1. Setting the Mast up

There are two basic considerations which must be considered when tuning a Hurricane mast. Firstly, how much basic stiffness do you need to build in to the mast. The answer to this depends upon your total crew weight, and the way you adjust this stiffness is by adjusting the spreader rake. The stiffer the mast, the more powerful the mainsail will be, and the more difficult it will be to get rid of the power. A more flexible mast will mean that the sail is more easily flattened and less powerful. It is up to you to decide how much power you can handle, although we have guidelines which are well tried and tested, and are a good starting point for your tuning. This first step is the coarse tune band.

The second consideration is how much power will you need for a particular race conditions, and how easily will it be to adjust it whilst sailing. This is a day to day setting rather than the previous “coarse tune band”, and is adjusted by using the bottlescrew on the `front of the mast to alter the amount of pre-bend in the mast. The pre-bend is the amount of bend induced into the mast by the action of the spreader diamond wires on the spreader bars. This can be considered the “medium tune”.

The “fine tune” is the mainsail down-haul system, the final key to powering up and down the rig whilst you are sailing. This fine tuning will be covered later in the section on sailing the boat to windward.

2. Mast spreader rake

The first thing to do is to set the spreader rake. You can do this with the mast either on the boat, or removed. You will need something with a straight edge, like a sail batten, long enough to rest on the diamond wires close to the spreader bars. Now measure the distance between the centre of this straight edge and the rear of the mast. (the luff groove). The I correct spreader rake will depend upon your total crew weight, and here is an indication of what it should be.

Kg Stone mm
115 18 90-100
130 20.5 85-90
140 22 70-80
150 23.5 60-70
155 24.5 50
165 26 40
180 28.3 30
190 30 20

These measurements are guidelines to start from. If more power is needed sailing to windward, reduce the spreader rake. If overpowered, increase it. Once you decide you are in approximately the right “coarse tune” mode, it is best to leave the spreader rake set, and get on with sailing the boat. If in the light of a season’s experience you feel you have it seriously wrong, that is the time to change it.

3. Do not overdo it!

One thing to consider is that the further forward the spreaders are, the more difficult it will be to pull the down-haul down to flatten the sail in strong winds. If you have a light crew, it may be beneficial to sacrifice a little ultimate power, in order to have full control of the rig in a breeze. In other words, for the weight range settings suggested in the table, go higher rather than lower.

To adjust the spreader rake first turn the bottlescrew holding the diamond wires off, so that the wires are completely slack, and then take out the clevis pins from the front spreader bars, at the front of the mast, and screw the adjuster either in or out until you have the setting you want. Always make the same number of turns each side, otherwise the mast may have a bend when the spreader wires are re-tensioned.

Remember to tape up the clevis pins with plastic rigging tape when finished, to avoid the jib leech chafing. Re-tension the bottle screw and check again. When satisfied, use self amalgamating tape to secure the wires into the ends of the spreader wires. This will prevent the wires falling out if they go slack for any reason.

4. Mast Prebend

Adjust pre-bend for a given wind strength before you go sailing, although it can be adjusted whilst sailing if the wind strength changes dramatically. A screwdriver can be used, or alternatively, it is easy to make a tool from an old aluminium bicycle pedal crank which has been cut to fit the bottlescrew. Also beware of the bottlescrew un-turning itself. To prevent this a shackle can be fitted through it.

It is important to know how much the mast is pre-bent at any one time, and have some form of calibration. First it is important to have rig tension off, if the mast is still on the boat. Next the main halyard must be pulled tight and fastened tightly to the mast at the top and bottom with plastic tape. Now start to turn the bottle screw tighter, and measure the distance the main halyard is away from the mast at the spreaders, like the string of a bow. The distance should never be less than 2.5cm or 1 inch. ( the built in luff curve in the mainsail ) Make a mark with a waterproof pen next to the edge of the anti-rotation plate at the top of the bottle screw. Now turn on again and make another mark when the distance is 4cm or 1.5 inches, then 5.5cm or 2 inches, then 7cm or 2.5 inches, then 8.5cm or 3 inches.

Now the bottle screw can be adjusted, and the pre-bend read off the scale. The stronger the wind the more pre-bend is needed. Start at one inch for zero wind up to the bottom of force three, then increase up to about 3 inches for a force six.
It is important to remember that if you decide to change spreader rake after a few weeks, the marks you made on the mast to adjust pre-bend will no longer be accurate, and will need re-marking.

5. Mast Rig Tension

Most Hurricane sailors use a Rig Tension Measuring device made by Superspars, and available from most good dinghy chandlers. Try a setting of 25 to 27 on the scale as a starting point, maybe with a little more, going up to 33 in a good blow. It is a good idea to take the rig tension off when leaving the boat in a dinghy park. Simply move one shroud up to the highest adjuster hole. ALWAYS securely tape up the securing rings on the shroud clevis pins before going sailing. If you don’t, you will lose your mast. It is not a question of maybe, just when.

6. Mast Rake

To measure mast rake, make sure the mast is straight fore and aft, and not turned to one s -1e or the other. Undo one trapeze wire from its shockcord, and tie a length of thin rope to it, about one metre long. Swing this towards the transom, keeping tension on it so the wire and rope are a straight line, and make a small mark on the rope where it touches the outside top corner of the transom. Now swing the wire and rope forward along the gunwale and pull it tight again, until you find a point on the inside deck edge of the foredeck where the mark on the rope touches. This point should be behind the bow bridle wire attachment. It is usual to have this measurement between 16 and 20cm behind the fitting.

7. Mast Spanner

The mast spanner which controls rotation needs to have the adjusting line marked with a waterproof marker so that you will know when it is pointing exactly at the shroud wire when sailing hard to windward. To find the correct place to mark the rope, sheet in very hard with the mainsail up, then ask someone to move the spanner so that it points exactly at the shroud, and mark the rope where it enters the cleat.

It is also worthwhile to have another mark, which will tell you when the spanner is pointing at the outer edge of the rear beam. You may need this position sailing to windward in very strong winds.

8. Boom Clew Outhaul

This is very important to enabe you to adjust the mainsail luff properly whilst sailing to windward. The slot in the boom will allow you to adjust the clew outhaul about 25cm, but only about 10cm of this is needed. Hoist the mainsail, attach the boom, and pull the clew out as far as it will go. Stand to one side of the boat, and look at the bottom of the sail, the boom, and the mast. You can see three sides of a triangle. The bottom of the sail is shorter than the length of the boom from mast to clew position. When you attempt to pull the downhaul down towards the boom, you are trying to pull together two sides of a triangle which are different lengths, and this is impossible.

Now, if you move the clew position back towards the mast along the slot about half way, the sail has a curve in the bottom batten. The distance around this curve from clew position to mast now is more equal to the distance along the boom and it is possible, and much easier, to pull the downhaul down all the way.

There is another benefit to this. When the wind is light a curve is needed to put some camber into the sail. As the wind becomes progressively stronger, and the boat starts to get overpowered, you pull the downhaul down and as you do this you will see the bottom of the sail flatten out as you pull more and more, This is also useful when you have completed a windward leg in a good breeze both on the trapeze, and the next course is a trapezing reach. As your crew eases the downhaul off to put more power into the sail, you will see the shape come back into the bottom of the sail without adjusting the clew outhaul.

It is also a mistake to let the clew outhaul off completely on a broad reach (when sailing as low as possible.) This will put too much curve into the sail and create drag. As a guideline, to check the position measure back along the top of the boom 229cm from the front of the gooseneck casting. Make a line here across the slot, and down the sides so it can be seen when sailing. Then do the same again, but this time measure 239cm. At the outer point, 239 cm, wrap plastic rigging tape around the boom several times to prevent pulling the clew out beyond there. Also make a mark with a waterproof pen on the clew outhaul rope where it locks in the cleat, when the clew outhaul is as far out as it will go (239cm). Now it is easy for the crew to adjust the clew outhaul to the correct place, just before you round the buoy to start the windward leg, and she/he will not have to look back along the boom, but just put the mark in the cleat.

Also tie a knot in the clew outhaul rope, to stop the clew coming in beyond the front mark. Now, when you start the downwind leg and there is a lot to do, for example, centreboards up, barber haulers on, luff downhaul off, the crew can simply pull the clew rope out of the cleat and it will come in on the shock cord in the boom, and the knot will stop it in the right place.

9. Mainsail Battens

Battens should not be over-tightened in the sail, a good fit in the pocket is all that is necessary. By over-tightening the battens it is impossible to force more shape into a mylar sail, than is built into it by the sailmaker. Always reverse the top two battens, and in winds above 20 mph, reverse the third one down as well. The reason for this is that the flow in the top of the Hurricane sail is well forward and reversing the top battens produces a shape with less drag.

10. Jib Tension

In all but very light winds, always put as much tension on the jib luff as you can. Try to take a little tension off the forestay if you can, so that it kicks forward as you pull the luff rope down.

11. Jib Fairleads

Set the jib fairleads level with the back edge of the centreboard box. Move them back another 10cm in winds above 20mph. This setting conforms with the mast rake setting described earlier in this article. If the mast is raked dramatically either way the jib fairlead position should be correspondingly changed to maintain the angle between jib sheet and jib leech. One way to do this is to use a long batten to extend the jib sheet angle forward across the sail, and make a mark on the jib luff. When the mast rake is changed, the fairleads can easily be moved to line the jib sheets up with the mark again.

12. Trapezes

Move the crew’s trapeze shockcord through the main beam, there is already a hole in the end plate of the beam for this. Put the helmsman’s shockcord through the crew’s position (forward holes) on the trampoline. This arrangement has proved to be the easiest to use for a standard boat. If using a spinnaker, move both trapezes back to their positions through the trampoline, otherwise the forward one gets in the way of the kite when retrieving.

13. Security

The Hurricane has many securing rings holding clevis pins and fittings in place. Many of these rarely need to be removed, even when dismantling the boat for towing. It is a good idea to secure these either by taping them up with self amalgamating tape, or by applying a drop of Araldite to the coils of the rings.

14. Go out and sail it!

The first Hurricane was made from a modified Tornado mould. The Tornado has a tendency to stick it’s bows in when pushed hard, so some small modifications were made to correct this. The section in front of the main beam has slightly more buoyancy but , more important, the transoms are narrower and have greatly reduced buoyancy. If you look at the hull from the side, you will notice there is much more rocker, that is rise up to the transoms. These characteristics make the Hurricane a very well mannered boat to sail, particularly downwind, when it has virtually no tendency to pitchpole. You can also use the reduced buoyancy in the transoms to help tack the boat. The fastest way to tack is to lift the bows out of the water, and it is very easy to do this on a Hurricane.

15. Tacking

You should sail to windward with your crew between the main beam and the shroud, maybe closer to the mainbeam, with your leading foot right up to the shroud, maybe just in front of it. When you decide to tack, warn your crew, who should take the jib sheet out of the cleat, and come in forward of the shroud, and start to cross the trampoline diagonally, to a point on the leeward deck just in front of the rear beam, keeping tension on the jib sheet all the time. As the crew starts to cross the trampoline step towards the transom and push the helm down to start the tack.

As the boat starts to turn, come in off the trapeze (it is easier when you are further back because the trapeze wire is shorter and lifts you on to the deck). If you have a chance, look at the leeward bow, it should be well clear of the water, and the rear decks may be under water. As you start to cross the trampoline, your crew should start to move forward to make room for you on the deck on that side, and also be starting to sheet the jib on the new tack.

Hook on, and start to get out on the trapeze before moving forward, you will find it easier because the wire is shorter when you are near the back of the boat. As you push out, move forward and sheet in as the boat picks up speed on the new tack.
When sailing to windward double trapezing the crew should cleat the jib, and hold the mainsail downhaul rope. If you have too much power in a gust , the crew should pull the downhaul down, flattening the sail, and opening the upper leech. It should not be necessary for you to ease the mainsheet until the downhaul is fully down and you are still overpowered. So, for normal winds fluctuating in strength, it should be enough for the crew to have control of the downhaul to de-power and power-up the mainsail, without the helmsman easing the mainsheet. For stronger winds, say more than 25 mph, it may be more comfortable to pull the mast spanner back so that it points towards the corner of the rear beam. When sailing in flat water in strong winds, it may also be worth easing the main traveller off the centreline by 10 to 15cm if you are still overpowered with everything flattened off.

If the boat seems to be sticking, or sailing in soup, try moving your weight back or forwards a few inches. If it works, don’t forget to adopt the same position when you tack.

16. Trapeze Reaching

On a beam reach, move your weight back a little, not too much. Remember you have plenty of buoyancy in the bow and little in the transom. Ease the downhaul to put more power back in to the sail. When you see the bow wave going up higher than the foot of the jib the boat will be really singing! Try to get the windward centreboard up if you can. As the wind increases ease the traveller car a little, maybe 20 to 30 cm and sheet the sail down harder. This keeps the boat more controllable and is probably faster in gusty conditions, when you would otherwise be constantly easing a lot of mainsheet, and then pulling back in again.

17. The Wildthing

The single most important development in Cat sailing in recent years has been the introduction of the technique known as the “Wildthing”. I believe the Australian Mitch Booth can be credited with this style of sailing. He is the undisputed world master at it in his Tornado, and even uses it when sailing his A Class, of which he is current World Champion.

The technique is to sail downwind, as low as possible, on one hull, using the increased apparent wind generated by initially luffing up, and then the increased speed generated from the reduced wetted area of sailing on one hull. When you get it right the gains are enormous. When you get it wrong you can go hundreds of yards the wrong way on a good day, or, if the horizon suddenly appears where the sky should be, you know it’s a bad day!

To start, pull the main traveller car up to 10cm outside the toe strap fixing point on the rear beam. Set the jib barber hauler only about half on. Leave the mainsail clew setting at normal, and only put the rotation lock on in lighter winds, about 10 to 14 mph. Above this, take the rotation lock off and reset the spanner control to normal rotation. Your crew should sit down on the leeward hull, just behind the shroud, sheeting the jib with one hand, and holding on to the toe strap with the other.

18. Have Faith!

The crew must stay down to leeward as the boat starts to fly the windward hull, otherwise it will not work. Minimum wind speed to attempt this is about 10 to 12 mph. Now, with the helm sitting on the windward deck, just behind the shroud, steer a normal broad reach downwind coarse, sheet the mainsail in hard, and then luff up until the boat flies the windward hull. When the hull starts to fly, boat speed increases dramatically, and if you continue to luff you will capsize.

The trick is to bear off as the hull starts to fly and the boat accelerates. You must bear off quickly and smoothly to control the boat so that the hull just continues to fly. You will find you can sail very low, sometimes almost dead downwind in 20mph and still flying the hull. When the hull drops, steer up again until it picks up, and try to find the angle where it stays just clear of the water.

In stronger puffs it may be necessary to initially dump some mainsheet as well as bearing away, and as you develop the technique you will find a balance between bearing away and easing the main slightly, then pulling it back in as you regain control with the rudders. The rudders are so effective on the 5.9 that they will always bite in an emergency, and pull you back from the brink providing you don’t panic. Just bear off HARD!

19. Stronger Winds

When the wind is stronger, move both your crew’s and your own weight further back, to avoid sticking the bows in. Also as the wind increases you will find a point where the boat seems to want to fly the hull but not drive forward. This is because the mast lock is still on and too much lift is being developed. Reset it to the normal position for going to windward and the boat should start to drive forward more. You will find when you first attempt the Wildthing the boat is up- down- up- down-up-down as you luff up and bear off, but you will soon find the happy medium position.

As you gain experience you can try pulling the traveller car up further, maybe to the toe strap fixing, but I think it is a mistake to pull it too far up in lighter winds. If the wind is too light to attempt the “Wild thing”, then you can adopt the normal downwind broad reaching course. This time, jib barber hauler hard down to the beam, mast rotation lock fully on (get your crew to let the spanner line off completely, push forward hard on the mast spanner with one hand, and pull the locking rope through the cleat under the boom with the other, and don’t forget to take it off before you gybe), let the main traveller car only out to the inside deck edge, no matter how light the wind, and use the wind indicator to steer a course at 90 degrees to the apparent wind.

If you are steering a broad reaching coarse to a distant object, like the next mark for example, watch the wind indicator very closely. If the wind swings forward just a small amount, it may be possible to pull the traveller nearly up to the centreline, and build your apparent wind up so much that you will soon be trapezing. Of course, in this situation, you will need to drop the leeward centreboard, take the mast lock off, and free the barber hauler, repositioning them again if the wind swings back and forces you back to your original broad reach.

Trouble Shooting

20. Not Pointing

This is once of the commonest complaints we hear when training. The answer is almost always the same. The mainsheet is not being pulled in hard enough. Sometimes, because of strength differences in one arm or the other the mainsheet may be at vastly different tensions on opposite tacks.

To sort this one out first, set the boat up on the shore head to wind, then get out on the wire and sheet in hard as though sailing to windward. Try it with your dominate arm first. If your are right handed, do it on starboard tack first. Now when sheeted in as hard as you can, get your crew to mark the mainsheet where it comes through the blocks with a pen. Do the same operation on the other tack, but this time close your eyes as you sheet in, and tell your crew when you think you are sheeted in to maximum. It is not at all unusual to find there is quite a difference between the two tacks.

You can now mark the mainsheet with a waterproof pen to give yourself a reference point to obtain equality of sheeting.
Having sorted out any arm strength variations, you can now concentrate on getting the main right in. Once trapezing, it is virtually impossible to oversheet a 5.9. When the mainsheet is in as tight as you can get it, put the tiller under your arm and pull another 6 inches through the blocks. I can guarantee you still won’t have it as tight as Robert White! If you’re overpowered you shouldn’t be easing the main until the downhaul is fully down. If you are still overpowered too early, maybe the mast set up is too powerful for your crew weight, so go back to coarse tune and start again.

21. Weather Helm

Too much weather helm is almost always caused by badly adjusted rudder blades. There should be absolutely no backwards movement of the blades in the stocks when the rudders are locked down. Even the slightest movement will start to bring on weather helm.

22. Weather and Lee Helm

Weather helm on one tack and lee helm on the other is caused by a twisted rudder blade. This usually affects the boat on all points of sailing, so a good way to find which rudder is causing the trouble is to sail on a broad reach in a force two or three and lift first one rudder, then the other, and try this on both tacks. You should find that one rudder in particular will cause the problem when it is down. Try putting a borrowed rudder on this side to test the diagnosis.
Unfortunately, having found the problem, the solution can be expensive. Fortunately it’s not a common problem.

23. Rudder Blades Whistling

This is caused by the shape of the trailing edge of the blades. Whether they’re too sharp or too square I’m never sure. We ran a file down the trailing edge of one set at 90 degrees to put a flat on the edge. We never heard a squeak out of them after that. The next time we had the problem on a different boat and gave it the same treatment, All that happened was the pitch of the whistle changed.

We then held the file at 45 degrees and ran it down both sides to sharpen the trailing edge up. End of problem.

24. Difficulty Mainsail on and off Hook

The stainless hook on the mast is really a little too long. You can safely cut about 5 to 8mm off it. If you are still having problems getting it off, look at the top edge of the hook and notice how the ring makes a groove in this edge. Take a good metal file and rub the back edge of this groove away, to make a smoother curve back up to the tip of the hook.

25. Still getting left behind?

There is very little difference between straight line boat speed of any of our Hurricanes. What makes the difference is the way we go round corners and manoeuvre, in other words, boat handling. It happens in all cats. The problem is that the straight line speed of a 5.9 makes it less forgiving of bad boat handling. Count how many seconds it takes to go from putting the helm down to initiate a tack to being up to speed on the new one.

If the boat in front does it only 5 seconds quicker, it doesn’t sound too bad, but then sail past a buoy, and see how far you sail in five seconds. Multiply that by a few more bad tacks and gybes, sloppy mark roundings, slowness getting the boat set up for the next leg, add that to the 10 seconds you were late crossing the start line and it’s not difficult to see why you’re a leg behind at the finish.

Practise, practise, practise, tacking, gybing, mark rounding upwind to downwind and vice versa. This is where the real gains are to be made.

Robin Smith (31/1/96)