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5 March 2004, 09:48 am
All Change On The Headboard Front
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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
St. Maarten

On Wednesday, following headboard car damage, it looked likely that Hasso Platner's Z86 might not be able to compete against her class sister in the St Maarten Heineken Regatta.
But after some considerable work by the boat's team, with the assistance of local engineers, a repaired and reinforced car was on the boat yesterday morning.

The boat set off for a practice sail and with some gusts of perhaps 20 knots above the mean wind speed of 22 to 25, it looked as though a proper test was planned.

Initial stories suggest that the car distorted so that the sides opened up and came off the track; which, if memory serves, is the identical problem that occurred to a similar fitting on a couple of Volvo Open 60s during the last round the world race. Dee SMITH, Morning Glory's supremo, seemed to be instigating a news blackout on the problem with the boat, even to the extent of trying to stop photographer Bob GRIESER from taking a shot of the offending - but repaired - headboard car.

So, Morning Glory is back on the water, but her sister Pyewacket stayed on the dock, modifying her headboard car. After all, these two boats are virtually identical and if the problem would apply to one boat, it might well apply to the other. Robbie HAINES, the man in charge of Pyewacket for Roy Disney, was taking no chances on a breakdown during racing. Morning Glory had time to effect a repair, Pyewacket wouldn't have that luxury after today. Racing begins on today with the Round the Island race and the first gun goes at 0850 local time.

While the big boats are sorting out their cutting edge problems, down in the non-spinnaker classes owners were contemplating their ratings and just what sails to use during the regatta.

Under the CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) rule, if you don't carry a spinnaker, you have the option of three configurations of headsails; just a jib, a jib and pole or twin jibs and a pole. There are increasing penalties for each system, so you have to decide what the conditions might be and how your boat performs under each configuration.

Jib only isn't too popular, particularly with the crews, and isn't very efficient if there is a lot of downwind work in the racing as the jib flops about and has to be held out by hand. It is, however, the most likely configuration for a bareboat.

Jib and pole works well offwind and for a further penalty you can have a pole longer than J - the distance from the mast to the forestay - which makes your sail set more efficiently.

Twin jibs with a pole is an option popular in the Caribbean, but not usually seen in Europe or the rest of the world. The trick is to have a special second headsail which you hoist alongside the usual jib or genoa, poling it out forward of the forestay when reaching. This seems to work well with the right sail - tall and narrow and with a high clew - as it feeds air into the other sail. Gybing is fun, however, as you have to flop one sail into the other and then persuade them to flip out into their proper positions once again by swinging the windward one outside the forestay. It has to be said that a conventional spinnaker is hardly more work.

Other things to consider under CSA include the selection of the biggest headsail to measure in. If you think that it is likely to be windy, then a small, 100 per cent headsail might give the best rating and performance. Light winds then a bigger sail would be a good bet. For the 2004 St Maarten Heineken Regatta the sail choice will be controlled by the forecast, which shows that the winds should moderate throughout the three days. Friday should remain at over 20 knots, Saturday dropping to the upper teens, and Sunday perhaps even as low as 15 knots.

For the spinnaker class the options are mainly about choosing symmetrical or asymmetric spinnaker and if the latter, whether to set it from a conventional pole or from a bowsprit. Once you made up your mind, you have to stick with your choice and can't use a symmetrical kite if you are rated for the asymmetric one.

You have to have a fresh certificate for each of these changes and the rule allows you three certificates a year. This means that you could do St Maarten's Heineken Regatta, the BVI Spring Regatta and Antigua in three different configurations.

And they say that Caribbean racing is all relaxed fun in the sun. Serious fun that is.
Dick Johnson (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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