Clues for Clews

Jim Ballantine of Charleston, S. Carolina, asks:

’ve installed new adjustable cars for my genoa aboard my 39-foot sloop. But now that I have them, I’m not sure what adjustments I should make to the cars when sailing in different wind conditions. I do know that whenever I reef down the headsail I should move the cars forward. But I’m not sure what other adjustments to make in different conditions so I can get the best out of my genoa when sailing to windward. Are there any good rules I can follow to help me improve my trim skills?

Win Fowler replies:

There are several key adjustments you can make to improve your upwind performance. In light-to-moderate conditions, especially when you are sailing in chop, try moving the cars forward a little and ease out the jibsheet slightly; this is a great way to make the sail more powerful. Conversely, in heavy air, you can depower the sail by moving the genoa car aft. This flattens the bottom of the sail and increases the twist up high and opens the head. If you are sailing in very light conditions, moving the genoa cars aft can help keep the weight of the sailcloth from pulling down the clew. It also helps the leech stay open rather than having it close down, which is what might happen with a lot of downward pull at the cars.

Although you asked about sailing upwind, you should also know that whenever you ease the sail and head off on a reach you should move the genoa car forward. This offsets the extra twist created whenever the sheet is eased. Exactly how far you should move the car is something to determine by trial and error. These cars are designed to be adjusted constantly, so don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s the best way to find out what really works best. Once you find a setting that works well, put some kind of marker on the track or deck so you can return to it quickly any time you want.

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