Accompanying this weekend's cooler temperatures (at last!) was a shifty, puffy 10-20 knot northerly. Four of us ventured out yesterday and sailed four short triangle-course races in the blender. We saw tight racing and lots of position changes, and yours truly managed to win the day.
A key decision was how to set one's halyard. Normally on a Sunfish you tie the end of your halyard to the upper spar somewhere near the fifth sail tie from the top, and then pull the spar snug to the top of the mast. This is called the "full rig" position. In light-to-medium winds it presents more of the leading edge of the sail uniformly to the breeze, and less of the spar bends off when there's an increase in wind speed. In heavier winds, it can pay to tie the end of the halyard a little lower on the spar (near the sixth tie), in what's known as the "Jens" position. (This technique originated with Jens Hookanson, a then-16-year-old who used it to win the 1976 North American championship.) With the spar attached down from the top of the mast (say, 10"), more of the spar can bend off in a heavier breeze, lowering the center of effort and making it easier to keep the boat flat (crucial given the shape of the hull and foils). Combined with a 1-2" adjustment in the position of the gooseneck to ease the leech and neutralize the helm, even a smaller sailor can dominate in the breeze. Members of our fleet have seen Amanda Callahan, the reigning Sunfish national champion, who is of small stature, just walk away from bigger sailors in 15-20 knots. This spirit of innovation is one of the wonderful things about this class - the Sunfish is an unbelievably simple boat with 99% standardized parts and tight class rules, but even so rewards creativity and attention to detail (and, uh, shameless imitation) from dedicated sailors.
Please come sail with us next Saturday at 10! If you come a bit early (like, 845a) we'll help you rig. bit.ly/hpycsunsign if you need a boat.