Posts Tagged 'sunfish rigging'

Harken blocks: ratchet vs. ratchamatic

Harken has put together a nice video that explains the difference between a ratchet block and a ratchamatic block.

the main difference is that the ratchamatic blocks are load-sensing and have a “ratchet that instantly engages when a predetermined load is reached. When unloaded, the ratchet pawl seamlessly disengages to allow the sheet to run out instantly during mark roundings and jibes. The Ratchamatic allows lightly-loaded sheets to run freely in both directions for fingertip control” (source: Harken Q&A)

Sunfish sailors often use one of the following blocks for their mainsheet control:

I’ve traditionally used the 2135 (shown here on my mainsheet controls upgrade post), as it is usually cheaper, and the switch is usually easy enough to reach if I wanted to release the ratchet mechanism to allow the line to run freely. for a Sunfish sailor looking to race, the 2625 might be a better option as it will let the mainsheet out easier when your time spent changing tacks could make the difference in a race.

h/t: @harken

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how to rig a Sunfish [video]

here is an another video on how to rig, or set up, your Sunfish so that it is ready to sail.  this video was created by Carolina State Parks – it looks like Sunfish are available to use at Lake Norman Community Sailing.

they give the following steps:

  • Securing the Drain Plugs
  • Attaching the Rudder
  • Attach and Hoist the Mainsail
  • Rigging the Mainsheet
  • Rigging the Daggerboard

I’ve posted other videos and various topics previously on how to rig your Sunfish.

tack your Sunfish step by step [video]

here is another great video from Steve King of North Shore Yacht Club in Highland Park, Illinois. I’ve previously posted his great videos for “rigging a Sunfish sailboat” and “rigging a Sunfish sailboat – part 2” and a promo video for “North Shore Yacht Club“.

in this video, Steve breaks down the tacking sequence into the following main steps, and shows the sequence in slow motion for each part:

  • step 1: ease the mainsheet approx 1 foot
  • step 2: push tiller to full leeward (max 45 degrees from boat centerline)
  • step 3: duck and turn (you can certainly see the advantage of mainsheet hangers during the duck and turn step!)
  • step 4: center the tiller only after the sail fills with wind (note: your hands are currently still reversed with the tiller held behind your back)
  • step 5: slide aft hand along sheet to grab both the sheet and tiller
  • step 6: grab sheet in forward hand and sheet in

this is more or less exactly how I’ve been doing it, maybe not quite as smooth and practiced as he shows!  thoughts? anyone out there with a preferred method that you’ve perfected as an alternate?

this video method is certainly different than this previously suggested sunfish tacking technique.

sunfish sailing in the rain

it was an interesting afternoon: winds seemed light and shifty at times and the sky out on the horizon looked dark and cloudy. radar showed a big storm coming across Lake Michigan, but it seemed like it might pass up to the north of Camp. my son T2 and I decided to try sailing on our Sunfish and Minifish despite the chance of rain.

as we started rigging our boats the first rain drops started to fall. but I didn’t see anything to dark on the horizon and had not heard any thunder. we figured let’s try it out and see if we could at least get a quick sail.

I sent him off in the Minifish and then raised the sail on my Sunfish. winds were mostly from the south and had picked up some. rain continued to drip down on me, just a nice gentle rain.

as we sailed, the wind and waves both kept increasing as the rainstorm kept coming from the west and across Lake Michigan. I was able to snap a few pics before it got too intense.

T2 sailing behind me, Camp Arcadia on the shoreline of Lake Michigan behind him.

the cool rain was awesome and as the wind and waves kept picking up it just got better. we were both flying across the water, mostly just reaches east and west, as I didn’t want to wander to far north or south up the shoreline with the storm close.

it was an awesome afternoon of sailing!

rigging a Sunfish sailboat – part 2[video]

this is a great follow-up video on Sunfish rigging setups that was created by Steve King of North Shore Yacht Club in Highland Park, Illinois.  his 1st video was a fantastic introduction to standard Sunfish rigging.

this 2nd video goes in depth a bit more on some of the specific sail settings:

  • halyard position – gives a setting for racing and a setting for cruising or recreational sailing (especially helpful with a guest on the boat)
  • adjustable gooseneck position – settings adjustments based on wind speed
  • outhaul and cunningham controls – additional controls that you can add to the lower boom to adjust the sail shape

I really like how they add some white colored tape on the upper spar to show the 2 different halyard positions that they like to use.  measuring from the top of the upper spar, they use 54″ for racing and 74″ for recreational sailing (but note that the 74″ setting should probably not be used in high winds, as this setting raises the sail up quite a bit, and the overturning forces from the wind could damage the mast step at the Sunfish deck).  the tape takes the guesswork out of it: so you don’t have to count sail rings, or grab a tape measure to try to make sure the halyard knot is set in the right position, because after the sail is raised up, you can’t adjust that position.

the adjustable (quick-release) gooseneck is key for giving you the ability to adjust the sail setting for various wind speeds you will encounter.  in the video, they recommend the following settings:

here is how I’ve marked my lower boom with 1-inch increments so I can quickly see my setting.

he also explains how the gooseneck setting can and should be adjusted to correct any weather or lee helm while you are sailing.

the other two adjustments for wind speed are the cunningham (at the tack of the sail) and the outhaul (at the aft end of the lower spar).  the cunningham line controls the front edge, or luff, of the sail. the outhaul is used to flatten the foot or lower 1/3 of the sail.  he explains the settings for each of these in the video.

sunfish sailing terror [video]

this video was posted a few days ago on the Sunfish Forum (link).  it is a little long at 21+ minutes, but it is interesting for a few reasons:

  • for those wind and wave conditions, it sure seems like he started with the sail set too high – lowering the sail rig would’ve helped with the overturning moment he would see and have to counteract with his body weight, position, and healthy dose of hiking out.
  • he has multiple capsizes, with the Sunfish going full “turtle” and flipping upside down.
  • he has a rigging failure out on the water, with the halyard attachment to the upper boom coming loose, I think during the first capsize.  it seems as if the upper end of the halyard has maybe a snap shackle attached to it (about 6:30 in the video) and he uses a strange knot setup to re-attach the halyard.  typically, the halyard is attached to the upper mast with a clove hitch.
  • he has a lot of trouble raising the sail back up – this is certainly not an easy task out on wavy water, but it appears his halyard was twisted around the mast, and that certainly wouldn’t help at all. instead of pulling towards himself, he would have had better luck holding the sail with his left hand and pulling down on the halyard alongside the mast.
  • he has an older swivel cam cleat at the cockpit lip (I think he hooks the tail end of the halyard into it?) but also a mainsheet block there as well. it might be simplest to remove whichever isn’t getting use to help with confusion while sailing.
  • he could probably use a good Sunfish rigging guide to familiarize himself with the key knots to use and the optimal setup for his mainsheet and halyard.
  • he has a green “lifeline” that he attaches to himself and the boat – while this is probably not a bad idea, I felt like there was just a tangled mess of lines each time he capsized.
  • overall, he did keep pretty good spirits despite each setback, and found a way to limp back to shore and safety – probably with a newfound realization of his level of sailing skill and what he needs to learn from and improve upon.
  • it’s never easy to admit failure, so kudos to him for sharing it – hopefully he and now the video viewers can learn from it.

full warning: this was filmed live during the event and he certainly uses some rough language, quite understandable in the situation, but watch your volume if you’re around young children when watching.

any other thoughts and comments?

sunfish mainsheet controls upgrade

I’ve written several posts in the past about upgrading to a Sunfish mainsheet ratchet block and the associated rigging to control your mainsheet.

six years ago, I said the following, and I still believe it to be true:

I really enjoy playing the mainsheet through the ratchet block, and enjoy how the sheave on the ratchet block grips the mainsheet, so that the amount of pull I see is reduced, helping to keep my hands and arms from tiring as quickly.  I also like that this setup will force me to focus more on the sail trim, instead of just using my old setup to set it and then forget it.  I’d highly recommend this upgrade to other Sunfish sailors.

the Harken 2135 ratchet block, in particular, has grooved edges on the inside of the sheave.  these grooves help to “grip” the line and reduce the amount of line pull by a factor of up to 10:1.  so if the sail is pulling with 100 lbs, your hands gripping the mainsheet could see a reduced load, maybe as little as 10 lbs.  over a long day of sailing, this will be significant!

part numbers and such are strewn along between the various blog posts, so I wanted to pull everything together in one place with a nice summary parts list and I made a labeled diagram to show what parts go where.  the picture is from our Minifish, but a similar setup is what I use on my Sunfish as well.

mainsheet cleat parts list

here is the parts list (while most of these parts are available at most Sunfish suppliers, I have the links all directed to Dieball Sailing.  you can find the same part numbers at your preferred or local supplier as well):

  • Harken 2135 ratchet block (link)
  • a cheaper ratchet block option is the Holt Nautos block, via Intensity Sails (link)
  • Harken 150 cam cleat (link)
  • Spring Cup HSB2 (link)
  • Stand up spring H071 (link)
  • Eyestrap, LP91100 or H137 (link)
  • Stainless steel fasteners (I use machine screws, with a large flat washer and a nylon locking nut on the interior of the boat)

all told, you’re looking at an upgrade in the $70 to $100 range (depending on which ratchet block you pick).

if your Sunfish was a barn find or a cheap pick off of craigslist, this might be a lot compared to the price of your boat, but trust me: you’ll be happy with the upgrade if your current Sunfish setup only has the old “knee-knocker” hook at the lip of the cockpit.


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