Cockpit Makeover Page 2
On a J/24 the cockpit is divided by the mainsheet traveler. Most of the time the helmsman sits near the mainsheet and steers while trimming the main. Because the original wooden mainsheet traveler support was cracked, we discarded it and got a new metal support from Hall Spars. Installing the support was easy because it dropped into the established notches on either side of the cockpit. Unfortunately, bolting it in place was another story.
The problem was that the old traveler support had been removed more than once by one or more of the previous owners. In the process they had created a number of holes that weakened the structure. To build things back up again we first ground around the outside of the holes with a Dremel tool. Then we ground off the fiberglass inside the deck structure and patched the areas with epoxy and glass. When everything had cured we were ready to bolt the new mainsheet traveler support in place.
The Hall Spars box-shaped support unit needed two holes at either end, which we drilled using the track as a guide. After that we drilled out the deck notches to fit. Midway through the installation, we realized it would be easier to mount the mainsheet track on the support before we bolted it in place because the only access to the support units bolts is inside the molded box-shaped support in the cockpit. After a few false starts we finally got the support unit and traveler mounted and backed properly with appropriately sized bolts. We then installed the other parts of the traveler, including the end stops, traveler car and traveler blocks.
When it came time to install the rigging, we made sure that all control lines, including those for the backstay, could be operated from either side of the boat. We decided to run the backstay controls under the mainsheet traveler so the helmsman could pull on them without having to lean into the cockpit. We put the traveler control lines on the after side of the traveler to help clean up the cockpit and make it easy to use.
The Ronstan mainsheet traveler car moves easily under load. This is an important feature whenever the helmsman is trimming the main, because it means he or she will not lose steering concentration. We achieved similar results when we installed the Harken traveler on the J/22. The performance improvement on both boats has been enormous.
We decided to use a four-part mainsheet, the maximum allowed by the J/24 class rules. The auto-ratchet feature on our Ronstan block is barely noticeable in light air, but as the wind and load increase, the ratcheting power increases as well.
We finished the refit at the end of last summer, and the boys were able to race the boat twice. The first race was in the very competitive local J/24 fleet, and they finished third. The second was a longer race in which they finished first among all the entries under 30 feet. Not a bad start for a 31-year-old boat. It demonstrates pretty clearly that it is possible to make an o