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Old 21-04-2015, 18:55   #1
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6,000nm Review of our Helia

I finally took the time to write up a review of the Helia now that we've completed 6,000nm on our boat. We still have a lot to learn, but for those who are interested in a more detailed view of the good, the bad and the ugly than a magazine article provides, maybe this will help.


My 6000nm Helia Review
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Old 21-04-2015, 19:56   #2
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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StarryHorizons;1806674]I finally took the time to write up a review of the Helia now that we've completed 6,000nm on our boat. We still have a lot to learn, but for those who are interested in a more detailed view of the good, the bad and the ugly than a magazine article provides, maybe this will help.
The Helia is on my short list and your review is both refreshingly honest and extremely helpful......unlike most of the bloody Lagoon reviews I've been reading.... "Love my Lagoon"...bleh!

The thing about your review that concerns me the most is the bridgedeck clearance issue. In your case, you did say that you were "heavy". Hmmm...
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Old 21-04-2015, 20:18   #3
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Originally Posted by StarryHorizons View Post
I finally took the time to write up a review of the Helia now that we've completed 6,000nm on our boat. We still have a lot to learn, but for those who are interested in a more detailed view of the good, the bad and the ugly than a magazine article provides, maybe this will help.

Well, technically we hit 6,002 nm on Starry Horizons as we pulled into Regatta Pointe Marina but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, so for the purpose of this post, we will round down slightly. There are others out there with more experience on their Helias, but after picking up our boat in France and sailing all the way to Florida, I finally feel qualified enough to share my thoughts. So buckle up kids, this is the post for those of you who are interested in some of the more intimate details about our boat.

What I Love

Sailing: Overall, I enjoyed sailing the Helia. The few times we got on a good beam reach in calm seas, she took off. We haven’t done too much upwind sailing yet, but downwind was easy, comfortable and relatively quick!

Construction: This boat is well built and you can tell. We had some pretty decent winds during our passages and at no time did I ever fear that the boat couldn’t handle things. We were very cautious with our sail plan which helped, but this boat is solid. It’s not an Antares so don’t expect perfect finishing everywhere, but she’s got it where it counts.

The Helm: This space is going to get even better with the hardtop we’re having custom made, but the positioning of the helm is great. The person on watch can still be social with others if they’re in the cockpit or even in the galley. When it’s just the two of us for long passages, ease of social interaction makes a difference. Visibility is also good, with the sole exception being the port aft portion of the boat.

The Space: I’ve heard the term “condomaran” used in derogatory term, but personally I think those people are just jealous. We love how much liveable space we have on the boat. Our master stateroom is huge, the galley (almost) has enough space for all the items Amy wants and if the salon and cockpit start to feel restrictive (can’t see how this would happen), we can just hop up to the lounge deck and enjoy even more open spaces.

Interior Navigation Station: Others have varying opinions, but we really liked having a place inside the boat we could set up a dedicated laptop to download weather reports, send/receive emails, and use our charting programs. We also kept our log book here and had easy access to information to update it. It would be nice if it had a backrest, but we just used one of the cushions from the salon to make a temporary backrest.

Wire Runs: Other boats do it better I’m sure, but I’ve been relatively pleased with the easy access to wire runs inside the boat. Outside the boat for our solar panels was a bit of a different story, but overall we’ve been able to figure out how to get our wires run.

Engine Power: We chose to upgrade to the 55hp Volvos and we’re glad we did. They give us lots of power and with the Flexofold props that we had Uchimata install, we’ve felt pretty comfortable maneuvering the boat around the dock, even in decent winds. As an added plus, there is a decent amount of space in the engine compartments so getting down there to work on things hasn’t required me to do my best Russian gymnast impression.

Raymarine Electronics: Four of the five boats in Amy’s fleet had Raymarine electronics, so we had a pretty good familiarity with them, but the system we installed on Starry Horizons works very well. Our plotter had it’s own wifi network and we could connect our iphones/ipads and see/control the system. This led to much greater peace of mind when you could wake up, check your iphone and see how things were going. And our autopilot worked flawlessly during the crossing.

Vesper AIS: Another custom thing we had Uchimata install, but our Vesper AIS was a godsend during our passages. In fact we liked it so much that I now say it should be on someone’s “must install” list if they want to go cruising.

Equipment Quality: In general, the quality of the important equipment from the factory is good. We have a Victron inverter/charger, Volvo engines, Onan Generator, and CruisAir Air Conditioners all from the factory. If we were building the boat ourselves, it’d be tough to do much better.

Her Looks: Superficial? Probably, but I don’t care. I still think the Helia is one of the best looking cats out there.

Things I Don’t Love

Dinghy Davits: FP raised the davits from the first Helias to ours, but in my opinion, they’re still not high enough. We took our outboard off and stored it in the generator locker so we could try and pull the dinghy as high as we could but waves still touched the bottom of the dinghy! We are reworking the bridle for our dinghy so that we’ll be able to pull it even higher and hopefully keep the outboard on as well, but a better davit design would make all that work unnecessary.

Bridgedeck Clearance: One of the biggest surprises for us was how much slamming and wave slapping we experienced. Slapping against the hulls is a bit easier to understand, but the amount of slamming was unpleasant and unexpected. Starry Horizons is well equipped (meaning heavy!) but this was disappointing.

Trampoline: Another personal preference, but both Amy and I think the factory trampoline is quite uncomfortable to lay on, and I dislike how “springy” it is. I never felt like I had good footing when I went forward while underway. This is being replaced while we’re here in the US.

Everything is in French: While this is understandable for a French boat, it can be very frustrating trying to map out electrical wiring when everything is labeled in French!

No Starboard Aft Winch: We went with the “Bowsprit and Gennaker Gear Option” which includes an aft winch on the port side to use for the sheet for a headsail. However, it doesn’t include a corresponding winch on the starboard side. There are two problems with this:

Instead of a dedicated winch, there is a block along the toe rail to take the line back up to a winch at the helm. This makes moving around the helm difficult and blocks off the deck. Not ideal! Since we also used the aft winch for our boom preventer and a sheet we rigged up to an outboard jib lead, it got a lot of use.
We’re going to be reworking the winches to add one to the starboard side. However, FP didn’t design for this possibility and the headliner in the owners cabin is flush up to the deck, meaning we’ll need to do some creative re-design. On the port side, they dropped the headliner down to accommodate the bolts for the winch.
Reefing: I really dislike having to go to the mast for anything while underway. We went with the “automatic” first reef, which is really just a single line reef, but the other two reefs have lines that go up the leech of the sail but require you to go pull a webbing strap through a grommet and into a snap shackle on the mast in order to secure the tack. It’s not so fun to pull this strap through when the boat is slamming into large waves! We’re going to try and move to a single line reef for our 2nd reef and will be removing our 3rd reef as if the winds are that high, we’re just going to be taking down our mainsail.

Chain size: The Helia comes from the factory with 1/2″ chain. I didn’t quite realize just how big this is and how much it weights and went ahead and ordered 300′ of it in preparation for some of the anchoring in deep water we’ll be doing. The bow of the boat immediately sunk down! We’re going to swapping out our windlass gypsy and chain to Acco G4 5/16″ chain. This will save us almost 600 pounds of weight! Speaking of which… anyone need 300′ of 1/2″ galvanized anchor chain? Please??

Cleats: During a wild day in Las Palmas when Starry Horizons was jerking forward and back thanks to the wind and swell, we managed to bend a cleat. We’ve had several people tell us they’d never seen that before. In addition, our stern cleats were starting to come loose by the time we arrived in the States. We had large backing plates made to help reinforce things and hopefully prevent those type of issues in the future.

Automatic Bilge Pumps: I tested out our bilge pumps by blocking off one compartment and filling it with water. I was quite dismayed at how much water (several inches) was required before the pumps kicked on. And since the bilges are all connected, it would take a lot of water in the bilge before they activated automatically. The pumps are activated by air pressure sensitive Rule Eco Switches, but as I looked up the installation diagrams, they are not installed correctly. The lines leading from the “cup” to the switch are not straight as they have to run throughout the compartment. These sensors may be a good idea, but it’s a bad execution.

From the “What the F&*K Were They Thinking”Files

Mainsail: I know I’m not the best sailor in the world, but I’m not truly incompetent either. However, I could not figure out how to get the mainsail down easily in anything over 10/15 knots of wind. It would “billow” out, catch the wind and refuse to come down, requiring me to go the the mast and manually pull it down. Doing this was the most scared I felt on the boat and thanks to our boat guru Pat, we rigged a downhaul to help us cross the Atlantic which worked well.

After getting back to the land of internet, I discovered that other Helia owners have had this same problem and in talking with them, I/we have determined what I consider to be two root causes:

There are no intermediate cars on the mainsail from the factory. I have never sailed another boat like this and it means that the distance from the cars on the sail (where the battens are) ranges from about 11-14 feet! When the sail drops, having this much distance from the cars leads to the billowing effect and prevents the sail from coming down.
Friction. The factory supplied main halyard is a 14mm line and is rigged with a 2:1 purchase. The stopper used for the halyard is rated at a max 14mm and halyard rubs against the sides of the entrance into the mast. As the weight of the sail aloft decreases as the sail falls, the remaining weight of the sail isn’t enough to overcome the friction in the system.
In my mind, this is the absolute #1 negative of the Helia and in spite of seeing assurances sent by FP to other owners that the factory setup works and that it was tested out by riggers, my practical experience has led me to strongly disagree. I believe that most Helias are going into charter and thus are being used in relatively calmer conditions where it may not be a big deal to go forward and help the mainsail down, but for serious cruising it is unacceptable.

To remedy, we’re adding 4 additional intermediate cars, which of course necessitated the modification of our stack pack, as well as upgrading our main halyard to an 11mm T900 line. Just running the line through the stopper, you can feel how much less friction there is! We’re also contemplating getting rid of the 2:1 halyard if the new setup still doesn’t work the way we want it.

(Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now, but as you can tell, this is an area that I strongly believe FP needs to address)

Navigation Lights: FP may have changed this, but they did not offer a tri-color light at the top of the mast as a factory option. In big seas, there is no way that another ship is going to easily see the deck level navigation lights! On a boat this size, I believe a tri color should be standard.

In addition, the stern light is located inside the cockpit! When using the nav lights at night (when else would you really use them??) it lit up the whole cockpit. And in case you haven’t done a lot of night sailing before, this is not a good thing as it really messes with your night vision. We ended up adding a tricolor light and are going to move the stern light to the end of the davits.

Running Rigging: This was a debatable one to put in this category, but the fact that all winches and stoppers are rated for a max 14mm line and the factory genoa sheets are 16mm lines pushes it over the edge. I had wondered why it was difficult to get the genoa sheets into the winches and finally figured out why when doing research on the Harken winches we have. In general the rigging on the boat is pretty low quality and we’re working on replacing it. The fact that the owner’s manual lists the main halyard at 55m/180ish’ when in reality it is about 63m/207ish’ (discovered after running the new halyard through the mast!) also helps push running rigging into this category.

Conclusion

Overall, we’re satisfied with our choice of a boat. There are a lot of things that FP does well and most of the things we didn’t love about the boat are fixable. We’re going above and beyond by doing some pretty extensive outfitting to make the boat even more awesome and I’m pretty comfortable saying that by the time we’re finished, she’ll be the most customized Helia in the world. At the end of the day, we still believe that she will be able to take us safely around the world and in a decent level of comfort, which is what matters most.


My 6000nm Helia Review
Good review! Nice to see everything working out well. Theres always some modyfying needed to suit individual tastes and occasionally some wtf modifications required as well. I immediately altered our shower waste/bilge plumbing arrangement and added bilge alarms on our L400. Hard to believe no bilge alarm hey?! Also added the tricolor for similar reasons, although we rarely use it. Sitting here trying out the nav station backrest idea, but im still hunched over:P
I agree the new raymarine stuff is great, wifi to ipad awesome, but id prefer raymarine AIS. Does your vesper display on your plotter and Ipad the same as the raymarine?
Im surprised about the slamming, I think the clearance is similar to ours and we rarely have any waves touch the bridgdeck, certainly not enough to be a concern.
Dinghy davits, we modified our bridle to pull the dink hard to the davits on the bow and just enough fall to drain at the stern. It just requires the bridle to be low enough in the dinghy but high enough that it wont overbalance and tip.
We also dont have a helm side winch for the parasailor, but there are 2 blocks on the rail. The sheet leads to the aft block, turns to the foreward block which is abeam if the winch. It does run across the deck at an angle but isnt a big deal to step around. Do you just have to one block on the rail? We use it for our Parasailor and I like having it at the helm, rather than having to leave the helm to trim it, (like the opposite side sheet...)
Good luck with sorting out the rest of the bits. The L400 also has intermediate cars for the main. Theyre not as big as the batten cars. Hopefully you can add some and it will still work in the stackpack, its probbaly just 5 or 6 cars at 70mm each. Ours are tied through cringles on the main with bungy cord.
Congrats again on the succesful delivery, preparation and Atlantic crossing
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Old 21-04-2015, 20:29   #4
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
The Helia is on my short list and your review is both refreshingly honest and extremely helpful......unlike most of the bloody Lagoon reviews I've been reading.... "Love my Lagoon"...bleh!

The thing about your review that concerns me the most is the bridgedeck clearance issue. In your case, you did say that you were "heavy". Hmmm...
Saleen, Sorry the satisfied Lagoonies are spoiling your day! If you want to hear the good, bad and ugly on the L380 or L400, drop me a line. Ill leave this thread for the Helia review. BTW, I've been happy with our last two Lagoons, but if going up a size I would seriously consider the Helia, primarily for the helm setup as opposed to the L450, although Lagoon is now doing a L450 with bulkhead helm and bimini similar to the Helia/L400.
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Old 21-04-2015, 21:45   #5
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
The Helia is on my short list and your review is both refreshingly honest and extremely helpful......unlike most of the bloody Lagoon reviews I've been reading.... "Love my Lagoon"...bleh!

The thing about your review that concerns me the most is the bridgedeck clearance issue. In your case, you did say that you were "heavy". Hmmm...

Glad you enjoyed the review. Positive reviews/owner feedback can definitely be helpful but I think a truly balanced review is the most insightful.

As for the bridgedeck clearance, we were extremely bow heavy with so much anchor chain, plus outboard stored up in the genset locker. With our shore power converter and additional batteries installed, she's definitely more balanced. And hopefully swapping out the 1/2" anchor chain for 5/16" will help even more as I think that could end up being a 600-700 lb weight savings!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will help the issue and I will definitely provide an update on this when I do my next review.


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Old 21-04-2015, 22:06   #6
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Good review! Nice to see everything working out well. Theres always some modyfying needed to suit individual tastes and occasionally some wtf modifications required as well. I immediately altered our shower waste/bilge plumbing arrangement and added bilge alarms on our L400. Hard to believe no bilge alarm hey?! Also added the tricolor for similar reasons, although we rarely use it. Sitting here trying out the nav station backrest idea, but im still hunched over:P

I agree the new raymarine stuff is great, wifi to ipad awesome, but id prefer raymarine AIS. Does your vesper display on your plotter and Ipad the same as the raymarine?

Im surprised about the slamming, I think the clearance is similar to ours and we rarely have any waves touch the bridgdeck, certainly not enough to be a concern.

Dinghy davits, we modified our bridle to pull the dink hard to the davits on the bow and just enough fall to drain at the stern. It just requires the bridle to be low enough in the dinghy but high enough that it wont overbalance and tip.

We also dont have a helm side winch for the parasailor, but there are 2 blocks on the rail. The sheet leads to the aft block, turns to the foreward block which is abeam if the winch. It does run across the deck at an angle but isnt a big deal to step around. Do you just have to one block on the rail? We use it for our Parasailor and I like having it at the helm, rather than having to leave the helm to trim it, (like the opposite side sheet...)

Good luck with sorting out the rest of the bits. The L400 also has intermediate cars for the main. Theyre not as big as the batten cars. Hopefully you can add some and it will still work in the stackpack, its probbaly just 5 or 6 cars at 70mm each. Ours are tied through cringles on the main with bungy cord.

Congrats again on the succesful delivery, preparation and Atlantic crossing


Thanks Monte! I definitely agree that any boat will require some modifications to suit preferences and tastes and I suppose that is part of the fun.

Just to clarify, there is an audible alarm that goes off when the bilge pumps activate, but I was disappointed by just how much water was required to get them to activate. Since we essentially have one large bilge in each hull (there are compartments but there is a hole between each compartment that would allow water to run through) it would require a LOT of water in the bilge for things to get started.

I've never actually seen the Raymarine AIS integrated with the Raymarine plotter, but the Vesper shows pretty much all the info on the plotter and thus the iPad as well.

We only have one block on the rail and the angle at which it comes up to the helm makes exiting from the helm to the side deck quite difficult. We had to go from the helm down into the cockpit and up the aft stairs to get on the side deck. May not be a big deal for some but it was definitely an annoyance for us.

I'm pretty sure the z spar intermediate cars are about 2 1/2" tall so adding 4 of them (one in between each batten) meant we had to modify the stack pack. The sail loft we had modify the sail used webbing straps to attach the new cars rather than the bungy method but I have heard of that used with success. I'm really hoping this modification, along with a new halyard, will solve our mainsail problems.


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Old 21-04-2015, 22:42   #7
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

Sure you want to go all the way down to 5/16 G43 chain?

The 1/2" chain is a beast but 3/8" G43 is a great chain. If that's too heavy, how often will you need more than 200ft? If your windlass will handle rope and chain, 100ft-200ft ft of brait rope plus 200ft of chain is a light and strong combination. If you must have 5/16", you could consider Grade 70.
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Old 21-04-2015, 22:51   #8
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

Ah yes I was commenting the L400 doesnt/didnt have an Audible bilge alarm. Something I found untennable.
Sounds like the Vesper works the same as the raymarine AIS, very handy.
On a side note, if you dont already have a MOB system, the Kannard safelink R10 integrates very well with the Raymarine plotter, marking the position and raising an alarm. They are automatic when isntalled in some lifejackets. Weve tested ours, but not in anger fortunately! Nice peace of mind for sailing couples.
Regarding the gennaker sheet, would another turning block further forward work? In line with the winch so it doesnt inhibit your side deck access?
Good luck with the main, it sounds like you have ot sorted out now anyway
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Old 22-04-2015, 03:55   #9
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

A fair and balanced review. I too would advise against downgrading from 12ml chain. I have 60m and supplement with 80m of 20ml nylon rode.


Also have you tried the main with the dyneema halyard. Ours drops no problems with the 10ml dyneema. I agree that more cars would be good but this is a pretty expensive option.


You are fortunate you have the hydraulic steering. Mine has failed once and been replaced under warranty. I know others that have failed also. You really have to protect the mechanical steering to ensure it does not come to grief.
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Old 22-04-2015, 08:53   #10
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

Can I assume you didn't evaluate the merits of Vesper AIS vs Raymarine AIS? I have a Raymarine setup to which I want to add AIS and it seems Raymarine AIS sells for a premium.
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Old 22-04-2015, 10:22   #11
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

I believe you can replace the genoa sheets on the Helia from 16 mm to 14 mm without loosing safety and have more manageable lines on hand. I do not believe that the genoa size requires 16mm sheets.
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Old 22-04-2015, 12:15   #12
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Sure you want to go all the way down to 5/16 G43 chain?

Several people I trust have told me Acco G4 5/16" chain would be plenty for the Helia. I don't want this thread to turn into an anchor chain discussion but I'll send you a PM so we can discuss a bit more.

David



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Old 22-04-2015, 12:22   #13
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Also have you tried the main with the dyneema halyard. Ours drops no problems with the 10ml dyneema. I agree that more cars would be good but this is a pretty expensive option.

You are fortunate you have the hydraulic steering. Mine has failed once and been replaced under warranty. I know others that have failed also. You really have to protect the mechanical steering to ensure it does not come to grief.

We just got the new halyard on two days ago so haven't had a chance to test yet. The mainsail was being worked on anyways (we raised the gooseneck by 12" to accommodate a hardtop we're having built as well as a bang) so we decided to just go ahead and add the cars at the same time.

Thanks for mentioning the hydraulic steering as I forgot to talk about it in my review. Overall I liked it but we've now had the hydraulic fluid reservoir in the helm pod empty twice with no easily identifiable leaks. I need to find the time to examine the whole run from helm to engine compartment (not easy) but this drop in fluid makes me nervous.



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Old 22-04-2015, 12:25   #14
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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Can I assume you didn't evaluate the merits of Vesper AIS vs Raymarine AIS? I have a Raymarine setup to which I want to add AIS and it seems Raymarine AIS sells for a premium.

I briefly looked at the Raymarine AIS (this was almost 2 years ago) but the Vesper integrates into the Raymarine plotter flawlessly and had additional features such as wifi (can tie into OpenCPN on laptop), it's own dedicated display and soon to be added low power draw anchor alarm.


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Old 22-04-2015, 12:27   #15
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Re: 6,000nm Review of our Helia

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I believe you can replace the genoa sheets on the Helia from 16 mm to 14 mm without loosing safety and have more manageable lines on hand. I do not believe that the genoa size requires 16mm sheets.

This is exactly what we plan to do. Since we have replaced the main halyard with a better quality line, I am going to cut the old 14mm line and turn it into new Genoa sheets. Very easy to do but it leaves me shaking my head wondering why FP used 16mm lines in the first place.


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