If you are new to Pacers you might find that setting them up and fine tuning for racing can involve a fair amount of trial and error. To help speed up the process I asked quite a few of the sailors at the 2014/15 national regatta some questions about how their Pacers were set up. The results are quite interesting. So, if you've ever wondered about what rig tension or mast rake the national fleet is running, or how wooden boats compare with fibreglass, then read on!
The mast is one of the first steps in rigging your Pacer. How you set it up will have a large bearing on how well your boat performs.
The first thing to set is the position of the mast step. If you put the mast step forward, to balance the boat you will need more rake than if you have the mast step further back.
The next most important point is to make sure the side stays are exactly the same length. The mast should stand vertical, not lean to one side of the boat!
Finally, ensure there is absolutely no sideways movement in the mast at the deck level. If the mast is sloppy in the mast gate, then it will bend much more sideways. In a breeze, this will make it difficult to hold the mainsail leech up, robbing you of both power and pointing ability.
Once you have got the above three steps right, your aim should be to set the mast rake so that when sailing upwind the boat has neutral or a small amount of weather helm (ie. If you let the tiller go, the boat will sail in a straight line or slowly turn up into the wind). This will require some experimentation and sailing of the boat until you get it feeling and behaving correctly.
The race has started, and it’s early on the first beat. The wind is a pleasant 5-8 knots and you’re sailing near one of the class hot-shots, keen to match yourself against one of the best. To your dismay, you find he is going just as fast as you, but pointing about 3 degrees higher. By the first windward mark the champ is already miles in front. How does he do it?
Probably the biggest influence on how high you can point in lighter winds is where you sheet your boom relative to the centre-line of the boat. This is essential because the Pacer has relatively small sails and is therefore well under powered in light winds. Maximum height and power is therefore obtained by make sure the boom is centred or even up to 2 cm to windward of centre. The key, however, is to pull the boom into the centre without using sheet tension to do so.
The twin pole launcher system is especially effective when sailing with small children who do not have the strength to push out the spinnaker pole. This system will allow you to compete with small children in all breeze strengths with relative ease. The system has been in use in the 505 class for about 20 years. The above drawing should also show a shock cord running up the length of the pole back to an exit block on the boom which then turns around a block at the goose-neck end of the boom and out an exit block and out to the other pole. The sheet end of the pole will have one hole drilled in the plastic end plug and the mast end will have 2 holes. One hole for the launcher rope and one for the shock cord to stow the pole on the boom when not in use.
If you are new to Pacers and/or come from a class that does not use mast chocks you may find them somewhat of a mystery. You may have even asked yourself “What on earth am I supposed to do with these?” Stand by for a crash course in the use of mast chocks!
It’s early in my first season in a Pacer. We’ve rounded the first windward mark up with the leaders, it’s a sparkling sunny day with a nice breeze and the prospect of skimming down the reach under spinnaker beckons. Sure, my kids haven’t had much experience with the spinnaker, but how hard can it be? After having the spinnaker flog the entire reach while waiting for my struggling 10 year old crew to get the spinnaker pole onto the mast, both our faces red with frustration and the rest of the fleet long gone, I realised it was much harder than it looked! The problem was that neither my son or my (bigger and older) daughter had the strength to push the spinnaker pole out. It took the rest of the season to work out how to make it possible. We’re now doing much better, so for others experiencing the same frustration; let me share what I have learned.
A spinnaker system using a spinnaker chute and conventional pole.