There are many good books and other sources for racing tips from sailors with a lot more experience than I have, so don’t expect these to be the ultimate enlightenment for your racing campaign. A fellow racing buddy who sadly was unable to attend MNAC/BNAC 2004 congratulated me on my win, and asked me to rattle-off 10 racing tips.
Most of these are just good common sense, but some are more specific to the Mutineer than others, but they worked for me at MNAC. What I focus on and what I learn changes with each regatta, but with 5 days of racing at MNAC fresh in my mind, this is what I replied:
1. Have good sails and learn how to shift gears with them.
2. Sail the boat very level fore and aft. Don't underestimate what it takes to do that, especially in a Mutineer. Sail the boat with very little heel, feeling little to no helm. It's even more important than on the Bucc, according to Dick Gibbs, because of the higher ratio of waterline length to beam.
3. Be still in the boat. Any rocking or shaking disrupts the forward drive.
4. Tune the boat and rig and foils as carefully as time allows, paying attention to upwind performance if a compromise has to be made. Then, don’t worry about what you didn’t get done on your checklist, just sail the snot out of it.
5. Get a good start, don’t worry about getting the best start. Then be patient for speed and opportunities to develop.
6. Sail the lifted tacks, especially upwind. Get comfortable with a compass, you won’t know the subtle lifted tacks without it.
7. If you're in the lead and seem to be pulling away, don't change much. Start to cover rather than trying for a “horizon job”.
8. If you're behind anyone, study them. Figure out what they are doing differently, and then do it better. Don't make excuses for second place, make changes. I learn more being behind someone than being in front.
9. Keep learning. My daughter made a slide show of pictures of my boat for my computer screensaver. Sometimes I'll see something new to improve even though I've seen the picture a thousand times.
10. Practice your weaknesses, not your strengths. Practice your competitor's strengths. My neighbor is an excellent light air sailor. I started to be content that he was going to win the light air races, and I'd win the heavy. That's stupid. By competing and practicing with him in his conditions, I became a better light air sailor.
The following settings are those we’ve found to be the fastest for your new North sails. After experimenting you may find slightly different settings which may mean even better boat speed for you and your style of sailing. If you have any questions or problems, please don’t hesitate to call. We are anxious to help you go faster and win more races!
Mast Rake: It is best to set up the mast rake on your Mutineer so that with the correct amount of rig tension the mast will be nearly vertical or raked slightly aft (up to 2 degrees). As a final check , the boom should be drooped slightly below parallel to the horizon at the outboard end when trimmed in and sailing upwind in a 10 -15 mph breeze. In winds below that (8-10 mph) the boom should just be level with the horizon. Most importantly, when sailing upwind in 10 mph winds with the boat level, there should be none to very little weather helm.
Rig Tension: We have found that the Mutineer performs better with the rig set up very tight. Set the jib stay tension so that the leeward shroud does not go slack when sailing upwind until it is blowing 10-12 mph. This rig tension can be tuned in with the jib stay through the use of a magic box or a Hyfield lever.
To set up this amount of rig tension without a magic box or lever, ease off your spinnaker or mainsail halyard enough so that another person can stand at least 10’ in front of the boat and hold onto the halyard. Then, recleat the halyard and have them pull on it hard enough so that the correct amount of rig tension can be set.
Jib Lead Position: The recommended jib lead angle is 10 degrees off the centerline of the boat. Unfortunately there are several different jib lead positions on the different model Mutineer boats that have been built. We suggest measuring out 10 degrees and try to set your lead accordingly side to side to meet the adjustment.
As for fore and aft trim, set your jib leads so that the jib luff breaks evenly from top to bottom in light to medium winds. In winds above 10-12 mph it is best to move the leads back 2". In winds above 20-25 mph it is best to move the lead back another 2".
Main and Jib Cunningham: For both the main and the jib, never pull tighter than to just remove the wrinkles. It is best to leave just a hint of horizontal wrinkles from the luff of your main and jib to be sure that you don’t have it pulled too tight.
Your North Mutineer jib is fitted with a small plastic clam cleat so you can easily adjust the cloth tension on your luff wire. As on the main, it is a good idea to set the cloth tension so there is just a hint of wrinkles coming off the luff of the jib. It is better to err toward the loose side than the tight side of luff tension on your North Mutineer sails.
Outhaul: Your North Mutineer main is fitted with a shelf foot which, when eased, will give the main incredible power. We suggest pulling the outhaul tight enough to close the shelf (so that the top seam is parallel with the boom) when sailing upwind in all conditions except very light winds with extreme chop. In these conditions it is advantageous to ease the outhaul 1-2" to open the shelf up approximately 2-3" at the center of the boom. When sailing downwind or on a reach it is a good idea to ease the outhaul off so that the shelf is completely open and the sail is very deep down low. However, never are vertical wrinkles in the foot advantageous. Never ease the outhaul off to this point.
Jib Sheet Trim: There is no easy guide for jib sheet trim on the Mutineer. Basically, we are looking for a parallel slot between the exit of the jib and the entry of the main. The guide that has been used with success is that of imagining a batten in the jib at mid-leech. This "batten" is usually set parallel to the centerline of the boat which makes the upper leech of the jib twist outboard slightly and the lower leech of the jib twist inboard slightly. It seems that 90% of the boat speed problems on the Mutineer are due to faulty jib sheet trim.
Mainsheet Trim: The mainsheet should be pulled tight enough so that the last 18" of the upper compression batten on the main is set parallel with the boom. This is sighted from underneath the boom and lining the batten and the boom parallel on a vertical plane. In light winds it is sometimes impossible to keep the upper batten from hooking slightly to weather because of the weight of the boom hanging on the leech of the sail. In these conditions and in choppy water we suggest easing the sheet out approximately 6" so that the upper batten will then become more or less aligned with the centerline of the boat. In choppy conditions ease the mainsheet approximately 6" to open the upper batten slightly to or past parallel to the boom. This is a "power" gear which will allow the mast to straighten slightly and the main become fuller. Picture the mainsheet as your accelerator. As your boat picks up speed, pull the main tighter and tighter until the upper batten is parallel to the boom. In light winds or when the boat is hit with a wave and is slow downwind, ease the mainsheet so that the upper batten is angled outboard slightly inducing "twist" into the sail.
Upper Compression Batten: Your North Mutineer main is fitted with a full-length upper batten that fits into plastic protectors along the luff of the sail. The Velcro adjustment allows you to change the tension on this batten as the conditions change. However, 90% of the time we set the upper batten in the pocket just tight enough to barely remove the vertical wrinkles along the pocket. To over-compress the batten will induce more fullness into the sail than it is designed for and will tend to hook the leech to windward in all but the heaviest conditions. It is best to slide the batten into the pocket, putting very little tension on the batten and pocket before setting it in the Velcro.
Boomvang: Downwind the vang should be trimmed tight enough to keep the boom down and the leech set on the mainsail so that the upper batten is parallel to the boom. Basically we are looking for the main to set as it does when sailing upwind in a medium breeze. Upwind in medium to heavy winds the vang is set just tight enough to keep the tail end of the upper batten parallel to the boom. In heavy breezes this may require a great deal of boomvang tension as this will also help bend the mast and flatten the sail. In light winds (below 8 mph) never use any boomvang tension upwind.
Spinnaker Trim: Sail your North spinnaker with a 6-12" curl in the luff. Careful concentration is needed. Use short, smooth "ins and outs" on the sheet to keep the spinnaker trimmed correctly. Try to keep from jerking the sheet when the spinnaker begins to collapse. Keep the clews even at all time through the adjustments on your topping (pole) lift. In some conditions it is difficult to see the leeward clew behind the mainsheet so you can use another guide of adjusting the pole height so that the center vertical seam in the spinnaker is parallel to the mast. The pole position to the wind should be set so that the pole is nearly perpendicular to the wind.
We wish you good luck and fast sailing. If you have any further questions, please feel free to give us a call.
For tuning help, contact the North Mutineer experts.