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Hello! Following on from my last top ten tips from my time in the Topper National Squad, these are the next ten!

Tip no.11: Topper introduced a new style sail with a webbing strap to stop the sail slipping down the top of the mast as the halyard loop stretches. However, these straps have a tendency to break – which is far worse. So I stuck to the more reliable halyard loop. The only new sails now available are those with the webbing strap but you can still use these with a halyard loop by just pushing the webbing out of the way:

Don’t worry if you only have a new style mast crane for use with the new sails: there are two options:

  1. Change the masthead fitting to the traditional mast crane and use a halyard loop.
  1. Put a halyard loop in one of the jaws of the new mast tops and secure the bobble through the eye of the sail, so that if the strap breaks your sail will stay in place:

    Tip no.12: Ah, the long-debated question of where to put your tell tails. After talking to lots of coaches and top sailors, I have figured out where most people put them. The tendency is to have two or three at the front in a triangle (to be used upwind), one in the lower middle section (to be used on a reach) and a few near the leech at the top of the sail (to be used downwind, to see if you are sailing by the lee).

    This is where I put mine:

    Tip no.13: This is very simple but I cannot stress it enough…HAVE A SPARE KICKER ON YOUR BOAT! Even with the best rope and blocks in the world, Topper kickers have a tendency to break, and I certainly had more than my fair share of this last year! - I seem to remember going through three sets of kicker rope at Garda…If your kicker breaks in a race then it’s basically game over if you have not got a spare, but if you do then you could get away with only losing a few places.

    If your kicker rope is breaking a lot then a good thing to regularly check is whether there are any chips on the teeth or surfaces of your blocks: the rope can snag on these, wear and break. A spare kicker can also act as a back up downhaul.

    An easy way to store the spare is in a Sailing Solutions toe strap bag. They are easy to open and access mid race.

    Tip no.14: Mast rotation is important and there are various ways of improving things. I used chafe tape:

    1. Measure round the mast (16.5 cms) and cut a piece of chafe tape twice the circumference plus 0.5 cm 33.5 cms).

    1. Fold the strip in two and stick the two sticky sides together with a 0.5 cm overlap.

    1. Put this round the mast (where the mast gate touches it) like a collar and use the 0.5 cm overlap to stick to itself. Make sure the tape doesn’t stick to the mast – it must be free to rotate.

    It has the added bonus of filling in the gap between the mast gate and mast to reduce mast wobble.

    Tip no. 15: The rivet on the collar on the lower mast, that fits below the mast cup, can fail. As a back up I put rope round the mast just below the ring and wrapped amalgamating tape round to keep it in position.

    Tip no.16: Always put electrical tape around the joint between your tiller and tiller extension because if you jab the tiller with a little too much oomph then the extension can come off! Admittedly, this is rare but it’s better to be safe not sorry (and probably teased remorselessly!).

    Tip no.17: In order to prevent the mast cup wearing away, put a Teflon disc in. They are very inexpensive and work really well. Do look under the disc every so often as dirt and gravel can get stuck under them, which will cause more damage than not using a disc at all. I also stuck anti chafe tape round the bottom of the mast to help rotation and protect it from wear.

    Alternatively, arm yourself with a heat gun and a 500 ml plastic bottle.

    1. Cut the bottom 7cms off the bottle, cut a hole in the base of the bottle (important!) and slide it onto the bottom of the mast.

      1. Carefully and gently heat the bottle: it’s like magic as the plastic shrinks to fit the mast.

        1. The tricky bit can be the bottom of the bottle (particularly if you forgot to cut a hole there…) as this can bubble and warp when you want a lovely smooth base (so it doesn’t to eat into your mast cup). To achieve this use a straight edge and slide it across the bottom of the bottle as you heat it.

        Some suggest using a hairdryer but I have never found one hot enough to work.

        Tip no.18: Do you ever get in a fluster when your mainsheet seems to have a mind of its own, ties itself into knots and wraps itself around your ankles? A good tip is to tie the end of your mainsheet to either the front or back of your centre toestrap: this is personal preference so try out both positions when training and see which works best for you.

        Tip no.19: It seems to be seen as ‘uncool’ in the fleet to use a transom protector, but my advice is to get one and use it. Particularly in difficult launching conditions, eg. pebbles, steep slipways…because the transom is a real pain to repair as it’s a corner. You’ll be the cool one when your friends have big chips in their transoms – you’ll also be popular with mum and dad when it comes to resale value!

        Tip no.20: Use lubricant spray on the end of the boom (to help the clew strap slide), the top of the lower mast (to help the sail slide as you change control settings) and blocks. It’s all about the marginal gains!

        Thank you for reading! I hope you found this useful.


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