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Windrush: Handling the Mainsheet correctly


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I have recently acquired a Windrush Surfcat 14 (I think it is a Mk I). I don't have a lot of experience with catamaran, as I have mainly sailed monohulls in the past. On the Windrush--and most other cats, I believe--the mainsheet operates the traveller as well as the mainsail boom. That is, the mainsheet is fed through an eyestrap in the middle of the aft beam, then through a cam cleat on the traveller, then forms a loop that the skipper holds in his/her hand and then goes through the boom tackle as on any other sailing dinghy.

So, the helmsman actually holds two ends of the mainsheet in a loop: One end controls the traveller and the other the boom. I would appreciate some answers to the following questions from some more experienced cat sailors out there regarding this arrangement

1. The concept of a traveller is new to me. How do you use it in practice? I've done some reading and worked out that close-hauled you get it into the centre while on a beam reach or even further downwinds, its pretty much all away out. No surprises here, but is that the full story?

2. How do you trim the mainsail? My mainsheet has a tackle to the boom, however, the traveller has nothing. In medium winds getting the traveller in closer is almost impossible. Do you adjust the traveller for a particular course and then leave it there and trim the sail only with the mainsheet (I am referring to the boom controlling portion of it here)?

3. I have read that most catamarans have 6:1 or even higher tackle arrangements with rachets. Mine came with 4:1 tackle and no rachets. I am not sure whether someone changed that at some point or whether the Mk I Windrushes just were like that. Would you recommend getting a higher ratio tackle, and if so, which one? Does a rachet really make a lot of difference?

4. I am also interested in the practicalities of that mainsheet loop. I understand controlling the traveller and mainsheet gives you more control over sail trim and leech tension, however, I only have two hands but three things to keep hold off: The mainsheet, the traveller and the tiller. How do you handle all three in practice?

5. Also, I noticed that the mainsheet is pretty short: On a broach reach, when the mainsail is all the way out and the traveller is all the way over to one side, the mainsheet loop that you normally hold in your hand is completely gone. At that point the mainsail is just touching the aft stays. Is that what it should be, or is it really too short? There is nothing to hold on to at that point.

Some answers would be highly appreciated. I am sure I will get used to it all, but would like to get started on the right foot.

Thank you.


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Hi McKrassy,

Congratz on buying a Windrush (windy). I am the current national champ for Supersloop and Cat rig, my boat was first production foam sandwich boat built back in 93-94. So I'll try to explain a few things for you.

1. The traveller is always in the centre on a close-hauled course (unless its very windy then u drop it down about 2-5inches). On a reach the idea is to allow the head of the sail to 'twist' off so unless running you rarly have the traveller all the way out, you use more mainsheet out and less traveller to get it to 'twist'. More or less between 1/2-3/4 the way out.

2. In medium to strong winds on a Mk1 will be hard to get the traveller in because the rear beam angles forward. on Mk2 onwards they angle backwards and are more inline with the centre of effort of the mainsheet pulleys. You very rarely play any traveller, its more a set once per leg unless you get overpowered then u can drop it down a bit.

3. Higher ratio blocks will help with sail trim upwind, the max allowable on a windy is 6:1. I personally use a Harken Carbo Triple Ratchet 40mm block with a Harken Carbo Triple top block on a 6mm sheet. The most common is either the Harken Carbo Triple Ratchet 57mm or Ronstan Triple Ratchet 57mm bottom with a 40mm triple top block on an 8-10mm sheet. The ratchet makes a HUGE difference on the load that you arm holds.

4. The answer is you dont. Well not all the time. The idea of the loop is so that when u are trimming the main you always have access to the traveller if needed.

If i need to drop traveller but am on wire with tiller and mainsheet in hand, i transfer the mainsheet into my tiller hand, so i have both tiller & mainsheet in that hand (note: this is only for a short period and you can still steer the boat a little bit), once i have transfered the mainsheet i then adjust the traveller and pickup the main again.

5. It sounds like it is alittle to short. I personally have a 10m mainsheet (a little too long) and my father (2nd at nationals) uses an 8m mainsheet.

If you need anything more answered just ask.

Michael - 6327

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Hey TornadoSport260,

Very helpful and quick indeed. Thank you very much.

Yeah, my mainsheet is about 6.5m long, I think. I got 10m of some 12mm mainsheet, but that might be a little think, I noticed. Most people seem to be running 8mm or 10mm mainsheets, is that right?

Also, because cats are never really sailed downwind on a dead run, but mostly on broad reaches, the sail does not need to be eased as much as on a monohull, right? Therefore, the mainsheet can be a little shorter?

Thank you again.


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cat rigged 14 footers tend to be "blow downwind" boats. I've seen sloop windy's downwind - one tacks for apparent wind, the other straight downwind, they start together at the top and end up together at the bottom! (it was probably T620 and his dad!) Different in different winds though.

on reaches play the mainsheet hard to get apparent wind going, makes a BIG difference.

destroy an old video tape and put one long streamer on each forestay, you can then see when you're going dead downhill plus you can see the apparent wind kick in on reaches.

definitely 6:1 with a ratchet - look around, you might be able to get a well used one. My cat originally came with a block where the ratchet had broken and it was a real pain going uphill, ratchets good, cleats, not so useful and can get in the way.

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Hey knobblyoldjimbo,

Could you elaborate on this point a little:

> on reaches play the mainsheet hard to get apparent wind going, makes a BIG difference.

Are you referring to the continuous easing and sheeting-in to find the right point, or are you just saying "sheet it in really close"?

Thank you for your help so far.


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I think there's a sweet spot. The mainsail telltales (and I have many) don't really help, you can see from the forestay fly's that the wind is forward, pull the main in (let the traveller down so the boom comes down - leech is nice and tight) - if you feel the pace is going off then head up, if the speed goes up, head down.

I'm a real newbie on all this stuff but it really is a feel thing and a real buzz when you start to catch people in front.

In the windy the measure is the amount of spray - I've been in front of one on a broad reach, looked back and just saw a mast sticking out of a large cloud of spray!!

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So broad/tight reaching on a windy is very different to that of monohulls.

On a Windrush, we tend to keep the traveller further in and use a little more mainsheet to allow the head of the sail to 'twist' off.

What this does is transfer the centre of effort of the sail towards the bottom and it will give u more forward momentum than keeping the leech tight and 'bolt' upright.

Keeping the leech bolt upright dosnt allow the head to twist off and on a sail like the windrush mylars that have a large Roach built into them you need to allow it to twist off or you'll just want to heel over and choke up the boat.

But it is always a good idea to get the bottom 2 sets of telltales flowing. also on the mylar jibs watch the bottom telltale on the jib and make sure it flows properly.

Michael, 6327

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There are ratchet blocks available. I have a harken triple ratchet with cleat and becket block at the bottom and a triple cleat at the top. Because the cleat is never right - it's angle changes so that to avoid it getting in the way you make it 'sit' up high (ie when the block is right down at the end of the traveller you can still release it without too much trouble). It's the ratchet that stops the block from turning that relieves some of the stress on the old hands.

I have another set of blocks which carry slightly thicker line - these have a ratchet and are crappy old yacht, second hand ones. These are what you could look out for since in Oz the Harken blocks can cost more than the boat did! (I got mine on ebay from the US when the rate was near parity).

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quite right.

there are some ratchets that are essentially fixed in one plane - rotate one way, don't the other.

there are also some that have a spring mechanism and they'll only grab when under pressure, don't see these so much, I think there were too many mechanical parts.

most have a switch so you can disconnect the ratchet and allow the block to rotate freely in both directions. on my harken carbo this isn't one that can be done on the move, you have to dismantle the cheeks to do it. others have a switch on the side.

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