|As a World championship tune-up event, the Melges 24 March Madness Regatta hosted by the Miami Yacht Club had near perfect sailing conditions for the sailors lucky enough to attend. |
Even though the fleet numbered 14, all the boats were tough and some of top boats in the world made it to the starting line. Winning the regatta, with Stu McNay at the helm, was Connor Clarke's Embarr, who demonstrated remarkable consistency during the event, never finishing lower than third and winning four of the eight races, including the last three.
Former Melges 24 World Champion Brian Porter and his team aboard Full Throttle, after retiring from Race 2, was able to climb up the standings to finish second overall. Bruce Ayres' Monsoon held tough the entire event, taking the third spot on the podium, just edging out John Brown and his team on Blind Squirrel in fourth. North Sails powered boats finished 1,2,3,4,6,8,10!
A great addition to our Melges 24 fleet is multi-champion Tim Healy. After the regatta Tim and Andy Burdick discussed the most commonly asked questions newcomers (and even seasoned veterans) ask:
GYBING - When do you do a conventional asymmetrical gybe and when do you do a blow-through gybe? Can you describe the difference? Does the jib stay out or furled?
We practice two types of gybes:
1. Conventional Gybe This gybe is performed in the lighter wind conditions (5-10 knots). Another indicator is the angle you are sailing downwind. If you are sailing a low angle (almost running dead downwind), then this style of gybe is best. When performing this style of gybe, you do want your jib furled during the maneuver. The end goal with this gybe is to reduce steering through the maneuver. This allows the boat to keep consistent speed through the gybe and allows you to stay in a narrow wind lane, if needed. A clear indicator of doing this gybe correctly is if the spinnaker rotates around the headstay before the main crosses the boat. To do this, steer down slowly while the crew overhauls the new spinnaker sheet as the boat approaches dead downwind. During this time, the crew rolls the boat, the new sheet continues to be trimmed until the spinnaker fills and the main is pulled across the boat. Once the sails are filled on the new side, the crew should use their weight to flatten the boat. As the boat is flattened, the main should be trimmed to the higher exit heading and the spinnaker should be eased because the spinnaker is over trimmed during the gybe.
2. Blow-Through (or Skiff) Gybe. We like to use this style of gybe in 12+ knots of wind. During the Blow-Through Gybe, the jib stays out and plays a factor in the maneuver. The end goal with this type of gybe is to achieve maximum speed going into the maneuver and then regain your speed as quickly as possible after the maneuver (spinnaker filled, proper angle of heel).
Again, we do not over-steer the boat. You have to be slow and smooth, especially now that the boat is reaching high speeds. We count down the gybe: "Gybing in 3, 2, 1". On the 2 count the helmsperson slowly turns down. On 3 the spinnaker trimmer will begin to trim in about five feet of sheet. The forward crew will trim the jib hard creating a wall at the fore triangle of the boat. When the trimmer trims in, the clew gets pulled down which is what you want. The forward crew then grabs the clew of the spinnaker and holds it for about 1.5 seconds, all the while the boat is being steered through the gybe slowly.
The trimmer then calls "CUT" , meaning release the clew. The spinnaker then backwinds into the jib and the fore triangle of the boat. The spinnaker trimmer pulls the new sheet and, with some timing practice, the boat will exit the gybe at an angle where only 2-3 pulls on the new sheet will fill the spinnaker after the gybe.
Key indicators after the gybe: If you come out of the gybe over-heeled, then you oversteered through the process. If you come out of the gybe too low -the spinnaker will need to be overtrimmed to fill. The boat will be slow and flat in the water. Practice these!
JIB LEADS - Where is your standard position for your jib leads? When would you move them either forward or aft?
Jib lead position is a commonly asked question. The best thing about the North Sails shapes is that they are consistently fast and easy to set up and tune, particularly the jib on the Melges 24. Our all-purpose jib lead position is where the jib car splits the third bolt on the track (counting from the front of the track). We keep our jib lead in this position the majority of the time. In light air we may move the jib car position forward 1-2 holes especially if there is a lot of lump in the sea condition. When the wind is up we may go back 1-2 holes if we have flat water. However, if it is choppy or if we need to ease the jib for any reason then we keep the jib car in the all-purpose position. Why? Because the jib is so high aspect that if you move your jib lead aft, the top leech of the jib will twist open whenever the sail is eased. An open leech causes the sail to lose punch and luff earlier at the top of the sail. By keeping our jib lead in this all-purpose position we keep more control of the upper jib leech and more power in the sail. You can get a better sense of the lead position effect by moving your jib car several holes fore and aft and observing the difference in the trim of the upper leech of the sail.
JIB LUFF TENSION - How do you set the jib luff tension and when do you change the tension? How many wrinkles are you looking for in different conditions and why?
Jib luff tension is important on the Melges 24. In lighter winds the luff of the jib should be fairly loose and the sail will have horizontal wrinkles on the luff of the jib. These wrinkles extend from the luff and should be about 6-8" long. Changing the luff tension is determined by wind speed and water conditions. If the water is choppy we keep the jib luff on the loose side and in flat water we might sail with the jib luff tighter. A great example was this past weekend in Miami. On Saturday we had a lot of chop, conditions ranging from 12-16 mph. Because of the chop we left our jib luff softer. Wrinkles were about 4" long, horizontally. The next race day we had similar wind velocity with flat water. This is the condition where you can pull the jib luff tight, removing the wrinkles in the luff of the jib.
JIB TRIM: The North Sails tuning guide suggests placing a mark on the spreader 12" in from the tip. When can you trim to this mark and what other clues do you look at to guide you on trimming the jib? Is the upper leech telltale more important to look at?
This is a very good question. The spreader mark is important to have as it is a reference that every sailor can use. As the wind, boat speed and other variables change, the high aspect of the jib causes the sail to change its shape. The telltales on the upper leech of the jib will be your best indicator of the jib leech trim status while hiking on the windward side of the boat. The jib trimmer can clearly see the jib telltale either flowing or being stalled. By referencing the leech telltale and the jib sheet mark on your deck, you can clearly find the sweet spot for the jib trim.
Light Air - Jib Trimmer in the boat: In this condition we make sure our jib telltale is flowing all of the time and never stalled. We will trim to the point of stall and then ease a click. We constantly watch this as the velocity changes and we will adjust. Being in the boat in this lighter air condition leads to no excuse to not being aggressive in adjusting and monitoring your trim.
8-12 knots (Hiking conditions on the Melges 24) - In flat water we trim the jib hard, to the point of the jib telltale stalling 50% of the time. This will allow you to achieve extra height going upwind. If you want to go through the water faster and with less heel, then the jib needs to be eased slightly to where the jib telltale is flowing more of the time.
12-25 knots - The jib is trimmed hard up until the time that our main begins to invert. If our main rags or inverts upwind, then we will consider moving our jib car aft 1-2 holes, or we will ease our jib slightly so that the main has less backwind from the jib. Again, if we want to sail the boat faster through the water, then we will have the jib eased slightly as well creating a wider sailing groove for the helmsperson.
Read also: Melges 24 Q&A Part Two