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Old 07-06-2009, 18:46   #1
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Novice with Mainsail Questions

Hello.

I'm a novice sailor with a 1975 Cape Cod 25. I have a couple of questions about proper mainsail rigging.

First: the gooseneck on my boom slides up and down the mast track. I placed a track stop below the gooseneck, so that it is a little easier to raise the sail. I also placed one above the gooseneck and below the track opening, just because that seems prudent, but when I raise the sail, the top of the sail does not reach the top of the mast. It seems to me that maybe the gooseneck should sit above the track opening and not below it.

Now, I don't much like that idea, because I have bad images of the gooseneck coming out of the track. Even if I place a track stop below the gooseneck, I worry that it will eventually be knocked loose. So, for now, I have left the boom a bit low, and the sail does not reach the top of the mast.

Is this the right choice? Should I care whether the sail is hoisted as high as it can possible go?

Second question: I have a topping lift running from the mast to the end of the boom. One fellow I talked to prefers to leave the lift attached as he sails, for "safety's sake", and I think that's what the previous owner did, too. But when my sail is hoisted, it seems to me that I have too much slack in it, and that the topping lift is most likely to blame. I could either lower the boom by adjusting the topping lift or I could remove the topping lift each time I raise the sail. The former is easier, but the latter seems better to me (it's what I was taught in sailing school). What do you old salts think?

Thanks for any advice.
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Old 07-06-2009, 18:55   #2
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It seems to me that maybe the gooseneck should sit above the track opening and not below it.
Nope. You need to be able to remove the sail without taking the boom off. You really can never get the main all the way to the top or the the angle on the lead of the halyard will become 90 degrees. (not good). More is better.

When sailing the topping lift should not have tension. It's only to store the boom when not sailing. It serves no other purpose. Notice the small line size. In a real blow it won't matter. At that point you want a vang. The vang will flatten in high knot close wind sailing aided by an outhaul. You might slack the outhaul and vang in light wind but you would never use the topping lift.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:05   #3
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Thanks much for the quick response. So, if I understand correctly, you leave the topping lift attached during the sail, but my topping lift should be longer so that it is slack when the sail is hoisted.

Is this correct? If so, doesn't the slack lift get in the way of the sail? Seems to me that the battens might catch on the lift when jibing or tacking, but maybe this just isn't an issue.

Thanks again.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:36   #4
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Is this correct? If so, doesn't the slack lift get in the way of the sail?
So long as there is no tension it is fine. If you have an extra full roach then it might get in the way. Slacken to suit or go with a hard Vang and lose the topping lift. On a 25 ft boat you probably don't need a hard Vang.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:47   #5
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Okay. I've no idea if I have an extra full roach or not, so I suppose not.

As long as you mentioned vangs: I don't have a boom vang. Do I need one? As I understand it, the main role of the boom vang is to tighten the luff and this is useful in light wind. My boat is in Buzzard's Bay MA, where wind seems fairly plentiful, so seems to me I don't need a vang at all.

Am I overlooking something?

Thanks again. You've been very helpful.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:50   #6
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You tighten the vang to flatten the sail in higher winds. In light wind you want a fuller sail so you slacken the vang and the out hoaul. This will all depend on the sail design.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:55   #7
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D'oh. I got it backwards, of course.

Okay, so a boom vang might be useful in the long run.

Thanks again.
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:56   #8
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Hoist the sail, then tighten the luff by pulling down on the gooseneck (downhaul should be adjustable.).
After raising the sail, slack the topping lift (it is adjustablle isn't it?) Tighten it before dropping the sail.
The vang keeps the boom from rising when you are on a broad reach or run.
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Old 08-06-2009, 00:05   #9
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phiwum: explain us how the main sheet is setup. I think you should need to put a vang on now, not later. Do you have a padeye on the back of the mast, just above deck? and under the boom, a yard or so from the mast? If so, this is where to attach the vang. Just a simple block & tackle is great for a vang on your boat.

Now, when you hoist the sail the vang must be loose enough to allow for that. Adjust it so that you can hoist the sail without trouble. Leave it at that position until you want to start doing sail trim with it. In the mean time, it will prevent your boom from pulling up on downwind sails.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:56   #10
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I'm not sure what you're asking when you ask about the mainsheet. It is rigged at the end of the boom.

I don't believe I have a padeye where you describe, but I won't see the boat until Wednesday to doublecheck.

So, tell me about the boom pulling up on downwind sails --- is this a safety issue? Is it a source of accidental jibes? I accidentally jibed once on a run when a boat's wake tossed us about a bit and the boom bounced. I assume that this is one situation in which the vang would have been useful, yes?

If the vang is a significant safety feature, then I agree it's better to install one sooner rather than later. I thought that it was primarily useful for proper sail trim.

Thanks, Nick.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:38   #11
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The vang won't help prevent a jibe. It's there for controlling the shape of the sail, period.

That is, unless you disconnect it's lower shackle from the base of the mast and re-attach it to a stanchion base. Then it becomes a "preventer" to keep the boom from accidentally jibing. Some folks do this instead of using a dedicated preventer, which I prefer.

BTW, another use of the topping lift is to hold up the boom when you need to put a reef in the main. Releasing tension on the main halyard will drop the boom into the cockpit without the preventer in play. Not a good thing when the wind is piping up and the boom is dancing around!
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Old 08-06-2009, 07:55   #12
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Here is my 2 bob's worth:
With some of the whippier racing rigs with tapered masts the vang becomes crucial in sail shape but with my solid mast and boom no amount of boom vang tension will flatten the main - I achieve this by halyard tension, outhaul tension and cunningham. The vang keeps the leech tight in free sheeted points of sail. Easing the vang can help boat control by de-powering the main in heavy conditions.
Also - I dont know what others think but I'd run the boom as low as practicable - lower centre of effort - and it can help the "slot" between the headsail and the main.
I always take the topping lift off - it is a bit of a pain but I dont like it slapping around on the leech of the main.
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Old 08-06-2009, 10:43   #13
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phiwum,

check out the mast and boom for pad eyes. Maybe you can find a Cape Cod forum with photo's or more info. I think too many people do away with a boom vang as not needed because the sail or rig isn't "racy" enough for one but they miss the simple aspect of it preventing the boom to lift up on down wind sails or wave action. The real reason many remove the vang is that they prefer to stow something on deck where normally the boom is...

I agree with others to get the boom as low as possible; this means as low as possible without it knocking you out in the cockpit.

When you take the topping lift off, you can't reef so I don't think that it is wise to do that. You are going to get wildly differing opinions here so I would suggest you buy a book about basic sail handling/techniques as that will show the way from the view of sailing the boat like it is supposed to. For example "complete sailing manual" by Steve Sleight. Or, if you can get that info, rig everything the way the boat was originally designed and start from there.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:24   #14
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Agh. I just noticed in Nick's post that I gave the wrong make of my boat. It is, of course, a Cape Dory 25, not a Cape Cod 25.

Thanks for the advice, Nick. I have Bob Bond's "Handbook of Sailing", and it's been somewhat useful.

I'll have another look at the boom and check that it's not sitting too high.

I gotta say, this site is great! For a few weeks now, I've wished that I had convenient access to experienced sailors for the odd question that arises. Thanks, all!
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