How to improve the handling of your yacht:

Having spent so many years sailing, building, project managing, selling and servicing yachts we’ve just about seen it all. One thing that continues to surprise us is how some elements can transform how your yacht handles, but many people don’t recognise how significant these factors are:

1/ the bottom finish – antifoul and build-up. Whether you are heading towards 12 months from when your last antifoul was done, or the antifoul that has been used is not effective in your area or has been poorly applied, it is remarkable how any amount of growth will make a significant difference to how your yacht feels under sail and power. However, the other element is the fairness of finish. Every year when your yacht is antifouled it should have a heavy sand to reduce build-up and fair the existing finish. As always the end result is to a large extent reliant on the preparation, so use a reputable yard (not necessarily one that’s been around for a long time) that is known for not cutting corners. The number of times we see a brokerage yacht out of the water for survey that displays repeated poor antifouling is remarkable. A poor finish is nearly as bad as growth in terms of causing drag and making a yacht sluggish and unresponsive.

2/ Propeller’s. Fixed prop’s are not only an incredible amount of drag, but they also induce rounding up much earlier because of the amount of turbulence they cause around the rudder, a factor which is rarely talked about. The usual reason for staying with a fixed prop’ is that a yacht performs better under power, particularly in reverse. However, that is largely a myth and comes from people comparing how racing yachts with 2-blade prop’s perform in comparison to fixed 3-blades. There are numerous well design 3-blade folding and feathering prop’s that offer excellent handling in reverse and the up-side in how your yacht handles is much more than you would imagine. I know several owners who have taken delivery of yachts with a fixed prop’ and then after 12 months changed to 3-blade folding or feathering and can’t get over the benefits. Not just a significant increase in speed, but much more response in manoeuvres, more control when pressed and your yacht will point 5 degrees closer to the wind.

3/ Cut of the sails. We’ve mentioned this in the past. Full or baggy sails make yachts heel over rather than driving them forward, so you get considerably more heel and in gusts the yacht will want to round up much earlier than it otherwise would. It is very inexpensive to have sails re-cut to take luff-curve out and apart from the handling benefits an overhaul of the sails will extend their life anyway. Again this makes much more difference to a yacht handling than most people realise.

4/ The rig tune. All the other elements can be right, but if the mast rake, prebend and rigging tension are wrong this can have an enormous effect on how your yacht handles. Poor rig tune can dramatically increase weather helm, increase angle of heel and ultimately cause rig failure if not attended to. A rig check should be a part of your regular preventative maintenance to ensure trouble-free enjoyment. Sheaves should be lubricated, furlers cleaned, rig tension adjusted and spreader attachments checked for wear and tear. The obvious signs of poor rig tune are significant forestay sag, and any of the rigging visible loose on the leeward rigging. If the mast doesn’t have the required pre-bend then the luff of the mainsail will be fuller than it should otherwise be and loose rigging may also cause the mast to hook to windward under load which is the opposite to what should happen. 1 x 19 wire and dyform wire grow over time, so it is something that requires periodic attention.

Performance Boating Sales can help you with advice on the above and can even schedule work through our service department, so contact us if we can help.