaker won't fill until you can get wind into it, so bearing away to a broad reach first is best, then when the wind fills the spinnaker around the forestay (hopefully the pole is being pulled back) it should fill with a big swoosh. As you are not fully downwind, then the risk of a Chinese Gybe is not as strong. Once it fills, then slowly bear away to the near running angle that is best for  Velocity Made Good (VMG), all the time ensuring that the items mentioned in Tip No 1 above are adhered to.

Olsen 30 downwindKieran Collins's Olsen 30 going downwind in strong winds Photo: Bob Bateman
Tip #4 Similar to Tip no 1, broaching to windward when reaching can be reduced if you don’t allow the helm to stall. So, let us say you are reaching with the pole near the forestay, and you get a gust. The boat heels, your trimmer tries to ease the mainsail and spinnaker a bit, but she still feels like she is going to lose control and broach to windward. Much of this is caused because you will be continuously applying additional helm as the gust hits. If you get to the stage that is is going to happen, centralise the helm a bit for a second or so. Then try and pull her away again fairly aggressively. This allows flow to attach again to the rudder and the second effort may now be successful. If it is not successful, and it does broach up, then ensure you centralise the helm again. This allows the boat to bear away while the sail is flapping as the flow will again have been attached to the rudder. The biggest mistake with helms, especially when using a wheel, is they keep progressively adding further helm, and when the boat broaches, they then keep the helm hard over. You must centralise it and get the flow back.

"In light airs, getting the right downwind angle is all important"

Tip #5 In light airs, getting the right downwind angle is all important. Go higher and you will go faster but will take a longer route. Go lower and you will slow, but it is a straighter route. The best VMG  is normally achieved by the angle where your spinnaker sheet just ceases to be floppy and tensions up. That is why the spinnaker trimmer, in reality, should be the main person to dictate how the Helm drives the boat downwind. He must continuously be talking to his helm and when he feels little pressure in the sheet, he asks him to come up closer to the wind. When he feels a lot of pressure in the sheet, he asks him to come down.

UK sailmakers 4Hubo, with full Uk Ireland Mainsail, Spinnaker and Staysail set, during the IRC Worlds in August

UK Sails 8 J109 Something else 0469The J109 Something Else on a close reach under spinnaker on Dublin Bay Photo:

Tip #6 I mentioned VMG above. Most instruments systems allow you to put VMG up on a readout, if you want it. The information VMG uses is our masthead wind angle and boat speed to work out your fastest angle. Going upwind VMG will be all positive, as you are trying to head to the wind. However downwind VMG will always show negatives, as you are trying to head away from the wind at the fastest angle. Upwind VMG is not very accurate, as VMG does not take into account leeway, so upwind the fastest VMG angle on the instruments always seems to show powering off at speed as the best option. However powering off at speed causes a lot of leeway, and this powering off option does not reflect this on VMG. If upwind, you try and sail very high, your VMG readout will not look as good as the powering off option, but normally it is the better option.

UK sails 5Fools Gold, during the IRC Worlds in Aug, VMG running with Mainsail and A2 Spinnaker, both from Uk sailmakers Ireland. Note many of the crew are forward of the mast

That brings me back to using VMG downwind. As you are not heeling much when running, then VMG on your instruments is quite accurate. So you can try different levels of sailing deep to see which one is giving the Best(negative) VMG figure. Remember though, Your instruments need to be reasonably calibrated to make this work for you.

UK Sails 8 Levana 1358Running downwind in light airs on the Beneteau 31.7 Levana Photo:

Tip #7 When Running downwind in light airs, try and keep all the weight out of the stern. Even the helm should try and move forward as far as he/she can. There is a lot of wetted surface area in the stern of a Yacht that will slow the boat down if it is allowed to connect with the water, especially in sloppy, wavey conditions. Remember the sterns of boats are designed a bit wide to give you stability in stronger winds. These sterns are also designed for speed in lighter airs, but only when the larger bit is out of the water. Too often I see large numbers of crew sitting in the cockpit downwind in light airs. They should be up as close to the mast and shrouds as possible to get the stern out of the water.

Tip #8 Unless there is a tidal reason or you are expecting a wind shift, or you are expecting more wind on one side, it is normally better to go down a run, initially, on whatever is the gybe that gets you closest to where you want to go. Going out to one side for a while, gybing and then having the long leg down to the mark rarely works. This is because if there is a wind shift down the longer leg, you have no room to gybe because you are effectively on the layline. Also if a gust comes in, which might allow you to sail deeper, there is no benefit if you are already on your lay line.

UK Sails 6 1069J109 Joker II in the 2017 Dun Laoghaire Regatta with the author on the spinnaker sheet. Photo:

As a result of the boats that gybed earlier and are in the middle of the course, can get an advantage from either a wind shift, by gybing, or can also get an advantage from a gust by being able to run deeper than you can.

Tip #9 Always, while going upwind, be thinking about your next downwind. Which is the gaining downwind gybe?, what side did I take down the spinnaker?. Do I need to change it to the other side?. Likewise going Downwind, you need to be thinking which side do I take down the Spinnaker to make sure it is on the correct side to be ready for the next likely downwind. Often, It is better to go through an awkward windward or leeward spinnaker takedown, to ensure you don’t have to send people down to leeward while going upwind to change the spinnaker gear around.

"Being able to gybe quickly cannot just save time, it can actually make you faster"

If in doubt, always take the spinnaker down on the port side, as most windward marks are port rounding and mostly they are bear away sets. Also if in doubt, always bear away at the top mark and go on for a short while at least, in order to get you clear of the bad wind that always is a feature at a windward mark. To gybe early onto port, puts you into this bad wind and also puts you at a disadvantage as the Give way boat(as you are on port Gybe). My Normal practice is to get around the top mark, try and keep my wind clear of the next boat, but still go as deep as I can. Then after a minute or so, if boats are pushing up into your wind and if a gap appears to leeward, then a gybe to clear your air for a minute or two can be a good option. You can come back on Starboard after that, leaving all the guys to the right to mess each other up. It also sets you up to the left of most of the fleet, so if port gybe boats come across, they have to give way to you who are now again on starboard. The key to all of this is always after rounding to set up immediately for the gybe. This must be happening straight away after the spinnaker hits the masthead, even before the Jib is fully down.

Tip #10—Practice, Practice, Practice. Being able to gybe quickly and efficiently cannot just save time, it can actually make you faster. On most boats up to about 40 feet, roll gybing (crew moving in unison all from one side to the new weather side) can see you coming out of the gybe as quick as when you go in and because you are turning the boat downwind, you improve VMG while the gybe is happening. Also being able to Gybe quickly allows you tactical choices that you might not have if you are slow at gybing. A good practice routine is to round a weather mark without a pole, get the spinnaker filling by holding out the weather guy by hand and then roll into a gybe in a matter of seconds, setting the sheets so that it stays filling all the time. Then do a series of Gybes, preferably roll gybes, without any pole. This teaches everyone the importance of correct weight positioning on the boat and the importance of Steering through the Gybe onto the new correct angle.

Fair Sailing, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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With Winter setting in and the Turkey Shoot over, it is just about time to begin making plans for the 2019 cruising season. In this article Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland provides some tips and options to make your cruising faster, safer, and more enjoyable experience – without breaking the bank.

Making sailing easy

Properly-shaped sails make cruising easy, since your boat will heel less when the breeze is up. Less heeling makes sailing more enjoyable and more relaxing for the less experienced crew members. One way to reduce heeling is to set your sails correctly for the weather you have. Tucking a reef in before the weather comes in helps build crew confidence and experience. No one cares when you will get where you're going as long as you get there comfortable.


Gennakers with Stashers

Cruising with a gennaker is often viewed as a complicated affair, especially when sailing shorthanded. However, adding a stasher to your current gennaker is an easy option – and they are simple to use! They take the complication out of flying your spinnaker while shorthanded.

A stasher is, in essence, a “sock” containing your spinnaker. After hoisting the sail in the sock simply pull the stasher to the top of the mast using the pulley system and tie it off. To douse the spinnaker simply ease the sheet and pull the stasher back down, dousing the spinnaker inside the sock. Stashers are light, reliable, simple to use even when single-handed, and can be retrofitted to any spinnaker – stashers are an inexpensive way of getting more use out of your cruising gennaker.

Note it is best to have a stasher without a hard fibreglass end – these are heavy and may scratch the inside of the boat - a soft neck stasher is best. 

A stasher is also an excellent add-on for club racing using the lightweight version. It makes getting around the cans that much easier. Read more in the UK Sailmakers' Tips to Setting Up & Handing the Cruising Spinnaker in the pdf downloadable below.

Furling Gennakers

A furling gennaker is a considerable upgrade over a stasher. Furling gennakers have evolved considerably over the past half decade – there are now furling gennakers with a cable in the luff of the sail, allowing the sail to furl like a furling genoa.

See the photos below as an example.

CodeD Composite

The Code D easy furl gennaker is the latest evolution in cruising gennaker design. The sail is quick and simple to furl, straight from the cockpit, and can be left hoisted until safely docked. Having this sail as a ‘top down’ furling option is even better - top down furling produces a tighter furl with no risk of unplanned openings – life couldn’t be easier.

Stashers and Furling Gennakers have completely transformed cruising for many sailors. Long gone are the days of dropping your gennaker in the water and fighting to recover them. Stashes and Furlers make launch and recovery safe, quick, and simple.

In Mast Furling Mainsail - Battens

Furling mainsails with battens can be a curse if not handled correctly. Sails with full-length battens can often jam inside the mast. It is easy to shorten these battens to prevent them jamming. Having firm halyard tension keep the luff and sail in shape when furling. It also helps to keep a little tension on the outhaul to ensure a compact furl. most new in-mast furling mainsails come with a Thimble in the clew. As they are friction free and never brake. They are also a lot lighter. 

Lazy Cradles


A good lazy cradle is absolutely invaluable for cruising - they are the best thing on the market. Now that winter is settling in it is a great time to ensure there are small reinforced holes to allow your cover to drain properly, and to add straps so the bag can be rolled away and stowed on the boom when sailing. (Link) the lazy cradle is an excellent way to make sailing easy. While having the roll away option keeps a clean aerodynamic flow over your mainsail,

Genoa – Outboard Lead


When broad reaching with your genoa it is best to move the car forward to ensure the sail does not over twist – even better is to set the sail on an outboard lead. This will result in a notable increase in boat speed while also unloading the helm – making the boat much easier to keep on course.

To determine where to place the outboard lead pad eye simply imagine a line from the middle of the genoa luff through the clew (when the sail is eased for broad reaching) and on to the deck – this is the point where the outboard lead needs to be set from. If in doubt – set it a little further forward. This keeps the sheet load on the leech and creates a twist profile to match an eased mainsail.

Wing on Wing Sailing


This is fun and easy way to cruise with the wind behind you. For boats with non-overlapping headsails sailing wing-on-wing can be done without a whisker pole. Just move to attach a block to the rail forward of the shrouds and run the sheet through it.

This will hold the clew of the jib outside the lifelines and give you enough leech tension to keep the top of the sail flying Having the clew “locked” outside the lifelines also makes it safer for your crew to move around the deck without the clew flop across and hitting them. On boats with overlapping genoas, you can not sail wing-on-wing without setting a whisker pole.

To protect your crew from the boom gybing accidentally, rig a preventer to the boom that will hold it out and protect you from a flying gybe. To make setting a preventer easier, make sure to have it rigged all the time. The best set up is to have a piece of line attached to the end of the boom that is long enough to reach the boom vang bail on the boom. This line should end with an eye-splice. When not in use, the preventer runs along the bottom of the boom and tied off to the boom vang bail. When you want to set it, shackle a line to the eye splice that is long enough to go to a block on the rail just aft of the bow pulpit and then runs aft to a winch.

UV Strips & Maintenance

The biggest killer of sails is UV ray damage. It breaks down the fibres or materials used in your sails making them fragile and easy to tear. Having a well-maintained UV strip on the leech and foot of your roller furling genoa is essential to ensure a long lasting sail.

Over time the stitching on the UV strip breaks down, as does the canvas fabric itself. UV strips are sacrificial. There is no stopping UV rays – it is best the replaceable canvas UV strip takes the brunt of the damage rather than your precious sail!

It is also important to check common wear points such as spreader patches, stanchion patches, and where the sail contact the radar dome/deck light if fitted.

Leech Line Cleats


Ensure your main and genoa have good leech line cleats. As the old saying goes – “a flappy sail is not a happy sail” – leech flutter breaks down sail fabric over time. It is very easy to avoid by having your leech lines correctly tensioned.

Winter Service


Annual servicing of your sails is essential to getting off on the right foot for the coming season. Checking over, drying, and correctly storing your sails will go a long way to ensuring you are ready to go sailing on the first nice day of spring.

Please be careful when using cleaning agents on the sail. As they may burn the sail fabric. Only use recommended cleaning products. Always add your spreader and station patches on the sail so they protect the base layer fabric.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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Continuing their 2018 development programme UK Sailmakers Ireland are working with John Murphy and Richard Colwell’s new J109 which arrived into Howth last month.

After successful development and testing of the ‘JX’ headsail design on Dublin Bay the UK Sailmakers Ireland team have shifted focus on to improving the class mainsail design – using data gathered from the ‘JX’ development programme.

“This is the next logical step” - explains UK Sailmakers Ireland’s Graham Curran – “it is all about percentage gain now. The class has reached a level where the big gains of crew work and boat preparation are gone. The skill level in the class is high – you have to chase the percentage gain – you can’t sit and wait for it to come, because it won’t.”

Mark Mansfield continues – “For years turning the corners effectively and going the right way resulted in race wins – now it is not so easy. To beat the guy to leeward you need to be faster, to hold that tight lane of the start line you need to have an edge. Small advantages are more crucial than ever in the J109 class – we’re not looking to be fast, we plan to be faster.”

Fig 1The UK Sailmakers Ireland team aboard Brian Jones’ “Jelly Baby” in Cork Harbour on the second day of testing

Mark Mansfield has been heavily involved in the development process and testing – as a multiple National and J109 Class Champion aboard John Maybury’s “Joker II” Mark is arguably one of the most knowledgeable J109 sailors in the country. His input and experience with the J109 has been essential in moving the project forward and, despite his busy sailing schedule (Mark is racing Etchells in Miami this week) his enthusiasm and drive are unwavering.

“You can always be better, faster, and smarter“ - says Barry Hayes, head of development at UK Sailmakers Ireland – “we’re not doing this development work to match the status quo, we’re going to break and exceed it.
“Our customers are already at the forefront. John and Brian Hall’s “Something Else” are regulars at the top both at home in DBSC and abroad, pushing “Storm” all the way to the last race at this year’s Scottish Series.

Simon Knowles and Colm Buckley’s “Indian” showed impressive pace during the HYC Autumn Series, and the charted “JEDI” finished third in the competitive Beaufort Cup during Cork Week – with our continuing development programme we’re taking the next step in performance. Fast simply isn’t good enough, we plan to be faster.”

The sail development process will continue both on and off the water into early 2019 – after which Outrajeous will feature the newest developments in the J109 class in her 2019 sail wardrobe.

Fig 2Post testing aboard "Outrajeous" off Howth. Left to right: Mark Mansfield, Graham Curran, Barry Hayes
Murphy and Colwell have an extensive 2019 schedule planned for “Outrajeous” – including the ICRA National Championships on Dublin Bay, Sovereigns Cup, and Dun Laoghaire Regatta.  The pair achieved considerable success nationally with previous campaigns - notably several National Championships with their Corby 25 “Kinetic” and later Richard with “Fusion”. Now once again as a combined team, with a talented crew pool and Mark Mansfield serving as tactician for some major events, they will be a boat to watch during the 2019 season.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

In Grand Prix classes throughout the sport of sailing, it is well known that sheeting angles are becoming tighter and tighter – modern TP52s have jib sheeting angles as close as 4 degrees off the centreline. The J109 class in Ireland is a growing and competitive fleet so we felt it necessary to take a fresh look at the sail plan and systems aboard the now nearly fifteen-year-old design with an aim to improving performance.

The J109 have evolved significantly over the past fourteen years. The most visible change has been the shift to a non-overlapping jib setup for optimum IRC performance. This shift in sailplan has a significant effect on the boat’s light air performance due the headsail area reduction.

To compensate for this reduction in power the class uses an inhauling system – this narrows the slot between the mainsail and headsail, in turn increasing the power of the entire sail plan. Up until now the common inhaul point has been the edge of the coach roof – approximately 9° sheeting angle. This is effective in true wind speeds of 15 knots and above – but below this the boat is still relatively starved for power when compared to their genoa flying predecessors – we believe further performance is attainable.

During the winter of 2018 UK Sailmakers Ireland, in conjunction with Pat Considine of UK Sailmakers Chicago, carried out a Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI) test cycle to determine the effectiveness of jib inhauling to a sheeting angle of 6° - just inside the halyard turning blocks on a standard J109.

It quickly became clear that simply raising the clew of an existing sail and inhauling it harder will not produce a driving force gain. In fact inhauling this hard with a standard jib actually slows the boat below the base lines numbers from the initial set up test. A new design approach is required.

Below we detail the process of an FSI study – and present some of our findings and results.

The Process – Simplified

For the purposes of this article we have simplified the FSI testing process to a number of high level steps.

Target Conditions and Baseline Polars

We decided on a specific set of conditions in which we believed our inhauled setup would perform best – this is 10-12 knots in a flat sea-state. These conditions would allow an amateur helm to steer to the tighter sheeting angle without dropping out of the groove.
With our target weather conditions decided we now gather and input our J109 polar data for the test case. Variables include, but are not limited to, heel angle, leeway, boat speed, wind direction etc.


With our target conditions determined and our polars set we now move on to the design phase.
Our standard J109 class mainsail design is used throughout the testing process – this is consistent and does not change.
As we believe this is a specialised light wind sail we begin with a J1 mould for the jib. Deeper than the standard J109 class jib, which is a crossover between a J1 and J2, the new design is deep with twist for power in light airs.

Initial Setup and Setting the Baseline

With our sail designs selected, we now virtually configure our J109 for sailing in the 10-12 knot conditions present in our test case.

We set the rake, mast bend, sheet tension, halyard tension, outhaul, jib car position, backstay tension etc until we reach the optimum settings –producing the maximum amount of lift for the least amount of drag. To get to this optimum setting requires an iterative process of adjusting, testing, re-adjusting, re-testing etc. This is where the skill and experience of the designer really come in to play to reach the fastest setting possible.

One of the key things in this phase of testing was to set the inhauler so the clew our J1 jib to be touching the coach roof coaming of the cabin top. This places the jib at a sheeting angle of 9° from the centreline.

In this phase, we are looking for performance trends. As we make changes and re-test we expect the trend to be positive – either an increase in lift, or a reduction in drag, both leading to positive outcomes. Once the trend begins to plateau or even turn negative we know we have reached the optimum trim for this particular design.

Once the designer can no longer improve the virtual performance of the boat by adjusting sail controls the iterative process stops. A series of comprehensive FSI runs are then done on this setup to provide a baseline set of data to compare and contrast the next round of test against.

Design Iteration

We now implement our suggested improvements to our J1 jib design. Our aim is to sheet this sail at an angle of 6° from the centreline of the boat – this is just inside the halyard leading blocks of the standard J109 deck layout. We will call our new design the ‘JX’ headsail.
Sheeting to a 6° angle, with no change in jib design, causes the slot of the sail plan to close and driving force to be lost due to increased drag. Simply raising the clew of an existing sail and inhauling it harder will not produce a driving force gain. In fact inhauling this hard with a standard jib actually slows the boat below the base lines numbers from the initial set up test. A new design approach is required.

Design Twist

When a sailor hears twist he or she usually thinks of easing the sheet to induce it. What many sailors don’t realise is that there is twist designed into the shape of every sail – they are made to sail with an optimum amount of twist. For example the standard mainsail design twist is approximately 12°.

Returning to our testing we begin to increase the amount of design twist in our ‘JX’ headsail. As the design twist increases drag reduces, and driving force increases. While adjusting the design twist the virtual trim of the jib is also adjusted to keep the sail trimmed optimally.

Once we see the lift/drag/driving force trend begin to plateau we reach optimum design twist.

Figure 1Figure 1 - Vertical distribution of twist 

We settle on a maximum of 7.6° increase in design twist distributed vertically. This allows the sail to maintain a consistent twist relationship with the mainsail at the smaller sheeting angle of 6°.

Max Camber Position

When inhauling at tight angles it is very important not to ‘shut’ the slot with a return off the headsail leech. A leech hook or return at such tight sheeting angles causes an enormous amount of drag while also clogging up the slot. A straight exit off the leech is needed. A leech hook or return is often cause by the depth of the headsail moving aft towards the leech. This causes the entry to become fine and the leech to close in towards the mainsail – keeping the max camber position forward in the sail is essential.

Figure 2Figure 2 - Max camber position
As we have increased our design twist and brought our sheeting angle well in board we now adjust the max camber position of the sail. Over several iterations we found a gain in moving the max camber position forward. This prevents the upper sections of the headsail shutting the slot.


Several camber adjustments were made in order to keep the straight exit from the leech of the sail. Notably a reduction in aft camber in the sail’s lower sections.

Figure 3Figure 3 - Aft camber adjustments
As a result, the overall camber in the lower sections of the sail was also reduced. These flatter sections ensure a straight leech exit at maximum inhauling. The lower depth is now controlled by the positioning of the trim point ie the clew position controlled by the trimmer.

This allows a narrower sheeting angle without an increase in mainsail backwinding.

Results - Comparison to the Baseline

Having iterated over our ‘JX’ design for many hours we settle on the new design. We run the same comprehensive set of FSI tests as were run to provide our baseline set of figures. Below we go through some of our findings.

pressure mapPressure map comparison

Above you can see our J109 test platform. The left picture is our baseline J1 headsail design. To the right is our new ‘JX’ headsail design. This picture is a leeward view of the sails’ pressure mapping. It can be clearly seen that the ‘JX’ design produces a significant increase in pressure differential when compared to the J1 design.

Not only is there a pressure differential change on the headsail itself but also on the mainsail. This shows how harder inhauling can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire sail plan.

Lift, Drag, and Driving Force

In our FSI testing runs the sail plan is trimmed for proper flow across the luff in 12 knots true wind speed at 37.5° true wind angle. Boat speed of 6.34 knots with 18.8 degrees of heel and 3 degrees of leeway.

Mainsail shape and trim remains constant throughout testing in order to isolate the jib design adjustments.

Figure 5Figure 5 - Baseline performance numbers

Our initial FSI testing provided some baseline numbers for our new design testing.

Numbers of note:

  • Fx (Driving Force): 1154N
  • Fz (Side Force): 3770N
  • Cl (Lift): 2.77
  • Cd (Drag): 0.247

Our subsequent FSI testing runs provided a set of numbers for our new ‘JX’ design. Notable numbers below with deltas from previous testing highlighted in green and red for positive and negative changes accordingly.

Figure 6Figure 6 - 'JX' headsail performance numbers

  • Fx (Driving Force): 1160N (+1%)
  • Fz (Side Force): 3848N (+2%)
  • Cl (Lift): 2.79 (+1%)
  • Cd (Drag): 0.266 (+7.6%)

With the new ‘JX’ design we are able to achieve a 1% increase in driving force and a 1% increase in lift coefficient of the sail plan.

There is, of course, the associated increase in drag and heeling moment but in 12 knots of true wind speed these can be overcome by righting moment – hike harder.

The other option is to turn the increased lift into height instead of fast forward.

At a true wind angle of 36.5° we maintain the same total coefficient of lift but lose some driving force as a result.

This shows the versatility of the ‘JX’ design. More power and efficiency in normal mode and still very efficient in height mode.

Figure 7Figure 7 - 'JX' headsail height mode performance numbers


It must be noted that the mainsail trim was not altered between FSI tests. In reality when at a smaller sheeting angle the mainsail would be brought further to windward to maintain the open slot. This would produce an increase in lift coefficient, side force, and drag. All of which could be overcome by more hiking.

As we all know in this wind speed – whoever gets their crew hiking fully first usually wins.

From Virtual to Real World

In April 2018 UK Sailmakers Ireland’s Barry Hayes, Graham Curran, and Mark Mansfield carried out a two-boat testing session with the newly developed ‘JX’ headsail design as reported by here.

J109 testing 1154Figure 8 - Two boat testing on Dun Laoghaire Bay

We used two well-matched J109s, including the reigning Irish Class and IRC National Champion “Joker II”.

The test was carried out in ideal conditions with 10-12 knots true wind speed and flat water on Dublin’s Dun Laoghaire bay.

The ‘JX’ headsail was used on both boats throughout testing – with the Joker II’s Championship winning headsail being swapped also. “JEDI” was using a UK Sailmaker’s Uni-Titanium mainsail while “Joker II” was using her own class mainsail.

Several hours we spent upwind testing – lining up bow to bow in the same breeze.

There was a notable difference between the two headsail when both were inhauled hard to a 6° sheeting angle. The ‘JX’ jib remained twisted and fast while the other jib tended to shut out early and cause excess back winding of both mainsails.

Although hard to determine a conclusive advantage it was noted by both helms, independently, that the boat was easier to helm at the tight 6° sheeting angle using the ‘JX’ headsail.

Material Improvements

The J109 is a 14 year old design – you may ask, why wasn’t this done sooner?

The reality is that the material improvements in sailmaking over the last decade have been immense. No so much in what materials are being used, these are fairly constant, more so how they are combined in cloth technology. UK Sailmakers’ Uni-Titanium cloth allows us to build sails with constant draft, depth, and clean leech exits over a large range of wind conditions. Where Dacron or string sails of old would deform and deepen as wind speed increases; Uni-Titanium remains rigid in its design shape. This is essential to modern sail design, particularly sheeting headsails to narrow angles.


Throughout our FSI testing period, it became clear that at closer sheeting angle would improve the overall performance and efficiency of the J109 sail plan. However, we were not convinced that this would be the case in a real-world situation out of the virtual test box.

After on the water test, and several major regattas and a Round Ireland race, we are happy to conclude that the ‘JX’ headsail development has been a success.

"We are happy to conclude that the ‘JX’ headsail development has been a success"

There is much more to inhauling than you may realise. It is common to think of your headsail independently – but it is just one cog in the machine. The relationship between it and the mainsail, and between the sail plan and the underwater profile of the boat must all be considered – they all combine to produce a force which moves you forward, preferably faster than your opponent. If any of these relationships are out of balance then the entire system will begin to crumble.

What is next?

Our virtual and on-the-water testing produced other potential performance improvements to pursue – we are continuing our investment in the J109 class and sailors will be seeing these developments, and more, on Irish waters throughout the coming months.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

Mark Mansfield, racing consultant and agent for UK Sailmakers Ireland, gives readers ten top tips on helming techniques. It's an area where he has extensive experience, having competed in four Olympic Regattas, over 30 World and European Championships in various classes, Commodores Cup Admirals Cup boats and many others. 

Tip No 1 In lighter airs, steering upwind, try and steer to a higher telltale than normal. If you steer to the lower, normal telltale, you will find in lighter air that the upper forward area of your jib is luffing a bit and as a result power is lost. Better to steer to an upper telltale, even if the lower telltale is telling you to come up. You may initially find you are sailing a bit lower, but you should be faster and that extra speed will then allow you to put the bow up again. The biggest mistake in light airs is to pinch too much.  Telltales are a powerful tool to help with sail trim. There are two types of telltales, luff and leech telltales. Luff telltales show what is happening with the wind as it goes over the luff of the sail. Instead of waiting for the sail to luff and slow you down, using the telltales allows you to correct the sail trim before the sail flaps. Use your telltales to help trim the sail and help with your steering upwind.

Tip No 2 In Strong winds (say over 15 knots), you should really be steering mainly to heel, and not to the telltales. Yes, keep an eye on the telltales, but it is very important not to be overheeled, which allows the boat to slip sideways. If the heel gets too much, try and sail a bit higher until it gets back to the normal heel angle.

Flying fifteen 3106Heavy air sailing in a Flying fifteen 20-foot keelboat Photo:

Tip No 3 No 2 point leads me on to the art of scalloping. Every top helm develops this. It is the ability to be sailing upwind quickly at a normal angle and then to take a 5 degree or so luff up for a few seconds, without losing speed, and then to bring the boat back again onto the original Normal angle, thus achieving a half boat length or so benefit to windward. Often this is achieved when the helm feels a gust just hitting the boat and rather than react by pulling on the helm(and creating drag) he does the opposite, and lets the bow drift up towards the wind for a few seconds, waits for the boat to get to the correct heel, then pulls the bow away again slowly to the angle that has a normal helm angle. All of this results in a gain to windward, with little, if any, speed loss.

hubo UK sails irelandHubo, Going upwind on a knife edge. Uk Uni Titanium Jib and main
Tip No 4—Most boats should have 3-5 degrees of weather helm in medium winds, to allow the rudder to provide lift. The Yacht Designer would have positioned the mast and keel to achieve this originally, so it is important that your boat still has this. If not, it could be that your mast rake or sail size is not correct. Your Sailmaker or Professional sailor could help you out with this if your boat either has little or no helm, or too much helm. In Light winds, often there won't be much weather helm, and moving crew weight to leeward is often needed to heel the boat and start providing some feel to the helm. It is important though, once weather helm starts to come back, that crew who were to leeward are gradually moved back to the high side.

fools gold yachtFools Gold, On a lovely heel angle, sailing upwind

Tip No 5-- If you steer with a wheel, you should have 3 clearly obvious marks on the helm. At the very top of the wheel, in the middle should be a mark showing the rudder centralized. Then either side of this should be a mark showing say 4 degrees of helm. The reason for this is so that the helm, and in particular the mainsheet trimmer, can look and see how heavy the helm is, particularly in medium and strong winds. The mainsheet trimmer should be looking to see, going upwind, that the side mark is now in the middle, showing the boat has circa 4 degrees of helm. If he notices that it has gone beyond that, then he should be depowering the main by dropping Traveller a bit or extra backstay. To find a 4-degree position on the wheel, you could use a protractor on the quadrant or else a protractor on the rudder when the boat is out of the water. 

Beneteau 31.7 0624A tiller-steered Beneteau 31.7 on Dublin Bay Photo:

If you steer with a tiller, then you just have to work out the 4-degree angle and visually get a feel for when the tiller is too high.

Tip No 6 When tacking, especially in stronger winds, one of the biggest mistakes is turning the boat too far after the tack. This results in it being very hard and slow for the crew to winch in the Genoa or Jib. The boat then goes sideways, the helm gets too heavy, and the boat then semi broaches back up into the wind. All the time getting slower. If you don’t have a good feel for where to point the boat after the tack, try and work it out mathematically. Before the race go onto each tack upwind, and check your heading on both tacks. The difference between the two tacks is your tacking angle. So say you are tacking through 80 degrees. During the race, before you tack, look to windward about 80 degrees from where you are heading and see if you see a point on the land, or maybe another yacht and set that as where you should be pointing after the tack.

SB20 peter Kennedy 3182SB20 and All Ireland champion Peter Kennedy completes a tack Photo:

Tip No 7—How to tack. Tacking isn’t just a matter of putting the helm over. There are various different speeds that should happen to the movement of the helm during a tack, particularly in medium and strong winds.
In Light airs, it likely will be a smooth similar movement as the important thing is to get onto the new tack quickly and not lose speed too much through the tack. In lighter airs, always come out a bit lower than your normal angle, in order to build speed after the tack. When the speed builds a little, and some feel comes into the helm, then the bow can be put up again to the normal angle. In stronger air, there is a different technique. Initially, going into a tack, let the bow come up 5 or 10 degrees slowly which allows you to gain to windward, then it needs to go through up to head to wind and beyond fairly quickly. Finally, beyond head to wind, you should slow down for a second to allow the Jib sheeting crew to gather in the slack of the Jib sheet, then you press the boat further to the Normal windward angle. This allows the Jib to be sheeted in quicker. It is very important, for the balance of the boat, that the Jib gets sheeted in quickly as if not, too much weather helm will result if the Jib is loose and the main is in and that is slow. If a tack is not good and the jib does not come in quickly, the mainsheet person should ease the main a bit to help the Helm with his likely weather helm problem.

Andrew Algeo Juggerknot 2583J109 National Champion Andrew Algeo at the helm of Juggerknot Photo:

Tip No 8—Wheel steering—A wheel does not have the same feel as a tiller and it is important not to grip the wheel hard with little wheel movement. Very often I can see owners sitting on the side, holding the wheel, often in strong winds and big waves, with very little movement of the wheel. I nearly always stand when steering with a wheel in stronger, big sea conditions, as it allows you to make larger movements of the wheel than you can do if you are sitting. Also, it allows you to see over the sitting out crew so you see oncoming waves and gusts, and react to them before they hit you.. Very many wheels nowadays have gearing that allows small wheel adjustments to be made easily, but in order to make a 10-degree adjustment, it may need 2 or 3 feet of wheel movement and that is very difficult to do while sitting.  In flat water, sitting may be fine as there is not as much adjustment needed, but I still favour standing, if at all possible.

J109 Shanahan 2049Former ISORA J109 offshore champion Ruth Photo:

Tip no 9—The less you move the helm, the better.  This may seem to be contrary to my comments in Tip no 8, But the reality is moving the helm causes drag and the less you move it , the faster you will be. In Strong winds, with big seas, you will, for sure, need larger helm movement.

In flat water, if you can get the helm at a nice 3-5 degrees of Weather helm, and the boat tracks upwind nicely, then only really small slow movements of the helm are needed. It is another common Helming weakness that I often see, of Helms trying to sail a keelboat, like they are sawing wood. Constant movement. Remember the lift off the rudder is maximized by having weather helm, if you are constantly moving it you go from having no helm for a second to having too much. If you get a lift, a slow push on the helm until you get to the right angle is all that is needed. Likewise, if your weather telltale if lifting showing you are too high, a slow bear off is needed, not a big quick pull.

J109 Brian Hall 1598Brian and John Hall's J109, Something Else trucking upwind from with her all-purpose Roller headsail. Sails provided by UK Sailmakers Ireland

Tip No 10 Finally, owners could consider getting some Helm coaching. You probably think, I would say this, as I do a lot of coaching, much of it with Helms. However, it is likely the area that can produce the quickest performance gains for the team. There are at least 5 or 6 good keelboat coaches in Ireland, many with good levels of helming experience, and it is well worth considering using one of them.

In my next article on, I will concentrate on my top 10 tips for steering Downwind, including steering around marks, steering while hoisting and lowering spinnakers, strong wind gybing, preventing both windward broaches and the deadly chinese gybes, steering at starts, light air downwind angle steering and some other topics too.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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Page 7 of 10

Irish Fishing industry 

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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