6 August 2006

06 AUGUST 2006 The 2006 Melges 32 Nationals will be one to remember - most of all the display of speed was simply amazing. Harry Melges shares the following pointers that everyone learned on board 2006 Melges 32 National Champion Jeff Ecklund's STAR.

Mast Rake is right off the tuning guide at: 42’7” on the headstay length and we never touched this.

Typically we set the rig up so that the uppers are at #6 on the Loos gauge with the jack all the way down or off. The Intermediates are snug and the lowers are loose. When sailing to windward in 8 knots, the mast will set up with about _"to 1" of leeward sag. We used this setting in flat water all the time even when the breeze was up over 12 or so.

We always felt better when we had the jack pressure lower, especially in flat water. I think this allows the mast to bend more freely and the boat accelerates more quickly.

When the waves were up with breeze over 14 or so, we pumped the jack up to 2,000 lbs and this took all the sag out of the mast and the mast was straight side to side. This seemed like a pretty fast set up to about 18 knots or so. Over 18 we were up around 2,500 lbs on the jack. When the waves were up and the breeze was solid over 18 we took up 3 full turns on each lower to help keep the mast stiffer down low and keep some power in the bottom of the mainsail. We would then pull the backstay all the way on to twist the top of the mainsail and pull the traveler to center or above at times to keep the bottom of the main working. This really free'd up the boat and it made it really nice to drive in the big waves.

We always lived in one of two holes on the jib lead tracks, one forward hole to power up the bottom of the jib in the L/M stuff and then we would move one hole aft if it was up over 15 all the time or the water was flat. The boat seems to like the lead forward and the jib trimmed tight. Sometimes we had more chop on one tack than the other and we would set up the lead further forward on the choppy tack.

We found that the M/H jib is good from about 6 knots up to 22 knots, maybe more in flat water. We also found the #4 to be good above 20 knots, especially in the waves as it allowed you to steer more easily through the waves.

6.5 plus on the knotmeter was our goal in the waves and pretty much all the time unless we wanted to go fast forward in a lift to get across the fleet.

We got some extra 57mm carbo blocks to shackle directly on the clew ring of the M/H and the #4 jibs so we could just run the line in and out to change sails, on the L/M jib we didn’t use any blocks on the clew at all, we simply ran the line through the clew ring and this worked great. We always use the 2:1 set up. In fact, if you don’t use the 2:1 set up you need to be careful in a breeze as you will break the carbo ratchets. If you go 1:1 you need to go straight to the winch.

The boats like backstay early on, so we had backstay on as soon as we were sitting on the rail.

In the bigger breeze it was key to get the boat up and rock’n quickly and with full control. We sail the boat exactly like the Melges 24. Weight aft and hiking, traveler all the way down, vang almost all the way off, outhaul eased, backstay on almost as hard as the beat, eased off maybe 1' on the double block. Front person works the vang and flies the jib, then the kite trimmer(one person tails and grinds on the windward winch) Everyone else as far aft as possible. You have to be aggressive with main trim, trimming it almost all the way in when you are getting on the wave as you accelerate and your apparent wind goes forward, then easing it again as you slow down and lose the wave. The goal is to never lose the speed, keep the boat pressed all the time and keep her planning. Flat water was the same you just plane all the time.

There is a very narrow wind range that you can sail DDW(dead down wind mode) where you ease the tack line up about 18", ease the main out, loose vang, backstay all the way off, and a bit of windward heel. This only works in about 8 to 11 knots, below that or above that and your apparent wind is forward.

One of the most important aspects of sailing the Melges 32, or any boat around the race course is boat handling. The biggest challenge is usually spinnaker handling and getting the kite up and down quickly and cleanly. On the Melges 32 we use the belly patches and retrieval line to help pull the kite in through the forward hatch. We learned a few things about this set up, and keeping it clean coming out of the hole on the set requires a clean take down. On a leeward drop it was pretty straight forward, you bear away, start pulling the retrieval line in, get the foot up and inside the stanchions and gather cloth easing the halyard, tack and sheet out as the 2 crew on deck gather the kite above the hatch and one down below. Two on deck is key for quick douses and one goes down the entire leech and the other controls the foot while the person below sucks the sail through the hatch.

The Mexican takedown, or gybe takedown was very similar as you gybe into the kite you blow the halyard off and suck the kite through the hatch.

The windward takedown is what we needed the most work with as we kept twisting the kite on the takedown and then it would always go up twisted. So, we finally started doing windward takedowns like we do in the Melges 24. Bear away, blow the tack off, pull the clew around to the windward side to turn the kite inside out, once the clew is aft, then one person goes down the leech and the other controls the foot and the sewer sucks it through the hatch. When we took down like this we never had any problems.

That’s a quick recap of the primary things that I thought made a difference for STAR. There are always little things each team can improve on, you just need to make sure you pinpoint the problems and fix them quickly with a change in the process. We’re all still learning the best and easiest way to sail these fun new boats so the key is to minimize errors as much as possible. Fix them so you don’t keep making the same mistakes.