A long time ago when I brought the first very second-hand Squib to Howth Yacht Club in 1979, things were different writes WM Nixon. After all, it was forty years ago (there’s another local class anniversary for you), and I’d spent the 1970s either racing offshore under IOR as it then was, with 150% genoas, or cruising in good old-fashioned boats where a taut forestay was likewise de rigeur.
Sometimes crews were so keen to straighten the forestay on hot offshore racers that they found their over-use of the hydraulic backstay tensioner was slowly driving the foot of the mast through the bottom of the boat. As for narrowing the slot between jib and mainsail, it was thought to look scruffy - “I don’t like the cut of his jib” had real meaning.
So it was interesting to note the recent North Sails piece on Afloat.ie about the benefit of giving the forestay a little bit of sag to help performance in light airs. Just how much sag you should give presumably depends on many factors, but on boats where the headsail is really only a jib, such as the Etchells 22 or Squib, it seems that anything goes.
Certainly, I felt distinctly prehistoric over the years, in becoming aware of the way Squibs were experimenting with slack forestays and the clew hauled well inboard. It looked plain wrong. But it worked. That said, in the quaint photo of 40 years ago where I’m helming in considerable comfort thanks to a marvellous crew in Ian Jackson, who could sit right out ramrod straight for as long as was needed, there certainly were other Squibs out racing, but there doesn’t seem to be one in front of us…….