When adjusting the mainsail carriage up makes a difference


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The adjustment of the mainsail carriage, which seems unfashionable on modern super cruising boats, nevertheless remains a fundamental aspect when we talk about the main “engine” of the boat, the mainsail precisely. The basic theory goes: with lots of trolley wind the trolley goes downwind, with little wind trolley upwind. In principle this is so, but it is with the finesses of this adjustment that we can make a difference on the upwind speed of our boat, in racing but also in cruising, for example in light winds.


With little wind it is necessary to gradually bring the undercarriage upwind from the center of the boat, even almost to its upwind apex. Doing so changes the angle of incidence between the wind direction and the sail, closing it, and increasing the load on the mainsail, thus indirectly on the rudder.

The risk of this operation, however, is to end up with the leech excessively closed and oriented too far upwind of the boat center. Therefore, when we bring the carriage upwind, it is necessary at the same time to leave a little bit of sheet, so as to slightly warp the top of the sail and make the profile efficient. If we do the two operations in the right measure we will notice that the boat will take a slight gyre tendency even if there is little wind. Conversely, if we pull the trolley upwind without leaving a bit of sheet, it is easy for the mainsail to stall and the boat to begin to lose speed, actually increasing the drift. If we are in a situation of 8-10 knots of wind, with a few gusts above that, the mainsailer will have to be quick to dump a few inches of gear at the entrance of the stronger pressure, lest the boat swerve and heel a bit too much forcing a major rudder correction that would brake the boat. You scarf down a few inches downwind, close a bit of sheet, and go back to do the reverse operation at the end of the gust, that is, still on carriage and open sheet again. And so on, following the sequence of bursts and dips.

Mauro Giuffrè


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