Waterlines: No Strings Attached - Sail Magazine

Waterlines: No Strings Attached

Author:
Publish date:
The mainsheet arch, pioneered on production boats by Hunter and now widely copied, has many advantages

The mainsheet arch, pioneered on production boats by Hunter and now widely copied, has many advantages

I am amused by some of the running-rigging trends I’ve seen at boat shows lately, one example being this fashion wherein all working lines must be concealed beneath the deck. First it was all the lines led aft from the mast, then it was tails from the new-fangled double-ended German mainsheets, then it was jib sheets, and now even headsail furlers and mainsheet travelers are going underground. What with the demise of such fixtures as Dorade vents, granny bars and handrails, real estate forward of the cockpit dodger on many boats now is as sleek and featureless as a sheet of ice.

I get it: this looks trés cool. Sleek and sexy! But I am a coward at heart and the thought of having to venture forward into such an environment in bad weather almost makes me soil my shorts. For me, used as I am to having all sorts of stuff to cling to when my boat goes sideways, this would be like going for a spacewalk without a suit on. Even in harbor I’d probably be clipped on in a harness just going up to the bow to anchor.

At the opposite extreme I’m remembering those meaty, line-bedecked Swans from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Every line coming off the mast was splayed out around its base to its very own winch, every Dorade vent had its own granny bar, and there was often even an extra cockpit somewhere in the middle of the boat just for trimming jib sheets. There was a veritable cat’s cradle of string and hardware to hang on to, but you literally had to roam the whole deck to work it all. The weight and expense of all those winches was also enough to ruin both the rating and budget of most race boats.

That was a trend driven by a certain aesthetic sense, just as this current one is. Back then people wanted their sailboats to look more nautical and businesslike than they really needed to; now they want them to look like smartphones. Between those divergent poles there must be an ideal we should strive to realize.

Some of the trends I see these days I actually find encouraging. I am, for example, a big fan of German mainsheets: first, because, after decades of mainsheet controls being planted on cabintops beyond the reach of the helm, it is a relief now to be able to steer and trim main again simultaneously; second, with two mainsheets you can trim twice as fast if you have crew help out on the other winch on the other side of the cockpit (assuming there are dedicated mainsheet winches on both sides of the cockpit—an important proviso, I submit, for any such system).

I also really like to see mainsheets led overhead to cockpit arches or, on catamarans, to targa tops. Some monohull builders provide the arch, then lead the sheet to a single attachment point. Others create a two-point bridle or, even better, put on a full traveler, which is an ideal arrangement. You get all the advantage of being able to fine-tune the sheet’s lead angles, but none of the disadvantage of having a volatile and often heavily loaded control line sliding back and forth across the cockpit sole.

The problem with mainsheet cockpit arches, of course, is that to any eye prejudiced by even a glimmer of nautical tradition, or by a sense of contemporary Euro-chic, they tend to look quite ugly. In many cases they seem like sweptback flying buttresses grafted on top of surfboards, although I also expect that someday they won’t appear so out of place. In the end, form should always follow function on a sailboat, and eventually, I believe, that which works best for a sailor will also always look beautiful. s
SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails his Tanton 39 on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com

Photo Courtesy of Jeanneau

February 2016

Related

9781472947666

Book Review: The Atlantic Crossing Guide

Jane Russell & the RCC Pilotage FoundationIf you have a yen for sailing across the Pond to explore the delights of Northern Europe or the Mediterranean, you’d best do some homework first. There’s no better primer than this weighty tome, now in its 7th edition. It’s crammed with ...read more

shutterstock_63705382

Raytech Gelbox Line

Well GelledEvery so often you run across a product you never knew you needed, and then you wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with it. Thus it is with the Gelbox line from Raytech. These reuseable plastic boxes for low-voltage connectors are filled with gel, so ...read more

shutterstock_295810247

Cruising: Nova Scotia’s Bras d’Or Lake

I have rarely had a cruise that wasn’t different from my expectations, and my Nova Scotia travels have borne that out. For my friend and shipmate, Steve White, and me, our 2017 trip to Cape Breton Island and the Bras d’Or Lake on One Timer, my Sabre 362, was a much anticipated ...read more

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more