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HomeArt of Crewing II

The Art of Crewing II

by Adam Walsh,
Winning forward crew with Tim Healy at the 1997 Lightning North American Championship

In the last issue, we discussed the difficulty and importance of the forward crew's position. We talked about racing upwind, max hiking and boat and balance trim. In this article, I would like to discuss jib trim and jib controls.

I sail with a 2-to-1 jib sheet system which allows me to make small trims and eases with minimal effort. I have an adjustable lead system lead to the weather rail.

In order to have steady boatspeed upwind, perfect jib trim is essential. Prior to the start, the forward crew should take a chance to sit to leeward and study the jib shape and the position of the top jib batten relative to the spreader tip.

Take a minute and overtrim the jib an inch and see how the leech looks. Then look to the lower third of the sail and look to see how flat it has become.

When the sail is over-trimmed, slide to weather and look to see how much backwind is in the main. Then, slowly ease the sheet until the backwinding stops. Then slide to leeward and see what the leech looks like at that position. Again over-trim the sail and try easing the sail 1/2 inch at a time while observing how the top batten reacts. Remember that when the lead is forward, the slightest change in sheet tension will have a greater effect on the leech at the spreader. All of these observations will allow you to visualize what the jib looks like while you are hiking on the weather rail.

I have found that the windows in the mainsails are perfect for the helm on the rail to see the jib, but not very useful for the forward crew who is always moving around. For this reason, I don't rely on the window but look at the lower third of the sail and the luff of the main to trim the jib. Occasionally, I ask the helm to tell me how many inches in or out from the spreader tip is from the jib leech.

It is important to keep in mind that as the wind increases the upper jib leech will open up more, and as the wind decreases the leech will close. Thus, the forward crew must realize that if the breezes is on and the jib leech is at the ideal position, when the breeze drops, or the boat slows due to waves, that the leech will close and the jib will be over-trimmed. So the jib must be eased. Obviously the converse is true for a building breeze.

Therefore, the forward crew must always be on the ball ensuring that the jib trim is accurate all the time.

The Lightning jib has several controls which will effect its overall performance. The halyard or wire tension, the cloth tension, the jib lead and the sheet tension. It would be best for you to consult with your sailmaker's tuning guide for that sail's specific settings. However, I will offer some observations.

While sailing this years NAs, the primary jib adjustment was the sheet tension. Each day I would set the jib lead for each tack, because each tack had a different wave angle necessitating a different setting, and I left them there. As for the wire setting, it would be set so that the headstay was a bit looser than the wire at all times, and the cloth was set so that the scallops just disappeared. Once these were set, I did not adjust them.

But I adjusted the sheet tension frequently. The main goal of jib trim should be to keep the top of the jib working as efficiently as possible, without closing the slot, or killing the flow over the leeward side of the top of the jib.

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