If you have ever planned a campaign to improve, enjoyed the journey learning boat handling and rig setup for a new boat, you might find this story familiar:
Sarah and I have been racing together (whilst also racing the Laser, Streaker and Solo) since 2010. We've enjoyed racing in the Tasar, Scorpion and Merlin Rocket before switching to the 4000
in 2014. We have had some successes in the Scorpion (3rd 2011) and Tasar (2nd in 2012) and limited success in the Merlin. We loved the Tasar upwind, but Sarah always joked that she wanted to read her kindle downwind (naughty). The Scorpion was definitely a handful upwind and on the reaches - I would like to describe their off-wind legs as beats with the spinnaker up - but the boat lent itself to wave style sailing. The Merlin - we thought of as a lake sailors sea boat - wave technique was not required, and in real championship conditions we were always a bit short on hiking power.
When we switched to the 4000 - there were no more weight/size/strength frustrations and the freedom of asymmetric sailing has been liberating, opening up downwind tactics as much if not more than upwind legs. After the first 4 months of sailing and training we entered the Nationals and came second. It was a fair result as we were pretty inexperienced at trapezing and asymmetric sailing.
We had some issues to resolve: A year ago we resembled a team that two-sail gybed with the gennaker up - you might have seen someone doing this yourself. The boat slows as it bears away, the team look ready, but the speed has been lost. Then with some singlehanded rudder reversing technique the boom is over, and with a wing and a prayer the spinnaker starts pulling to stop the boat being thrown up to windward with the over pressure on the mainsail (which might occasionally result in a capsize).
Now: the crew and helm are working in harmony. Both are ready for the gybe, the crew unhooks whilst standing on the wing, concentrating on keeping the kite filled and pulling at maximum speed. Then as the mainsheet is eased, the windward rack is push downward in reaction to the helm and crew pushing off it at the same time which helps to steer the boat smoothly round. This process speeds the boat up, leaving the boom load free to move with the word "duck" and whilst we cross together - the crew releasing the old gennaker sheet as the new one is ready to take the load - and only easing some more once the crew is hooked and ready for the increased tipping moment and acceleration as the gennaker starts to really pull. .... Harmony in motion.... :)
A year ago we were pretty good at tacking - but occasionally the crew/helm tacking speed could get misaligned.
A year ago:
Following an over quick tack when the crew felt rushed - crew starts to rush the first part of the tack, moving in too quickly which makes the boat heel to leeward and turn up to the wind too quickly - this speeds up the process which makes crossing the boat, finding the jib sheet and a trapeze hook ever more tricky in the short time and unbalanced platform.
Now: Helm - - "ready to tack"
Ready to Tack
Crew (setting their hands correctly for the tack - and ensuring the trapeze length is set for the perfect release) "Ready"
Helm -"let's go" helm slowly enables the boat to turn to meet the crew who is moving into the boat at the same speed as the turn - so in essence the crew is fixed in space and steps into the boat as it moves towards them.
This gives the crew control of the speed of the turn - move in faster and it turns quicker. Move in slowly and the boat turns slower. The helm is passive on the tiller - the boat only steers with the trim and balance of the hull and sails.
The crew reaches and draws the jib in - almost before they have crossed the centreline (thus helping the boat come out of the tack with power and tracking forwards)
- helm drawing the mainsheet in or in/out/in in more of a roll tack as the....
Crew hooks on (helm swopping hands)
and crew extends whilst re trimming the jib
Boat now trimmed for racing with both helm and crew fully hiking and extended
The Bear Away:
A Year Ago: perhaps a little miss calculation on the amount of mainsheet to drop to ensure the boat heels to windward to minimise the amount of rudder required to bear away and accelerate from the mark.
Crew ready for the increase in speed and leverage required as the boat bears away - helm - easing the mainsheet to almost dip the windward trampoline in the water to ensure no use of rudder to bear away.
Crew confident (despite the windward heel and acceleration) that there will come a time when their feet do not need suckers to hold onto the side of the boat.
Windward Boat Trim:
A year ago - we were pretty quick upwind in 12 knots before we started falling in. In less than 8 knots we were a little low and slow. Windward heel needs communication from crew and helm - and 100% focus. Helm feeding mainsheet tensions to the crew to reassure them - crew feeling the holes in the wind, to come in rather than stall the main out trying to hold them for too long.
The 4000 is a bit of a wild thing before the start. It is hard to stop it self tacking - this requires jib tension almost all the time to keep her tracking rather than tacking.
A year ago: Still finding it hard to accelerate from the start.
Keeping enough pace to keep steerage and using both boat heel and steerage (trigger pull) to gain maximum speed out of the line.
The rig setup:
A year ago we were playing with the settings for the 4000. Many in the fleet religiously change the rake and tension according to the original tuning guide
Normal 4000 Tuning Guide
I am keen to minimise the changes required. We sail on the standard 11-18 knots setting in all conditions. We had tried to use this set up in the lighter conditions but we finally realised that upping the tension to 27 (on the forestay on the new Loose gauge) would help us perform in the lightest of conditions. The tuning guide calls this the 8-10 knot range set up. This year we called this our standard set up - "pulled up" and it appears to give us height when we need it and on pace speed in the super light. However, I am always worried that when pulled up, the Jib Cunningham tension is also increased - so I tend to adjust this on the day, depending on what weather is forecast. So our lowers and shrouds never change - only the jib tension and sheeting.
We have also been playing with the jib car position. We tend to play with 2 holes showing (at the front) in wave'y' moderate conditions to 3 or 4 holes showing in the lighter flatter water.
4000 Jib Car Numbers
We have recently stuck a tell tail
to the 4th corner of the jib so help us prevent over-sheeting and choking the slot. We find this is crucial - too much sheet tension and the brakes go on. Too little and no power at all. I call the jib the coarse power control - the main the fine power control. As we are not throwing the rake up significantly or back significantly - the 2 holes movement in the jib sheet appears to cope with the range of jib sheeting angles and requirements.
If you want to have a journey like Sarah and I - why not pick a 4000 up for less than £1300 and join in. Sails are currently cheaper than they have ever been and compare favourably to much smaller RS classes. We have some exciting new talent joining the established teams at the moment and they are already grinning from ear to ear with some early successes. So if you are looking for your next boat after a 29er, on a budget, with some excellent racing - the 4000 class have it all.