The Eventider's News


 Issue 2  Spring/Summer 2004

 Site Home Page The Open Sea

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Setting up the rig.

I am often asked why I take so much trouble with my rig. The reason is simple, our craft are not greyhounds so they need all the help they can get, to get from A to B as quickly as possible. We are not racers, but with a good setup and well set sails, properly trimmed, it can make the difference between missing the tide and not, missing the shops, or the marina fuel berth.

It is not a difficult task to give your boat a head start, just a simple matter of step by step procedure.

Our craft, for the most part, have deck stepped masts in tabernacles. This allows us to raise and lower our own rigs. It also simplifies setting up.

The mast should be straight and upright. Upright, meaning not leaning to port or starboard and no with excessive rake. On the E.24 plans years ago I measured a mast rake of over 18", indeed, my old ‘Bluenose’ looked a bit like a pirate dhow in her early days. I replaced the wooden mast, with an aluminium one, in an effort to lessen the weight aloft. (I also increased the ballast at the same time.).  When doing so I removed almost all of that rake, till it were less than the fore and aft measurement of the mast, 5". This reduction of rake reduces the weatherhelm of course. The difference was as a different boat!

When doing this one must be certain the boom is not now too long that it might catch the backstay(s) if caught by a sudden gybe and the kicking strap not fixed. (I have had to alter booms on several craft to ensure this can not happen, it is not too difficult.) I have sailed on one where it did hit, and the resulting damage nearly cost the mast, it caused extreme damage to the chainplate fastenings and bulkheads as it was.

Having sorted the boom length, it is often better to remove it and the weight of it on that topping lift, whilst setting up. Now we can turn our attention to getting the mast upright and in the centre of the boat. Using a masthead halyard, made we trust from a non stretchy material such as Terylene, we can test to see if the mast is off centre, by checking the difference with it, from fixed points either side of the mast. Pull the mast sideways gently to port or stbd with the topmast shrouds. This way the masthead will now be in the centre.

The topmast shrouds can be tightened now, equal turns on each till the rig feels taught, a rule I was taught was as tight as you can turn by hand. However with small smooth rigging screws I tend to use a 3" spike to tension the rig. When sailing later, if there is any discernable slack in the lee shroud, the rig can be further equally tightened, both sides, to prevent the slack. You will have to tack and tighten the other lee shroud the same amount. Check the mast top is still in the centre. You might have to motor into the wind to check this.

(As the lowers are tightened later, any sideways bend can easily be removed. To check for bend sight up the sail track, it will be obvious.)

Now turn your attention to the backstay(s) and upper forestay. Tension hand tight, and using a masthead halyard, as a plumb bob, normally the main halyard, allow it to hang behind the mast with a suitable weight on it, to measure the rake. You have to do this in calm weather of course, as the halyard will be blown about and useless as a measure if there is any wind. I aim for less than 3" rake on F.G.

The backstay(s), forestay and cap shrouds only correct the position of the head or top of the mast. I would now equally tighten them, remember if you like me, have twin backstays, there is considerably more power there than in a single forestay. I have found that I need never alter the forestay length now, so the rig is slackened or tightened simply by use of the backstays. You will not find this out till you have set up the rig for the first time, then come to slacken off the backstays at the end of the season. The backstay tension is important to prevent the forestay slacking off to leeward under sail pressure. I use a 6" bar to tension mine, they need to be tight. Check the mast is now raked just enough. (3").

Cutter rig. The lower shrouds and the inner forestay, can now be adjusted.

The idea of the lower shrouds and forestay is to alter the shape of the mast. To put that bend in it. The intention is to achieve a static bend in the mast, bowing forward by about half the fore and aft diameter of the mast, in my case half of 6" equates to 3" bend. The lower forestay in my cutter rig is now tensioned to make the mast bend. Look up the side of the mast, it is easy to see the bend and by sighting up it to figure out when the spreader roots, (in the middle of the side of the mast) are in line with the front edge of the mast top.

It sounds as if this is going to cause terrible stress, but believe me it is not a problem. Later when sailing you will be amazed to see the bend has gone, the mast now straight as a die, if we have tensioned it correctly!

Sloop rig. The forward pair of lowers are used instead of an inner forestay or baby stay. Get that mast bend in. If using a pair of forward lowers, sight up the sail track as well to make sure the mast is not pulled sideways out of true.

Now gently tighten up shrouds on a cutter and aft lowers on a sloop. The idea here is to offset the pull of the forestay or forward lowers in the case of a sloop. At the same time check continuously that the mast is not pulled sideways out of true. Check the fore and aft bend by looking up the side of the mast, check the straightness of the mast, by sighting up the sail track. It should be as plain as a pike staff if there is a kink one way or the other. Tighten hard by hand.

Now it is time to get the sails on her and try it. I used to wait till after I had tested it under sail before I taped up the rigging screws and all the pins, now having done it so many times I tend to tape them all up before I sail. Yes I have had to take tape off and tighten further once or twice! Till you have got it right, leave the tape off, but do not forget to lock those rigging screws and tape those pins.

The lower shroud tensions are what really controls the mast head sag. We are trying to keep the mast on the centre line in lightest airs, but allow it to sag off at the head in stronger winds. Lowers too slack and the mast will actually bend up wind in a blow, bad news!! Makes sails too baggy and you will blow down wind like a paper bag, not what we are trying to achieve.

Also check that the mast is now straight fore and aft as you sail. The pull of the foresail on the masthead, the mainsail’s pull in the centre of the mast, will amazingly straighten out that bend. If it over bends, you must harden up the forward shrouds in a sloop, or the lower forestay in a cutter. If the bend is not cancelled out when sailing, then you have too much tension, redo it with less bend.

The difference is felt at the helm. A well tuned rig will make the boat come alive, a sloppy rig will feel and sail accordingly!

That will be the crew that miss will last orders!

John Williams, E.26, ‘Fiddler’s Green’

I have always used the Yachting Monthly publication, ‘Sailpower’ as my guide for setting up my rig and general sail trim etc. It may still be available from them, was £2.50, well worth it.



Cutter or Sloop?

The Sail plan for the Eventide allows two basic rigs, masthead sloop and cutter.

The most popular is cutter, with a bowsprit to counter Weatherhelm.  See Owners Tips page on the web site!

The topmast shrouds, go down in line with the mast, Shrouds from the spreader roots go about 18 inches aft of these and the intermediate shrouds another 18 inches behind them.  Measurements approx.

At the point the Intermediate shrouds attach to the mast, there is normally a band with the inner forestay attachment, that goes to the stem.  The top most forestay goes to the end of the bowsprit.  There can be one or two backstays, even a split backstay to go either side of a rudder, if the transom hung option, ( recommended) is fitted.

The Main sail on a 26 is 160 square ft.  The Genoa is shown as 166 sq ft.  I would say the genoa can easily be larger.  Mine is 225 sq ft.  The clew just overlaps the mast!  Mine is cut quite high, cruiser style, so I can see under it, see pics of F.G. on the site. 

The genoa tacks to the end of the bowsprit, 3'3" out and sheets to a track mounted block that can be adjusted along the raised deck.  My block is about 2 ft forward of the cabin rear bulkhead, it then leads nicely to a winch on raised cockpit coaming.  Be sure winches lean back so rope does not ride up!

My staysl is on a boom, self tacking, pivoting about a foot aft of the stem.  The single sheet is led to a jammer.

If I rig a storm jib, and i hope  never to have to in anger, I have a pair of fairleads on short tracks mounted on the cabin top alongside the mast, from there sheets go aft to the genoa fairleads and to the winches.

Have fun tinkering,

John Williams



Re printed from  November 1995

Bowsprits. When we purchased Bluenose our E24 she came complete with a bowsprit, a wooden pole, 3 ft. 3 ins. overhang, and brought inboard to the samson post. We used Bluenose for five years, the only mod. to her bowsprit being a brass hook screwed to the port side just out from the bow, so that we could get the anchor ( C.Q.R.. type ) off the deck.

During the last two years, whilst refitting and refurbishing, I decided to replace the pole with a plank. This now enables us to stand on it for sail changing, or anchor work, or even going ashore in marinas. I also extended the sprit 3 ins. out to make it 3 ft. 6 ins. overhang, just to keep the two forestays parallel (only for looks). I had toyed with anchor storage ideas and eventually it dawned on me that only could it be stowed there but worked from there as well.

The result is a pair of rollers, port and starboard, about 1 ft. out from the bow in which the anchor, a 30 lb. plough is stowed and retained by a drop nose pin. Another set of rollers is on the stem head itself, together with the attachment for the forestay. A chain pawl is fitted to the port roller for anchor work. The starboard is left clear for our mooring chain.

The advantages of the outboard rollers are numerous. It allows the anchor to be self stowing. The roller, a trailer roller made of rubber, being wide enough for the shank and pivot of the plough and no mess brought on deck. The rollers being a foot outboard mean that the chain does not grate along the hull scraping off the paint. Neither does the mooring chain. In really strong wind over tide conditions a rolling hitch can be put on the chain and the other end secured to the bowsprit end. This keeps the chain totally clear of the topsides. We normally leave her like this on her mooring and have not lost any paint since adopting this idea (See Cruising under Sail).

The inboard pair of rollers are nylon, the outboard rubber. This was done mainly for noise reduction.

As we have lost some of our samson post by butting the heel of the sprit against it I have fitted a cleat on top of the sprit a little forward of the samson post.

All my bowsprit fittings are welded flat bar and galvanised. I have secured everything with stainless nuts & bolts. I have found that the galvanised nuts and bolts I previously had used were not a success, the galvanising wore off too quickly and they were difficult to undo as well as weakened by rust on the threads. The stainless and galvanised seem to be alright together above the waterline.

The top of the sprit is painted with non-slip deck paint and the rest with Teak Oil. We have had enough of varnishing.

The reason for the sprit is the usual weather helm. The bowsprit is a complete success on Bluenose; indeed she looks bare without it. She carries a nicely balanced helm up to about F.3. and a slight weather helm from there up. We have fitted Wykeham Martin gear to our Staysail (inner jib) and to reduce sail we furl this first, from the cockpit, leaving the jib set on the sprit; like that the helm remains almost balanced.

When we can afford it roller reefing gear on the jib and a large genny will make the sprit even more useful, and not needing any bowsprit shrouds, we should find mooring easier too.

John Williams.

Post script. that was written many years ago and of course reprinted a few times too.  We did fit roller reefing, and had a larger, 200 sq. ft genny.  That made for better sailing and less helm again, and we used the motor less.  we found we could go to windward under genny alone and even tack!  Needless to say all these mods were built into 'Fiddler's Green' as she progressed.  F.G can do all that and more, with a genny of over 225 sq. ft, and the self tacking staysl, she is quite a joy to handle.