Ask Sail: When to Use a Vang Sheet

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The vang on this Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 is vital to ensuring good mainsail shape

The vang on this Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 is vital to ensuring good mainsail shape

TO VANG OR NOT TO VANG

Q: Last year, I bought a new, fully-battened Dacron main for my 36-footer. Unlike the old one, the new main is loose-footed. I have a mid-boom sheet arrangement and a traditional (non-rigid) vang. Is the vang really doing anything? It seems to me that tightening the vang would do nothing but straighten the boom, with little effect on sail shape

— Don Lincoln, Brighton, MI

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

There are a couple of things to consider. Does the boat have a mainsail traveler, or is it just a mid-boom sheeting arrangement with a fixed point on the centerline of the boat? If there is a traveler, then you don’t need the vang, or at least you don’t need it as much, especially when sailing hard on the wind, since the mainsheet is controlling the leech of the main quite nicely. On the other hand, if it’s mid-boom sheeting to a fixed point then you need the vang, because the vang will hold the boom down and control the leech, both hard on the wind and when the mainsheet is eased. Bottom line: you want to be able to control the back end of the main as much as possible. You especially don’t want the boom to rise up and then twist open the leech as soon as you ease the boom out.

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