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Mark Mansfield, Professional sailor and UK Sailmakers Ireland agent, goes through some tips for improving your boat rating relative to its speed. Mark has been involved in many campaigns and projects from Quarter Tonners, Half Tonner, J109’s, Commodores Cup boats, where he has been tasked with the job of trying to improve the boat rating and come up with improvements that will be rating efficient.

Performing better on the race track can be as a result of a combination of things. Of course, newer, more modern and better sails will help significantly, but there are so many other areas that also can assist in making the boat go faster. I will touch on some of these briefly before going on to talk about improving the rating.

Hull Finish

Spend time ensuring the bottom finish is as good as possible. On smaller one designs, this likely would involve fairing the hull, keel and rudder to computer cut templates. However on most IRC boats, this will not be done, so just getting a really good sanded finish is paramount. Then, if antifouling is being applied, try and have it sprayed and, even after spraying, ensure it is lightly rubbed again with light sandpaper to remove the orange peel effect. Nautix does a very good hard antifouling that many race boats use and which can be sanded.

Rig Check

Ensure the rig is straight in the boat and at the correct tension. Your sailmaker will be able to advise you here if needed. Very many boats I have inspected recently turn out to have straight masts as you look up them, but the whole thing is all over to one side making the boat slow on one particular tack. This check requires very accurate measurement to make sure this is correct.

Remove weight

Make sure no unnecessary additional weight is carried aboard. Empty drawers, clear chart tables. Remove Pots, pans, knives and forks. Remove unneeded sails. It is incredible how much weight can accumulate. As a rule, on a 35-foot boat, about every 45 kgs of additional weight will cost you approx 4 seconds an hour. How often, in a 2-hour race, have you been beaten by a few seconds?

Hubo UK sailsHubo from Holland on her way to winning the Dutch IRC/ORC Nationals. Sails and IRC Optimisation work was completed by Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland
Rig Weight

Remove weight from the Rig. Modern Dyneema halyards are stronger, have less stretch and can be smaller in size. Weight up the mast is so important to heeling effect so a reduction in weight, even inside the mast is significant. If your backstay is a solid wire or Rod, why not look at changing it for a Dyneema one.  An aluminium mast could be changed for a Carbon rig but will incur a penalty of 5 or 6 points on a 35 footer. If the mast was a standard carbon one, which might not be a whole lot lighter than an aluminium mast, then it is not likely worth the extra rating hit. If, however, you go for an Ultra-high Modulus Carbon mast, that might be a further 20 % lighter, then that likely would be worth it. The drawback is it is significantly more expensive. IRC does not differentiate between the two, hence the fancy new IRC race boats being built will generally go for an Ultra High Modulus Carbon Rig.

Smooth Systems

Make sure all your sail adjustment systems work smoothly and have enough purchase on them to adjust under load. In particular the Backstay, Jib car adjustment purchases, mainsheet travellers, mainsheet itself. These are the things that are adjusted most often, and they need to be easy to move and adjust with minimal load. Look at upgrading some blocks and purchases if you cannot adjust quickly.

Crew Numbers

Make sure you have enough Crew. Crew weight is moveable and is very efficient in breeze upwind. As long as you do not have a weight restriction, always go for as many as is reasonably possible. Weight is restricted on most one designs. There is a very good reason for that. Extra weight is fast. Also, make as much of an effort as is possible to lean out far. It really makes a difference. Look at the photo of Fools Gold Below to see how they hike and how many they have on the side.

Improving the IRC Rating 

Firstly it is essential to understand that improving the IRC rating does not always mean reducing it. Sometimes adding sail area or reducing weight, may lead to an increase in the rating, but these changes may improve the speed by even more than the cost of the increased rating. Most sailors understand that one point in rating costs about 3.6 seconds an hour. However, it is 3.6 seconds if your rating is about 1.000. If your rating is around .900, then it is close to 4 seconds per point an hour. If your rating it around 1.100, then each point is only about 3.3 seconds an hour.

It is important to understand a yachts strengths and weaknesses, and only then can changes be made to the rating.

For example, if a yacht is particularly good in light airs but weak in a breeze, then it is possible that it has too much sail for all-round conditions. Reducing sail area may result in it being still good enough to win in the light, be as good if not better in the breeze, and have a 3 or 4 point rating reduction. Conversely, if a boat is very weak in the light and very good in the breeze, then extra sail area, leading to a higher rating, may be the way to go.

Changing sail area is one thing, but it is crucial that some decent advice is provided by your sailmaker or top sailor in this regard, particularly on whether to increase/decrease headsail or mainsail size. The balance of the helm is so vital in working out which sail the changes should be made to. In general, if your boat has a lot of weather helm, reduce your mainsail area (or increase your Headsail area). If you have little or no weather helm, increase your mainsail (or reduce your jib size).

In technical terms, this is called the Lead (pronounced Leed). It is the balance of the entire boat. Initially, this would be organised by the boat designer, in conjunction with the sailmaker. It represents where the mast is positioned in the boat compared to the keel and compared to the sail sizing. Often, as boats get older, and the configuration changes (say changing from overlapping to non-overlapping jibs), so does the Lead and often this change then should be balanced by changing rake, amending sail sizes or other changes.

WOW Yacht dublin Bay 1409George Sisk's Farr 42, Wow, underwent some significant IRC changes over the winter including a new fin keel, deeper than her previous keel. Seen here going upwind with her new UK Sailmakers Ireland Uni Titanium Jib and Main Photo:

Other IRC Optimisation Handicap Tips

Always remember to remeasure your sails regularly. Modern laminate sails will shrink, particularly the luffs of your Jibs. Even sails that are only a month or two old can shrink and allow a reduction of 2 or 3 points on a 35-foot sized boat. It is worth the cost of this remeasurement to do it at least once during every season.

Spinnaker area is treated quite cheaply on IRC. On a 35 footer, you can get approx. 3 sq metres extra per point. If you have the capacity to increase your chute size, do it. Remember that a standard symmetrical spinnaker with a pole is allowed a specific length pole, without a penalty, based on spinnaker size. It is a formula and, though the formula is believed to be secret, it appears to be the square root of your SPA (spinnaker area) x .456. So a boat with a 100 sq. Metre spinnaker would have a 4.56 m pole, without penalty.

If you decide to increase your spinnaker area, it would be optimum also to increase your pole length. This should make the boat quicker for having more sail, and it will also make it quicker for having a longer pole as the further you can get the pole away from the rig, the faster the boat will go.

Rockabill Yacht dublin Bay 1800Paul O'Higgins Rockabill VI with her new S2 UK Sailmakers chute in May, which was bigger than her 2017 chute. In this photo, the pole had not yet been extended. Photo:
In the case of an asymmetric spinnaker, it is not as simple. The formula for this is not well known and only trial certs, sent into the rating office, can answer this question. For example, I have looked at about 20 different J109 certs, and there eventually comes a realisation of what the best sprit length should be, which in the case of a J109 involves restricting it’s length when sailing under IRC.

The displacement of a yacht is also significant. If a yacht is very tippy in the breeze, adding weight in the form of lead can settle the boat down upwind, as the extra weight will also add a little length to the boat as it sits down further, and in a breeze the longer you are, the faster you will go.

This extra weight can be added easily in the bilge in lead, or could even be added to the bottom of the keel if the design allowed it. Very many quarter tonners and half tonners have added keel extensions, but this is easy for them as their keels are similar shape all the way down. In general, an extra 150 or 200 mm on the bottom of the keel is virtually rating neutral as the extra weight(say 100kgs in a half tonner), is equal to the penalty with the extra draft. What it does is make the boat faster upwind in a breeze, but it is maybe not quite as fast then in Light airs. If weight was only added in the Bilge, it appears that every 1% of weight added equates to about 1 point of rating approximate reduction. So say in a quarter tonner(1400 Kgs), you add 60 kgs in the Bilge, you should get circa 4 points back. It appears there is no penalty for adding lead, up to approx 5 % of a boat displacement. After that, the gain brought by adding lead as weight (one point per 1% approx of weight added) is lessened by these extra penalties.

Sail sizing has got to be checked. Under IRC specifically sized mainsails will have default girth (width)sizes which do not involve a penalty. The sailmakers well know these. The length of the Luff is not measured as the black bands restrict these on the Boom end (E measurement) and at the top of the mast (P measurement). Only the girths and headboard form the mainsail measurement. For boats that do not bring their P measurement all the way to the top but have wide girths, it would likely be better to reduce the Girths in the Main and have a longer luff, to avoid the extra penalties.

With headsails, it seems to appear that not going full length on your Jib Luff(called LL) is treated well by IRC. Trial certs on this have produced good rating reductions.

fools goldRob McConnell's Fools Gold, sporting full UK Sailmakers Ireland Carbon Uni Titanium Main and Headsail on her way to winning Sovereigns week 2017. She benefited on her IRC handicap from a slight Jib luff length(LL) reduction. Photo: Bob Bateman

However, some boats cannot afford any reduction in their headsail sizes. Many boats are now only using non-overlapping Jibs but were originally designed with much larger overlapping Jibs. Examples of these would be J109’s. Beneteau 34.7’s. Half tonners, Quarter Tonners. In the case of the last 2 (half and Quarter tonners), the masts are generally moved further back when they are modernised, as are the Keels, to allow more foretriangle area. In the case of these, lowering the Jib LL(luff length )may be a good option. In the case of the J109 and Beneteau 34.7, the masts are not moved, nor are the keels, so it is important, for the balance of the boat, to maximise the full foretriangle area and so lowering the LL for them is not such a good idea.

Headsail Furlers are not efficient under IRC. There is a small rating gain if you use one large roller headsail plus a very small working Jib. However, this is too restrictive. If you use a roller headsail, even with battens and in a high tech material, it will give you no extra rating benefit and will not be as efficient as a non-roller Headsail. This is because a non-roller Headsail can have long horizontal battens all the way up which allows the sail to have more roach. The sail is also low to the deck which then will get a better airflow on the bottom part of the sail(called end plate effect). Generally, it is more difficult to change a Jib on a roller, so the sails are made more all-purpose, whereas a boat, without a roller may have specific Jibs which they can change for different wind conditions. All this being said, there are boats out there that do well on IRC with rollers. My point is they would likely do even better without them.

Something Else Yacht dublin Bay 1598 Brian and John Hall's J109, Something Else from Dun Laoghaire with her all-purpose roller headsail. Sails provided by UK Sailmakers Ireland. Photo:

Bow down trim can be advantageous on IRC boats, especially if the bow of the boat is already in the water, or very close to it. The reason for this is extra weight placed forward(perhaps lead) will not add a lot of length at the bow, but will lift the stern a lot more. This results in the rated length coming out shorter and so a rating advantage.

Sailmakers have access to the sail size data for all IRC boats, so when owners want to look at changing their sail sizing, the sailmaker can look up successful models of this design which compete elsewhere(maybe the Uk, Maybe France, Holland). This allows them to see precisely what has been working well on other boats and then replicate this for their customer. That is why it is always best to discuss what one wants to do with your sailmaker as they have access to extra valuable information which you may not have.

Getting a boat measured is sometimes regarded as a bit of a Dark art. There is a lot of stories of 'SPECIAL' measurers being less observant or stretching the measuring tape etc. The reality is that to get a good measuring, you need to know what to expect and try and make whatever changes you can in advance, to ensure you get the figures you expect. That means when it is being measured, you know every one of the measurements being taken and if the figure comes out differently, then you query it. Sometimes it can just be a simple mistake, but then is the time to rectify it, not later when you get the rating cert back.

Finally, when you get the cert back, go through every figure and section. If you don’t know what you are looking at, get someone else that does. It is not unknown for there to be inputting errors that can make a substantial difference. Much of the data on the cert involves sail sizing, so your experienced sailmaker, who is used to working with the IRC rule, would be the best one to help you with all this.

At UK Sailmakers Ireland we have three top professional level sailors, two of which are sailmakers, who can help with all the rating optimisation needs. Mark Mansfield is a four times Olympian and has been competing at a high international level on IRC and one design for over 30 years. Barry Hayes, before moving back to Ireland, previously ran the UK Sailmakers Worldwide production facility in Hong Kong and had significant experience over there working on IRC projects. Graham Curran has significant experience in Ireland working on IRC projects, including Fools Gold, which he also sails on.

You should get your sails measured by an In-House Certification (IHC) sail loft so your sails are endorsed and measured by certified IRC - ORC and ISAF professionals. UK Sailmakers Ireland is the only IHC loft in the country. 

Contact us if you think we can help with your boat, either by making it faster with new sails or also by helping with your IRC rating.

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Although there is plenty of sailing to be had at Autumn Leagues around the country, the 2018 Sailing Season is drawing to a close for the majority of us. But this is not a time for despair - rather a time of opportunity!

With the coming of Autumn comes Seasonal Discount season. The perfect time for ordering sails to get the most from your 2019 season.

UK Sailmakers Ireland

UK Sailmakers Ireland is offering percentage discounts off our year-round pricing for orders placed and paid for in September, October, and November 2018.

12.5% discount for payment in full by 31st September 2018

10% discount for payment in full by 30th October 2018

5% discount for payment in full by 31st November 2018

Now is the time to take advantage of the off-season offerings. 

If you had a moment this summer where you felt you could have won that race and bested your racecourse nemesis with a little extra performance, or perhaps you were frustrated with being delayed on your valuable week of cruising by unseen wear and tear, don't repeat the hardship in 2019.

Call or email us and we can find a solution for your needs - ring in 2019 with a new sail from your Irish Sailmaker, UK Sailmakers Ireland

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A great end of season series of results has put the icing on a fine season for UK Sails Ireland, the first season under the new ownership of Barry and Claire Hayes and Graham Curran.

In the 1720 Nationals, just completed in Baltimore, UK Sails again had a clean sweep. In this hotly contested class, UK Sails filled all top four slots.

"UK Sails have filled all three podium positions in the last five years in both the Nationals and Europeans"

Donagh Good's “Da Fishy” from Royal Cork, with Peter O'Leary on the helm, won from Baltimore's Anthony O'Leary’ in Antix, with Robbie English and Ross McDonald’s Rope Dock from Howth Yacht Club, making up the top three. In addition, fourth place was also a UK Sails boat with Tom Hegarty from Baltimore taking this slot. All four were using UK sails Ireland upwind and downwind sails.

1720 sportsboat racing1720 sportsboat racing Photo: Bob Bateman

UK Sails have filled all three podium position in the last five years in both the Nationals and Europeans in the 1720 one-design class.

In the Irish Sea, the final race of the ISORA Series was held last weekend and was an 80–mile race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire and was won by Andrew Hall's J125, Jackknife. Andrew also has a new J121 which he sails in the Mediterranean on which he will compete in the upcoming RORC Middle Sea Race. Both boats use UK Sails Ireland sail inventories.

Hubo UK SailsHubo

In Holland, a newly built one-off 36–footer, Hubo just won the Dutch IRC /ORC Nationals two weekends ago. This boat was only launched in May and UK Sails Ireland was asked to kit the boat out with both it's upwind and downwind sails, featuring its Grand Prix Uni Titanium unwind range.

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UK Sails Ireland sailmaker Graham Curran who competed on 'Fools Gold', Ireland's sole entry at the Offshore Sailing World Championships 2018, reviews the event that was truly the pinnacle of cruiser racing in Europe and concludes IRC and ORC need to work closely together, for the benefit of both organisations, so Irish/UK based sailors can compete uninhibited in Europe, and vice versa.

Offshore Sailing Worlds 2018

The Offshore Sailing World Championship is the premier cruiser/racer keelboat event of the year. It was clear by early 2018 that the competition would be fierce with Class C oversubscribed within a week of entries opening. This resulted in a forty-six boat fleet – no split – forty-six ~35ft cruiser racers on one start line. Class C consisted of a wide variety of yachts – many of which would be familiar to Irish sailors: X-37, J109, X-362 Sport, Beneteau 36.7 (Mod), Farr 30 etc. The class also included several one-off designs built specifically to win this event.

IRC / ORC Balance

The rating system used for the event was an IRC/ORC result combination system. This meant that teams needed to optimise to a good middle ground between the two rating systems. The event in effect was an experiment for the IRC and ORC rating boards to understand the differences in their rules and to help bring them together for closer, more inclusive racing in the future. As racing began, it became clear that some performed better than others.


The IRC system used for this event is the one we all know well in Ireland. Sail and yacht designers know what works and what doesn’t for the IRC rule.

ORC takes the same measurements IRC does, but also includes many extra measurements such as headboard widths of sails, spinnaker halyard hoist height, inclined waterline lengths and overhangs, rig weight etc. ORC then runs these measurements through their VPP model to determine a yacht's performance across a variety of wind ranges (low/medium/high). With ORC you actually have three separate ratings as opposed to the single IRC rating.

On the day of racing, just before the start, the race officer decides which ORC rating he will apply to the fleet depending on the prevailing conditions. This, in theory, provides a fairer rating system for all boats – and encourages designers to produce yachts that are well rounded across all conditions.

An implication of IRC and ORC ratings

The event was not going to be won by straight bullets across the board – no one was going to be able to achieve that in a tight forty-nine boat fleet. The most important factor was decided long before racing began – IRC and ORC ratings – specifically how they compared, interacted and combined.

Being strong in one system and weak in the other resulted in high final numbers. For example – if Boat A finishes with a 1st in ORC and 7th in IRC the final score is 8 points. Boat B has a 3nd in ORC and a 4th in IRC has a final score of 7 points. The consistency of boat B across both handicap systems means she wins the day.

W36 “Hubo”

Hubo is a one-off built for this year’s World Championship. UK Sailmakers Ireland has been involved with this project since its inception. From design through to realisation, construction, commissioning, tuning, and iterative performance improvement.

Hubo performed well across all conditions and was lightning quick downwind. Her square top mainsail provided ample power in the light choppy conditions off The Hague while her underwater profile allowed her to slip through the strong tide just offshore. Although disappointed with their overall position at the end of the event the team are very pleased with the boat’s performance. Hubo currently leads the Dutch National ORC Championship series. With many lessons learned from this year’s World Championship, she will be back strong to compete for many years to come.

Hubo is powered by UK Sailmakers a Uni-Titanium upwind sail package and Matrix spinnakers.

“Our journey with UK Sailmakers has been truly special. Not shying away from innovation, we designed a sustainable racer for the World Championship 2018 requiring an equally bold approach from our sailmaker. Our wishes were their command and in the unbelievably short period between launch and the Worlds, when we were tuning for speed, the designers of UK Sailmakers just knew how to translate those findings into seamlessly designed sails with the right cloth. The team calls the A0 a ‘secret weapon’ for a reason.
Perfect teamwork and we are impressed with the knowledge in-house, which we have stretched to the max. The attention to detail shows me, a professional sailmaking craftmanship at its finest” Erik Van Vuuren – Owner

Archambault A35 “Fools Gold”

In September 2017, after a successful Irish season, Robert McConnell decided it was time for a new challenge for his A35 “Fools Gold” team. The 2018 calendar would include Wave Regatta in Howth, the IRC Europeans in Cowes in June, culminating in the Offshore Sailing Worlds in The Hague in mid-July.

Fools Gold entered the World Championships, as the sole Irish representative, after an encouraging fourth place finish at the IRC Europeans in Cowes. We felt confident, but our ORC performance was still unknown.

The A35 has wide full aft hull sections which provide ample righting moment when upwind and exceptional stability downwind. The downside of this shape is increased wetted surface area – drag. To overcome this more sail area is needed, especially upwind. This upwind sail area is effectively taxed under IRC so, in order to remain handicap competitive in prevailing Irish conditions, a compromise must be made. This optimisation produces a “magic number” of approximately eight knots of true wind speed, in which an A35 is at full power and IRC competitive. Under the magic eight knots it will be a struggle for power.

Fools GoldFools Gold
ORC, being a very detailed rule, takes the above into account, but also simulates the boat’s performance in different conditions. Theoretical values are deduced from the ORC VPP such as acceleration, upwind VMG, beat apparent wind angles, gybe angles etc. Your rating is then determined using these theoretical values derived from the VPP simulation for a range of conditions.

As the inshore racing began, it became evident that the A35 is not kindly rated in the light ORC wind range – based of the simulated values attained. The numbers being seen on the water were in contradiction to the results produced by the ORC VPP.

As the inaugural combined IRC ORC World Championships, the event was an experiment to be learned from. After much discussion with the ORC measurers – with the assistance of IRC – there were some inconsistencies found and some small adjustments made, although not enough to rectify the substantial points differential between IRC and ORC results.

After three days of medium strength conditions, Fools Gold was in a solid 15th position with aims at top 10 by the end of the week. Unfortunately, the forecast had other ideas with the final two days of racing being light and fickle. Great downwind pace could not outweigh the difficulty of holding upwind lanes in these light conditions.

If an A35 were to focus solely on this event then the handicap optimisation would need to be revisited and sail area increased, certainly to the detriment of her IRC competitiveness. The boat would then be uncompetitive in home waters.

Although disappointed with the final 22nd place result Rob and crew are delighted with the event and the experience gained. The Offshore Sailing Worlds 2018 was truly the pinnacle of cruiser racing in Europe. The yachts present, the calibre of competitors, and the quality of the racing were like nothing experienced before. Plans are afoot to return and have another shot at the title.

1st - J112E “J Lance 12”

J Lance 12, having dominated the IRC Europeans, was the favourite entering the World Championships. She is no standard J112E. J Lance 12 is the factory works boat for the J112E line. She has an ultra-high modulus carbon rig, a lighter hull, and a symmetrical spinnaker setup.

She had won the European Championships with ease across a variety of conditions. She was fast, well sailed, and well optimised to both IRC and ORC with rarely more than 4 points differential between her IRC / ORC results.

J Lance 12J Lance 12
She sailed with only six crew for the World Championships where most were sailing with eight. The Hague is a generally light air venue in July, this was key to her success.
Her high upwind mode allowed her to hold tight lanes in the busy fleet and off the start line while her symmetrical spinnaker setup provided her options an asymmetric counterpart would not have.

All of the above combined with a well oiled and experienced crew resulted in a deserved World Championship win.

2nd – ITALIA 9.98 “IMMAC FRAM”

The Italia 9.98 is a seasoned ORC World Championship winning design having won the 2015 and 2016 ORCi World Championships – however, they had not raced extensively under IRC.
The Italia’s sleek lines give her a shorted waterline when flat in a light breeze – reducing her wetted surface and benefiting her handicap – particularly under IRC. Her well-optimised sail plan, deck configuration, cockpit ergonomics and symmetric spinnaker setup make her an intuitive boat to sail.

We found the Italia 9.98 to be particularly fast downwind while being able to hold her own upwind against the majority of the fleet. Provided she sailed the correct lanes in clear air on the first beat she was generally gaining places on the downwind legs – regularly picking up places on the final downwind to the finish.

Although not as well optimised as J Lance 12, IMMAC FRAM was able to produce consistent results across both IRC and ORC, particularly in the medium ORC conditions. Occasionally she would have a large 10 point differential between her results when she finished deeper in the fleet. This hurt her chances of overall victory.

3rd - First 36.7 MOD “Team Pro4u”

This heavily modified First 36.7 has been with her owner for 14 years and has been heavily modified to remain competitive. She is a multiple national and Europeans ORCi Champion and has been on the podium of the ORCi Worlds several times previously.

She is tiller driven with a new keel and rudder by Farr Yacht Design – with another potential keel modification next year. A high modulus carbon rig with curved wing spreaders to increase her fore triangle area. Her cockpit has been extended aft to reduce weight and improve crew ergonomics. She sails with a non-overlapping jib configuration with fine tune system on her in-haulers and halyard so the trimmer from his rail hiking position can alter both. She sailed with a symmetric spinnaker configuration but has bowsprit for a Code Zero/Asymmetric option although she did not run with this for the World Championships.

The non-overlapping configuration certainly worked for her, but only in conjunction with the high modulus carbon rig and the curved wing spreaders. This allows enough headsail area to balance the mainsail and keel configuration.

Pro4u began the week very strong with two excellent results in the offshore portion of the event. In medium/high ORC ranges, she is extremely quick – especially in the flat water around The Hague. Later in the week when the breeze began to slacken and a slight chop developed, she began to struggle upwind, especially with J Lance 12 breathing down her neck.
Pro4u had held the event lead for the entire event until the last race. J Lace 12 match raced her at the start and held her at the back of the fleet in tricky light conditions – there was no way back. J Lace 12 was able to claim overall victory with a better discard.

IRC ORC World Sailing Championships 2018 Conclusion


The IRC ORC World Sailing Championships 2018 was a first attempt combination of two similar but unique rating rules. It was successful in its goal of bringing some of the best yachts and sailors in Europe together on one unified racecourse. However, there are many improvements needed before this event can truly succeed. IRC and ORC need to work closely together, for the benefit of both organisations, to bring the rating systems closer together. Each has their own agenda and vision for how to grow our sport but for the benefit of all sailors, their customers, there need to be bridges built. The goal should be compatible, interchangeable ratings so that Irish/UK based sailors can compete uninhibited in Europe, and vice versa.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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UK Sails Ireland has put sails on two very competitive entries for the inaugural IRC/ORC worlds, commencing in the Hague in Holland this weekend. The boats are Rob McConnell's A35 'Fools Gold' from Dunmore East, with a full Irish crew and Erik Van Vuuren's Waarschip 36 named 'Hubo'. 

Fools Gold, winner of last year's Sovereigns Cup, will sport a full UK Sails Ireland Inventory of Uni Titanium Main and Headsails and will also have UK Spinnakers. On her way to this event she also competed in the IRC Europeans in Cowes and had a creditable fourth place overall in her class.

For the ORC/IRC World Championships, there is an extremely large class of 50 boats from over 10 countries and this will test the teams big fleet sailing abilities.

The crew for the event is:

Rob Kelly - Bow
Bryan O' Donnell - Mast
Lisa Tait - Pit
Graham Curran - Trim 1
Dougie Power - Trim 2
Roy Darrer - Helmsman
Robert McConnell - Mainsail (Skipper)
Tom Fitzpatrick – Tactician

fools goldFools Gold sailing in Sovereigns Week

It is both an inshore and offshore event. The opening offshore race on Sunday is comprised of two sections. The first half of the race will be scored separately while the overall race will also be scored separately. Following these offshore races, there will be three days of inshore racing. 

The Other UK Sails Ireland Boat competing, is Erik Van Vuuren's Waarschip 36 called Hubo. Designed by a Dutch Naval Architect for a Dutch owner, specifically to compete at the IRC/ORC Worlds. Barry Hayes, Director UK Sails Ireland, was contacted to head the Sail and Rig Design for this new project and in particular to develop the sails and "Lead" for the boat. The “Lead" is the technical name given to the balance of the boat. When designing a completely new boat it is important that the mast and keel placing and sail setup are very accurate to ensure the balance on the helm is correct.

Normally this will be done in the design phase and then when the boat hits the water, this can change quite significantly based on how the boat performs on the water. This was the case with this boat and Barry Hayes has been over to Holland a number of times to perfect the sails and balance of the boat.

Hubo is sporting a full Suit of Uk Ireland designed Uni Titanium Mainsail and Jibs, plus Uk downwind sails including a Zero, Jib Staysail, Spinnaker staysail and various Asymmetric and Symmetrical spinnakers.

HuboHubo in upwind mode

Over 80 boats will compete in the 3 Classes at this event, and they range from superfast TP 52s in Class One down to A Dehler 33 which is the smallest boat in Class 3. Class 3 is the class that both Fools Gold and Hubo will compete in, and it will have 50 entries, making it by far the most competitive class in the event.

The event website is here and the results can be found within that site.

Uk Sails Ireland Director, Graham Curran, will be trimming on Fools Gold and will keep us informed of their progress and how the regatta is working out.

Meanwhile, UK Sails Ireland will have a full presence at Volvo Cork Week with Mark Mansfield and Barry Hayes sailing on George Sisk's Wow in what has turned out to be a very competitive class one fleet.

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With the advent of high–tech construction, most upwind sails are now being manufactured in specialist facilities in the likes of Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and South Africa. However, some sails are still being made in Ireland in a few lofts. One of these is UK sails in Crosshaven which still has the ability to build sails in Ireland. Here, Barry Hayes, Director of UK Sailmakers Ireland, explains how sails are designed and constructed. The firm recently provided four new downwind sails for Paul O'Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI and two of these were manufactured in Crosshaven in Cork Harbour.

High–tech upwind sails are now all made on moulds, such as the Titanium and Uni Titanium upwind sails produced by UK Sails at its uber modern new manufacturing facility in Hong Kong.

Fools goldThe A35 Waterford yacht Fools Gold on her way to winning Sovereigns Week in 2017 with her UK Sails Uni Titanium Main and J2 Jib Photo: Bob Bateman

However, downwind sail construction has not changed significantly (apart from Code Zero sails) over the years with nylon type spinnaker cloths still being provided by the likes of Dimension and Contender.

The design of these downwind sails though has changed significantly and updated software programmes ensure that the optimum shapes are always being reproduced, whether the sails are built in Hong Kong or in Crosshaven.

UK Sails also manufactures Panel upwind sails in Crosshaven for various classes and the loft employs seven or more staff throughout the year.

So, how is a sail made from start to finish?

Once the customer has ordered the sail. Then we start designing the sail in 3D real-time view.

We get the measurements from the boat then input these into the design programme. They will then create a boat in a real 3D view for us to design the sail from. From this boat, we will work out the sheeting angles and the overall size of the sail.

For example, if the boat needs a new A1(asymmetric light air reaching sail) we will work out the working angle and the size based off the current working sails and give advise if that needs to be changed. Mostly spinnaker sizing works on Displacement. A heavy boat needs a bigger sail. There are limitations, however, such as mast height. If you have a heavy boat with a short mast, you cannot just increase the sail size by making it wider as there are certain ratios that work well and others don’t. Likewise, if a boat has a masthead halyard off a tall mast, and does not need a very large spinnaker because the boat is light, then that can be a problem, as you end up with tall, narrow spinnakers. In this case, it can be effective to lower the halyard position so you can then make optimum ratio sails.

JPK 10.80 A 1 A3D spinnaker design

JPK 10.80 A 1 C
Once we have worked out the geometry of the sail. Then we will work out the design. Size and shape. So the sail is the correct size and shape for the working angles it is being used in. From there we will work out the colours the customer wanted and the patch sizes.

JPK 10.80 A 1 B

The seam sizes and patch sizes are different for each boat type and boat size. This is based on years of experience, knowledge of the design and how the sail is used, such as if it is being used for offshore or inshore racing.

When all of the sail is designed we then cut out the sail on the plotter. We take each panel and nest them as tightly together as we can to keep the waste to a minimum. Its normal with a spinnaker to have, say, 10% waste for a 40-foot boat. It varies with each sail and size.

Once we have nested the cloth it is then cut out on our 46 ft cutting table called a plotter. This machine can cut out a 40-foot kite in a day (10 hours). This is a normal plotting time for a big sail. The plotter will cut each panel out, number it and draw the seams.

Plotter DrotateUK Sails plotter working on Rockabill VI's A 1.5 Spinnaker

From these cut-out panels, we will put each panel together on the seaming table. This is a very critical point of the process. As the tension on each seam has to be exactly the same. You need lots of experience to do this job and it takes a really good technique. This normally takes about three to four years of experience to get this right.

Seaming EGraham Curran, Director, Uk sails Ireland, attaching the panels at the seaming table
When we stick every seam we will fly the seam by holding it up to the light to check the seam is smooth and ready to be sewn. Most sails are put together in sections. A 40–ft spinnaker will have five main sections. For a dacron headsail, it can have up to 16 panels or four sections. Having the sail in sections makes it easier for handling and putting sections together.

Once you have the panels ready they go to the sewing machine for sewing. This the tricky part as you need to really concentrate and make sure you don’t put a needle wrong. If you stitch out of the seam it will compromise the sail integrity.

Sewing FClaire Morgan, Director, UK Sails Ireland, sewing the panels

All the seams will be sewn and triple stitched. Single or double depending on the size and type of sail which is specified by the designer.

Now the whole sail is together and is then faired to the size. So the luff leech and foot are smooth and a fair line.

Patches HCleo Watkin and Graham Curran fairing the sail

This takes great skill and a good eye to make sure the flying shape or the sail is right. Having too much hollow or too much girth will create a sail that’s slow or too hard to trim. So this has to be correct. Getting this right takes experience and practice.

Once the outline of the sail is finished the patches go on. Each panel of the patch is glued down and sewn again onto the sail.

Finished sail L

The laying of these patches onto the sail has to be done smoothly. So flattening the sail and adding the patches to the panels is tricky work. The sail is pinned out in different areas to make the sail flat so the patches go down correctly.

The sail then heads for finishing. The corners of the sail get all the rings, webbing and hand sewing put on the sail. This type of work gets done on the big sewing machine with a very heavy tread. It uses waxed thread so it doesn’t wear down over time. As the rings in the corners are pulled hard on different points of sailing they are the most worked parts of the sail and the main point of load.

Corner of sail
You can see the sail on a tight reach with the sail loaded and the tack ring taking the load. You can also see the tack retriever patch and pull downline. As well as the bungy hoisting system.

After that, the sail is measured for IRC. As we are an in IHC (in-house measurement certified loft) we measure the size of the sail and if its an endorsed IRC cert or One design we put a World Sailing/ISAF sticker on the sail. This is a guarantee the sail is measured within the rating rule. This specific sticker has a specific generic number on it which certifies the sail. We also record the temperature of the sail when we measure it as this can change depending on the time of the year it's measured.


In the final photo, you can see the finished sail flying on the boat.

Finished sail K

When you order a sail from a loft that produces sails in Ireland, apart from the obvious benefit of supporting home-produced goods, you ensure that if any changes are needed, they can be done quickly and efficiently by properly qualified sailmakers. 

Barry Hayes, Director of Uk Sails Ireland, managed the Main UK Production facility for UK Sails in Hong Kong until last October and has been a sail designer with UK sails for over 15 years.

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Up to about 15 years ago, most boats were designed with big overlapping headsails, which were still pretty useful when reaching because of their size. Then it became evident that this set up was not that efficient and trying to manage very big Geneos was difficult and needed a lot of grunt to tack them. Also, the IRC rating rule seemed to be more advantageous if you reduced your headsail size to the same as the foretriangle. Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland reports.

Boat designers then all started designing their boats with these smaller headsails which were excellent upwind, but it became evident that reaching in lighter airs was an Achilles heel for them.

The loss in power when you’re reaching with a non-overlapping headsail became a problem, so to address this issue, Code Zeros were developed. The big difference is you can normally put up 3 times more sail when you hoist a Code zero, compared to reaching with your non-overlapping Jib.

"You can put up three times more sail when you hoist a code zero, compared to reaching with your non-overlapping jib"

You will likely have seen code zeros on fast offshore yachts such as the Volvo 65 ’s, IMOCA 60’s and others. However, these Code zeros are not restricted by IRC rules. IRC imposes a restriction on these code Zero sails which means to count them as a Spinnaker the mid girth must be at least 75% the size of the foot. If you don’t have this, it is counted and rated as a Jib, which would be punitive for your rating. So all the sail designers have engineered the Code zeros to comply with this rule, and recently they have become much more efficient than they used to be.

In years gone by they were flappy leeched sails, that were not that efficient. Now technology in sailcloth and with better design, they can be made to virtually look like a Jib, but still, they are rated as a spinnaker.

As I mentioned above, it is generally used in lighter reaching conditions, when it is too tight an angle to hoist even an Asymmetric spinnaker. A code zero in 5 or 6 knots at a 50 to 70 degree wind angle is an absolute weapon, and if you find yourself in these conditions, and don’t have one of these, expect to see boats come over the horizon behind you and sail right past you, perhaps doing as much as 2 knots or more extra speed. A Code zero can also be used in more wind when the wind angle is a bit wider and can take the place of a reaching Asymmetric.

A code zero, in many conditions, can virtually go as High as a boat with just a jib. What happens is, say you are going nearly upwind in 5 or 6 knots, you may be doing just 4 knots with your jib, and because you are not going that fast your wind angle is a bit wide. You hoist the Zero. Initially, you have to foot off 15 or so degrees to fill it, get the power in the boat and this, in turn, heels the boat more. That allows you to get your crew on the weather side. The boat speeds up. Now you may be doing 5.5 knots or more and your apparent wind is increasing. This allows you to put the bow up a bit and pretty soon you are nearly doing the same course as before you set the zero, but at maybe 30% more boat speed. This is why virtually every competitive racing boat that sails offshore has a code zero in its inventory.

"Most IRC yachts are rated with three or four spinnakers so choosing which sails to carry for offshore races can be an issue"

Most IRC yachts are rated with 3 or 4 spinnakers so choosing which sails to carry for offshore races can be an issue. Generally, most yachts will include a Code Zero, if they have one, if the wind strength is looking lightish. If it is looking like a windy race, perhaps a small asymmetric might be selected in its place.

For boats over 35 feet, you need a top-down furling system, this is to reduce the load on the furling line when you are furling and it also gives you a very tight furl.

A Top Down Furler

Top-down furling means (above) the tack of the sail is attached to the floating swivel in the furler, so the cable turns and the tack stays still until the first bit of the head is taken onto the cable, then the tack takes up when the body of the sail starts to furl in. This tight furl means you can leave the sail hoisted whilst sailing. As you’re just spinning the cable the load on the furling line is only half that of direct furling, so it’s quick and easy to pull. One person can do this easily.

For boats under 35 direct furling is faster and easier as the loads on the sail are a lot less. So you can get the sail furled up easily.

B Direct furling

The tack of the sail is attached directly to the cable (above), so when the cable spins the sail is furled directly onto it. Note with this system you’re spinning the top and bottom of the sail at the same time. The body of the sail as its fuller doesn't furl up as tightly as the top-down system. This is the main difference between the two systems.

In this video (below) you can see a top-down furling gennaker.

You can see the head of the sail furling onto the cable while the tack stays free. So the main body of the sail is furled up giving a tight furl on the cable.


In the second video (below) you can see the tack stays still until the body is on the sail is on the cable and then the tack takes up.

Now the difference for direct furling is in (above), you can see the tack and the head of the sail furl right away. Its faster for a smaller boat to do it this way. But the furl is a lot thicker and not as clean.

With a top-down furling code zero you will never get a twist in the system. As it will just back out the way it went in.

"With a top-down furling code zero you will never get a twist in the system"

The cable and the furler you use in these systems are the most important part of the system. Some furlers can cost more than the sail. They may also not do what they say they can do. It’s always best to buy a furler that has a top-down option on it so your furler can do top-down and direct furling. 

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.

G FR125RWm C

The cable has to be a torsion cable. Now there are lots of these on the market. Only 10% of these 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. This is great value and does exactly what it says on the box. If you turn the bottom and the top is furling there and then there is no slack in the system.

Halyard tension is a common question. 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 away without any issue.

F UK Sailmakers

The furling line I normally like to have it in a colour that you can see in the dark, a bright colour is always good for night racing. For racing boats the furling line comes to the shrouds or the mast and is stored out of the way.

When racing I leave the code zero plugged in before the start of the race. So the furler and sheet is on the sail clipped on the bow and the sail is stored down the hatch ready to go so you just need to attach the halyard. It's best to hoist the sail before you leave the dock get the lines set up and cleared away ready for the set. You always hoist and drop the sail on the windward side using the headsail to get the sail up and out into the air.

Below is a good example of the polar angles of the Code zero. 

H SailChart1

You can see the working angles of the Code zero and what it can do for your boat. It totally takes over when you are reaching and gives you the power you need. For overlapping boats then the chart is different the code zero becomes less useful as a working sail.

One of the great uses of the code zero is at night or offshore when you are racing. It’s an excellent tool when it’s too windy to hoist the kite. When you broach out you just furl the sail up and get back on the road.


For cruising boats, this is an easy to use great power cruising sail. You can pull it out when it’s light and get the power you need. It’s easy to hoist and furl. You can use your electric winch to furl the sail as well. The same comes in a handy, ready to use bag, so it’s a plug and play sail.

All of the above details, like the cable and furler, still apply and it’s used exactly the same as a racing boat. The only difference is that it has a cruising size roach with 65 % leech hollow.

The sail is perfect for long passages and night cruising passages, when its’ not in use, you can leave it hoisted and unfurl it when you like. You can also add lightweight UV cover onto the leech of the sail and leave it up when not in use short term.

The angles of use for a cruising sail are a little more open as the sail has a hollow leech.

I normally hoist it on the dock and leave it up for the day when I am sailing and use it when it’s needed.

 I J109C0b

The working angles are from 60 to 120 degrees.

Barry Hayes is a sail designer and product development manager and owner of UK Sailmakers Ireland. He is a member of the Board of Directors UK Sailmakers International

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The performance of the UK Sails Ireland team continues to bear fruit, most recently on the competitive race courses of Scotland and Howth last weekend.

In Howth, at the 1720 Europeans, a UK sails 1,2,4 showed the competitiveness of the UK product range. Congratulations to Aoife English and Ross McDonald who sailed Atara to a well-deserved win, followed by Rob O'Leary on Dutch Gold.

The 1720 class over the last 20–years has been a test–bed for sailmakers to show what their latest and greatest technology can do. In the early days, there were up to 70 1720’s competing and development in the shapes and designs has continuously evolved. Designs perfected in this type of hotbed one design transfer then to mainstream Cruiser and IRC shapes.

Over the last three years, UK sails have won every 1720 Europeans title and have also taken second and third in these events showing their dominance in this hotly contested class.

At the Scottish Series last weekend, UK Sails Ireland were delighted with a class win in class 3 IRC for Samurai J the J92 of Alan MacLeod & Andy Knowles. They were flying a UK Sails provided X Drive jib and a mainsail recut in the UK loft in Cork over the winter, to finish ahead of Howth Half–Tonner, Harmony.

In Class RC 35, Brian and John Hall's J109 Something Else from the National Yacht Club, using UK Ireland sails, finished a creditable second to the overall winner, David Kelly's Storm, in this competitive class. They were, in fact, leading after the first day and in the nine races sailed, Something Else finished ahead of Storm in four races. This was all the more laudable when you consider Something Else was using a non-overlapping headsail on a furler.

UK sails will have its full team at this weekend's Wave Regatta in Howth supporting its clients in whatever way possible including on-site repairs. Barry Hayes, Graham Curran and Claire Hayes from the UK Ireland loft will be in attendance.

Mark Mansfield, UK Sails agent and racing Consultant will also be at Wave Regatta.

Both Curran and Mansfield both leave Wave Regatta to take part in the 2018 IRC European Championships being held in Cowes the following weekend. Curran will be trimming aboard Rob Mc Connell's (UK sails Powered) A 35, Fools Gold, which was the overall winner of the 2017 Sovereigns Week. Fools Gold then goes on to Compete in the IRC Worlds in the Hague in Holland in August.

Barry Hayes leaves Wave Regatta for Holland to Sail trial Uk sails Ireland provided sails for the brand New designed Waarship 36. This innovative new design has been built particularly to try and win the 2018 IRC Worlds in the Hague, Holland and will sport UK Uni Titanium Jibs and Mains and UK Spinnakers.

W36 home2Waarship 36 –powered by Uk sails Ireland Uni Titanium upwind sails and SK75 spinnakers

Immediately after Wave, Mansfield will sail in the IRC Europeans in Cowes as Tactician on John Smart's J109, Jukebox, Then moves on a few days later to do the same role on Paul Gibbons Quarter Tonner, Anchor Challenge at the Quarter Ton Cup in Cowes, then a few days later joins Paul O'Higgins JPK Rockabill VI in the Round Ireland race. Rockabill VI includes UK sails in her inventory this year.

UK Sails Ireland will also be providing Back up service in July at Cork Week which is home to the Uk Sails Ireland Loft.

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Sailing Professional Mark Mansfield, who is a Racing Consultant with UK Sailmakers Ireland, goes through the different spinnaker sail options and how to set and control each of them. This is the latest in a series of information articles produced in conjunction with Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA).

Up to about 15 years ago it was all very simple when you got around the top mark. You set your spinnaker. If it was windy, you likely had a heavy spinnaker with heavier cloth. You might even have had a reaching version if you had a fancy boat.

Now, that has all moved on. Spinnaker technology has completely changed, especially with the continued development of asymmetric spinnakers. These type of sails came from newer, faster planning boats, where it was found that the more closed leech symmetrical ('normal') spinnakers did not allow the boats to get up and plane easily.

However, asymmetric spinnakers are no longer all about planing. For cruisers, it was discovered that an asymmetric spinnaker on a sprit was easier to gybe, requiring less crew and also was particularly well rated on IRC. Yacht manufacturers like J boats jumped on that early and now virtually all J boat designs have sprits and asymmetric spinnakers, and do very well in racing.

Mark Mansfield trimming spinnaker 1069Article author Mark Mansfield (red hat) trimming an asymmetric spinnaker on a J109 in the 2017 Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo:

The J109 is an example of this. It uses only asymmetric spinnakers and these are very well suited for the design and as a result it wins regularly on IRC and in Ireland attracts great sailing with over 15 in the country presently.

What are the Spinnaker Options?

People are always getting confused by what spinnaker they need and the designation for it. You Hear of an A2, an S4 a Code 0. Many ask what do these stand for? The graph below explains this.

Asymmetric Spinnakers Designations

Code 0—Ultra reaching light air Asymmetric
1A Light Air Reaching Asymmetrical
2A Light Air Running Asymmetrical
3A Heavy Air Reaching Asymmetrical
4A Heavy Air Running Asymmetrical
5A Extreme Wind Asymmetrical

The code zero is a new addition in recent years. On IRC it rates as a spinnaker as its mid girth is over 75% of its foot. However, these are nearly genoa like shapes and are used for light air reaching, where a normal spinnaker could not be hoisted as the wind is too far ahead. So instead of reaching with your jib, you hoist this sail, which is likely at least twice as large as your Jib. Code 0 designs have moved on a lot in. Recent years and instead of the Old code 0’s which had flappy leeches, the new Code 0’s are much more efficient.

WOW Farr 42 Spinnaker George Sisk's Farr 42 Wow with her new UK sails A 2 spinnaker projected to windward—tack line off a touch Photo:

Symmetric Spinnakers--Designations 

1S Light Air Reaching Symmetrical
2S Light Air Running Symmetrical
3S Heavy Air Reaching Symmetrical
4S Heavy Air Running Symmetrical
5S Extreme Air Symmetrical 

Rockabill Spnnaker 1800Paul O Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill V1 with her new UK sails S2 Symmetrical Spinnaker Photo:

How to Set & Trim your Spinnaker

Asymmetric Spinnakers – Setting an Asymmetric spinnaker is pretty straightforward. First get the tack to the end of the sprit/bowsprit. If you have a mechanism like we have on UK sails asymmetrics, where there is a shockchord band built into the luffs, use this to stop the tack opening too early.

When the hoist is called, a quick bear off of the helm, bounce the chute up quickly, and even before it hits the top, the jib halyard should be released so that it drops a few metres initially. This then allows the head of the Asymmetric to fill quickly which drags the rest of the Asymmetric forward and it normally fills with a big whoosh. It is important that the sheet is allowed to spill out quickly until the moment that it just starts to curl, as without a quick spill, the boat is liable to become overpowered and round up. Once filled, the first thing I always ask is for the Other Spinnaker sheet to be loaded immediately on the other winch so that if I opt for a very early gybe, we are immediately ready. This is very important as often after rounding a top mark, it can get very crowded to weather with boats trying to go over the top of you and sometimes a quick gybe can be completed and you can exit the pack easily.

Gybing an Asymmetric—inside  Ensure you take in all the slack on your lazy sheet. As the boat goes into the gybe ease the old sheet, but do not let it go completely as the clew will get too far forward and then when you gybe it can easily twist. Best to hold the sheet until you feel the pressure coming on the new sheet. Normally one or two crew will manhandle the new sheet around the front of the forestay. The sheet trimmer will need to sheet on a good bit initially, then when it fills, a big release is necessary to get it out.

Gybing an Asymmetric—outside This is the best way if your sprit is quite short, as there may not be enough room to get it across between the forestay and the chute. It is slower however and if an inside gybe can be achieved, it is normally a better way to go. With an outside gybe, you just let the sheet go completely and flag the sail out in front. Then, when the boat is passed dead downwind, the new sheet is brought in. There will be a lot of sheet to come in though, and this can take some seconds where the spinnaker will not be filling. It is the best option if you are short crewed and in much bigger boats it is a safer bet with less chance of a wrap.

Trimming an Asymmetric

Running with an Asymmetric is quite difficult as if it is too deep, the spinnaker gets into the bad air of the main and collapses. It is important to try and get the spinnaker projected to windward and steady. Positioning your crew up by the shrouds, to windward will help this projection, as will a release of the tackline. My guide to how much tackline to release is to initially ease the tackline quite a lot, then wind it back in, while the trimmer keeps trimming the chute. The asymmetric spinnaker should rotate to windward as the tackline comes on, then there will come a point where it stops rotating to windward and goes the other way. That is normally when the tackline is in the correct position—just when it tries to go the wrong way.

Unlike a symmetric spinnaker, it is best not to have a permanent curl on the luff. I find that you always need to be trying to ease the sheet and when it curls, take the curl out. Very often you see a curl, you pull in one foot of sheet and the curl disappears, then you can release about four feet quickly till it curls again, then a foot back in. It must be a constant thing, happening all the time.

Likewise, the trimmer must be talking constantly to the helm. The trimmer, I often say, drives the boat downwind, the helm just turns the wheel and does what he is told. The trimmer needs to sense when the pressure is strong immediately and call the helm to bear away. Likewise if his sheet is getting slack, he must call the helm up. Getting deep downwind is an art and the trimmer is the artist. A quiet trimmer is rarely a good trimmer.

JackHammer J122Jackhammer, the new J121 with her Uk sails Ireland code 0 showing how it can be carried up the wind range and sheeted very close

Dropping an Asymmetric

This can sometimes be a bit exciting, especially if you are reaching into the mark. If at all possible drop the spinnaker on what will be the new leeward side on the next hoist. Changing the gear from one side to another, while going upwind is very slow. Sometimes however , especially if coming in on a tight reach, there is no choice—you have to do a Leeward drop. This is generally to be avoided if possible as it is much more likely that you will put the chute in the water on a leeward drop.

It is much better to try and arrange your gybes to come in and be able to do a windward drop. With a windward drop, just get one or two crew all set up on the weather lazy sheet, make sure they are right back towards the shrouds as you want to get as much of the sail around the forestay as possible. Dump the tack line, pole out and spinnaker sheet at the same moment which should allow the spinnaker to flag easily out the front, then pull the windward sheet hard and make sure to get all the foot in quickly. Then down the hatch.

A leeward drop is a lot more difficult. It is best to have a retrieval line attached to the tack. This goes under the jib and above the lifelines. Have 2 crew braced and ready to pull this. Dump the pole, then throw some halyard and release the sheet at the same moment. The spinnaker should collapse, then the two braced people have to pull like mad to get it out of the water. The tackline is dumped at this juncture and the halyard is held until you see it in control, then progressively eased. Not for the fainthearted and this option should be avoided if at all possible.

Finally, there is a Mexican drop (sometimes called a Kiwi), where you are gybing at the bottom mark. The trick here is a wide rounding, a slow gybe, hold the spinnaker sheet tight on the leeward side until you gybe, then just leave the spinnaker collapse into the spreaders as you gybe(slowly, hopefully), then the halyard goes fully and the spinnaker is dragged down the windward side. It might sound complicated but it can be the safest choice to ensure it does not go in the water.

Symmetric spinnakers

Hoisting – Similar to an asymmetric, just set the pole up before you round, get deepish quickly, get the poll back early. Try and preset the sheet to a mark, so that when you hoist and bear off it fills immediately. Again, always we set up immediately for a gybe.

Trimming – Running downwind the clews should be level, However, often it is best to choke down the sheet to leeward to keep the spinnaker from skying. Once this is done, then the pole may not have to be raised on the outboard end too much. Always have the pole level to ensure max projection.

The weather luff should not over rotate too much over the line of the end of the pole. If you do, that will actually make the projected area smaller. Better to pull the pole aft as much as you can, keeping the weather luff nearly parallel to the mast, easing the sheet regularly but not so much that it rolls over itself.

When you gybe, try and get all the crew to move their weight to windward just as you gybe, that heels the boat to windward, helps the boat to bear off without a lot of helm movement. Then, once the main swings through, all the crew jump to windward, and this rocks the boat through the gybe. Also if the boat ends up then heeled to windward that keeps the spinnaker out on that side, until the pole is sorted. As a practice move, I often take off the pole altogether and the crew go through a series of gybes without a pole, using body weight to help the spinnaker move from one side to the other.

In strong winds, dead downwind, it is best to ease the pole a bit forward and overtrim the sheet to keep the spinnaker from swaying around. This will help the control. Also pull in the mainsheet a bit to prevent the Chinese type windward broach which is never pretty.

Fools gold UK sailsRob Mc Connell's Fools Gold with her UK sails S2 spinnaker and Uni Titanium Main, on the way to winning Sovereigns week 2017

Is it best to go Asymmetric/Symmetric?

Faster, planing boats will always go asymmetric, as they can maybe double in speed when they plane, and it is easier to get on the plane with an asymmetric. With slower, displacement boats it is a more difficult choice.

You can, of course, have a combination of both, have symmetric sails for running, and Asymmetric sails for reaching. However, an Asymmetric sail sets best on a prod and if you have both a pole and a prod, the prod can't be any longer than the distance the pole extends out over the pulpit (STL measurement on IRC), unless you want to extend your STL at the cost of your rating. Most boats with symmetrical spinnakers who are competitive, will have at least one asymmetric spinnaker as well, normally an A3 for reaching.

The IRC rule gives an advantage in rating to a sprit only boat, as that boat is unable to pull back the sprit like you could with a symmetrical pole. As a result, for the same rating, you normally can get approximately 10% to 15% more spinnaker area with a sprit only boat. In light airs, when a boat with a pole has to heat up anyway and have the pole close to the forestay, then the sprit boat can go at the same angle and have maybe 15% more sail. Clearly, a win for the sprit boat. In medium winds, up to about 15 knots, the sprit boats, setting a nicely set modern asymmetrical A2 chute, can likely match a symmetrical boat downwind, as it can't go as deep, but it has more sail area. Above 15 knots, the poled out symmetrical boats come into their own, they can go virtually dead downwind, whereas the asymmetrical boats still have to stay maybe 15 degrees off dead downwind as if they go too deep, the asymmetric, sometimes in a second, just collapses as it gets bad wind from the mainsail.

Offshore though, the asymmetric finds a lot of favour, as unlike windward/Leeward racing, offshore racing often has a lot of reaching, and with the extra sail area that an asymmetric boat can carry for free, it has a great advantage reaching. Often you will see competitive boats completely change to a sprit mode for a race like the Round Ireland or Fastnet and then change their rating back to a symmetrical setup for inshore racing. It needs a lot of sails and a big bank account for that though as the spinnaker sizings would be different.

Crewing an asymmetrical boat is easier, especially handling the spinnakers. A symmetrical set up needs a very good bowman, otherwise there is real trouble in store. I am sure most of the good asymmetrical boats also have very good bowman, but even some inexperienced bowman on a sprit boat can get away with most hoists and drops.

There maybe a lot of choices nowadays and it can all be a bit confusing, but there is no doubt that having the right inventory of downwind sails will bring a big advantage.

All the best and fair sailing.

Mark Mansfield
Racing Consultant /Agent for UK sails Ireland
Ph 087 2506838
E mail—[email protected]

Other articles in the UK Sailmakers Ireland/ICRA 'How to...' Series:

Introducing The UK Sailmakers Ireland 'How To' Article Series

Sailmaking Tips & Tricks: Battens, Furling & Caring for Sails

Tuning a Fractional Mast & Rig

Changing Gears in Different Wind Conditions

Downwind Sails—What Are The Options?

Sail Design: Where Are We Now?

Rig Tuning—Adjusting Mast & Rigging in Different Wind Conditions

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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Royal Irish Yacht Club Skipper George Sisk has had the Farr 42 WOW! for nearly ten years so there was a feeling that it was time to look at a new boat for his Dublin Bay and Irish yacht racing campaigns. But WOW! has been a great boat for him over the years. In particular in 2015, when he won both the ICRA Nationals in Kinsale and also won his class and overall at Dun Laoghaire Regatta. These outstanding results culminated in the ICRA Boat of the Year accolade for 2015.  

George briefly flirted with a J111 but the draw of the Farr 42 was never far away. So a decision was made at the end of 2017 to see if WOW! could be brought more up to date, improve areas of weakness and see if she could live with some of the fancy new kit coming out these days. Mark Mansfield of UK Sailmakers Ireland reports on these latest developments.

A team of 'knowledgeable heads' looked at the boat to see what could be done. These included George and some of his key crew, the Farr Design office and Barry Hayes from UK Ireland Sailmakers. Some areas for improvement were identified:

  • WOW! was a bit slow out of tacks and a bit difficult to keep in the groove. A decision was made that a more IRC friendly fin keel would be a better option to the fin and torpedo that she had. This deeper more straightforward keel was relatively rating neutral.
  • WOW!'s asymmetric spinnakers were too tall and not wide enough due to her having masthead spinnakers. With the size of chute that was best on IRC, it was felt that a lower halyard exit would allow her spinnakers to be less tubular and a better, more correct shape. Barry Hayes then designed her new downwind sail wardrobe with this change in mind. The results, shown in the photograph below, are evident. The asymmetric sail now floats perfectly to windward and sits there allowing WOW! to sail deep and fast, with less sheet movement. Also her new Code 0 can now have a fully taught luff to allow the sail to be used to its best advantage, due to the lowering of the halyard exit and also because of the advances in sail technology. This Code 0 utilises a top down Ubi Maior furler, which has a cable in the luff allowing it to be furled and deployed easily. 

WOW Spinnaker 1WOW! with George Sisk on the helm showing off her new UK Sails Uni Titanium moulded mainsail and A2 running spinnaker Photo:

The next identified area for improvement was gybing the main in strong winds. The solution was a new pair of electrically operated winches, Organised again through Barry Hayes in UK Sailmakers through their Harken winch and hardware agency, so that the main could easily and quickly be centralised.

"a solution to improve gybing the mainsail in strong winds was a new pair of electrically operated winches"

Only time will tell if these changes will make a difference. A new suit of UK Uni Titanium–Grand Prix Molded upwind sails was also selected, taking advantage of technology changes over the past few years. 

WOW upwind 1WOW! with her UK Sails Uni Titanium Molded main and J2 Jib Photo:

Initial testing in Dublin Bay last weekend was very promising as WOW! blasted around the DBSC course. Barry Hayes and I were on hand to initially set up the rig and then to assist in the sail trials followed by competing in the DBSC race.

The sailing plan for WOW! is still being finalised for this year and may include some or all of: the Round Ireland Race, Cork Week and Wave Regatta. What will happen for sure is WOW! will, as she has always done, be a regular competitor in the DBSC series in Dublin bay, which is a firm favourite for George and his crew.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
Tagged under
Page 7 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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