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How Slack Can You Go With a Forestay & Still Get Benefit?

27th March 2019
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Headsail trim on the Nixon Squib in the good old days of forty years ago, with taut forestays and wide slots… Headsail trim on the Nixon Squib in the good old days of forty years ago, with taut forestays and wide slots… Photo: Jaimie Blandford

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…….

squib jib2Do you like the cut of his jib? Squib jib trim as it is today

Published in Squib
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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