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April 2009 News Letter

Presidents Report May 2009

Victorian State Report

2009 Taipan Nationals, Belmont NSW - Report

Down Wind Sailing, The Art of Going Wild - Dan Van Kerckhof (AUS114)

Cat Rig Tips - George Hooper (AUS173)

4.9 Sloop Rigging and Tuning - Dan Van Kerckhof (AUS114)

Notice of Race - 2010 Nationals

Presidents Report May 2009

At the time of writing this report many of us have wrapped up our boats and shelved them for the winter. Last season saw the majority of our fleets maintaining their numbers as well as a number of new boats on the water which all boasts for a strong class.

The emergence of a fleet in Tasmania has been a welcome and unexpected surprise and beckons the question as to when the first Tasmanian Australian Nationals will be.

Congratulations to Kings and Les for the Australian Sailing articles and adverts that I'm sure has lifted the profile of our class and consideration needs to be given to follow this up with future exposure next season.

The announcement of the 2010 Nationals at the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club with the earlier dates has certainly generated some healthy discussion. Whilst it would have been the committee's preference to have a later date the decision to accept the date offered was based on available manpower. It is anticipated that a notice of race will be made available soon, watch the website.

In regard to the website you will notice that it has been updated, a huge thanks to Greig for all his hard work.

The results of the postal votes have been posted on the website so please have a look at the changes that will affect you.

The world economic situation affects all of us in different ways and although our nationals are some way off yet I urge all to support this one event that brings us all together.

Dennis Baker

Victorian State Report

Having just returned from our end of year regatta at Hazelwood where a great number of mixed classes turned up, it was very apparent that sailing at a club level is going well. This comes on the end of what must be said were disappointing numbers for both the cats and sloops at both the nationals and the Vic States. It looks like the clubs around the bay are increasing their numbers of boats while the inland and country clubs struggle in general. This trend seems to be throughout the sailing community in general.

As a class we need to take a look at how we can help out our country friends. With numbers of boats increasing at nearly all the bay clubs that sail Taipan's we must make an effort to get people out of their clubs for a day or two every season and to compete together at a couple of regattas to show how strong the class actually is. My thoughts are on trying to get as many boats to the Cat regatta at McCrae as we possibly can the dates are November 7 & 8 so mark your calendar now. This would make a great start to the new season. I hope to see a large number of Taipan's attending.

From a Club point of view it was great to see a large number of my Frankston friends turn up at Hazelwood, this made the event a real club outing with people not just sailing there own boats but crews and skippers swapping boats all through out the event. This type of comaradery has led to a couple new Taipans coming to Frankston including another brand new boat in the hands of Daggs. I am eagerly awaiting the start of the new season where Lauren and I will have some grate competition in the sloops with what looks like five or six very fast sloops at our club. Port Melbourne still has a large number of Cat rigged boats sailing which is keeping a good balance of boats around the bay. Big thanks must be given to Dennis, Luke, Brad and John for keeping the country boats active in what must be very difficult times for there clubs with the lack of water at all the inland venues and fleet sizes struggling in general in the country clubs. This is not just a Taipan thing as was pointed out to me by a couple of my sailing friends from other classes but seems to exist across all classes.

So it would appear that we have one of the only classes where numbers are stable or growing. It is also great to see Collin rallying the 5.7 these boats are great for the larger sailors. With the National titles Venue and dates now set its time to start thinking of booking accommodation at Paynesville, this is a great place to sail as well as a nice holiday destination for the family. I look forward to catching up with all Taipan sailors in the new season.

James McDonald, MACH II, AUS 340

2009 Taipan Nationals, Belmont NSW - Report

by Mark Brindley (090, Class Act), Chris Caines (091, Turtle Power) and Michael Jopp (021 - @1)

Having completed all the last minute fixes to the boats and general maintenance of trailers etc, Chris & Shirley and Michael, Julie-Ann, Max and Lucas, and I set out from Melbourne on our 1200 km trip to Belmont, NSW. We split the travel over 2 days doing the majority of the distance on the first day (stopped at Goulburn)

We arrived on Friday afternoon and saw the tidy up taking place after the A-Class Nationals and World championships, there was a mixture of excitement and a little nervousness as none of us have ever competed at a Nationals event before but from the moment we arrived we were made to feel welcome by Les Porter and other sailors and we unloaded our boats/trailers into the grasses area right next to a large car park (very handy)


I had been told by a friend who had sailed at Belmont for many years to expect 10-20 knots each day kicking in after lunch, and this proved to be the case for our week at Belmont.

Chris and I come from Sugarloaf Sailing Club in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne, this is an inland reservoir that is currently about half full. Michael sails at Mount Martha on Port Phillip Bay. We generally have lighter winds at Sugarloaf that can be shifty, so this presented an opportunity to improve our skills in heavier wind conditions in more open water.

As more boats arrived it was good to see a large contingent had made the trip from Victoria with some people who had sailed in the Victorian State Titles at Mount Martha in 2008 (Dennis, John, Brad, Ken and Howard) and we soon got to know other sailors in the fleet.

It was clear from the welcome dinner and other activities that had been organised, that this was a very family friendly event, many people had come as a whole family unit including a number of young children

The format of the sailing was one invitation race followed by ten races held over 5 days (the races were sailed back to back) we had 21 Taipan 4.9 Cat rigged boats, 14 4.9 sloops and 3 of the Taipan 5.7 sloops.

New for this years 4.9 boats was the big-head mainsail, with a square cut top section (only a couple of boats had the earlier style sails) It was interesting in the Cat fleet to look at the sails being used, the split was fairly even between Ashby and Goodall's with the Ashby sails being noticeably flatter; most people using these sails were running much less pre-bend in their masts compared to the sailors with Goodall sails. I had only used mine once before coming to the nationals and that was in a drifter, so had lots to learn.

For the invitational race on Saturday, as expected the wind arrived just after lunch from the North-East at around 20 knots, and we had a few exciting moments and a number of capsizes, I had 2 near misses with the mainsheet coming out of the cleat going up-wind with me out on trapeze and almost having the boat capsizing over on top of me. Les held the record with 3 capsizes and I suspect was fed up of being reminded of this (sorry again Les). He advised its best to do this in the invitational race rather than the main races.

The organisation of both the event and the races was fantastic, all the starts were well managed and the course was well orientated. We sailed a windward-return type of course, doing 3 laps and a separate finish line.

The facilities at Belmont were ideal for this type of major event with large grassed areas, shaded viewing decks, cheap food and cold beer all on hand in the air conditioned club house. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who has a Taipan, that they come along and learn from others at this type of event (The Nationals will be held at Frankston near Melbourne next year) We had people of all experience levels in the fleet and you often end up sailing with the same group of people at a similar skill level to yours, as you improve and learn how to sail better, or make better decisions when starting, or on the course, you can immediately see how you are improving. Each day there are 2 races of about 1 hours duration, so you have time to practise improving your technique. After the race there is plenty of time to ask questions and get advice on changes you could make for the next race.


Outside of the racing, the social side was very welcoming and we have made many new friends who will make the trip to Frankston next January ; so to all these people - we very much look forward to seeing you in 2010.

The facilities at Belmont were ideal for this type of major event with large grassed areas, shaded viewing decks, cheap food and cold beer all on hand in the air conditioned club house. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who has a Taipan, that they come along and learn from others at this type of event (The 2009/2010 Nationals will be held at held at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club in Paynesville, Victoria next year) We had people of all experience levels in the fleet and you often end up sailing with the same group of people at a similar skill level to yours, as you improve and learn how to sail better, or make better decisions when starting, or on the course, you can immediately see how you are improving. Each day there are 2 races of about 1 hours duration, so you have time to practise improving your technique. After the race there is plenty of time to ask questions and get advice on changes you could make for the next race.

Race 1 & 2

Down to business and the first 2 races were going to be a wild ride with the forecast of 20 knot winds from the North East.
We could not stay with the top guys (some were very light, so we had some homework to do to find out how they managed in such strong winds!)
We finished about 10 mins and 6 mins behind the first boat to cross the line
Chris hit a small shark
Mark had a small fish land on his tramp (for a rest maybe?)
Chris had a capsize that smashed most of his battens in race 2
1/3 of the fleet failed to finish Race 2

Race 3 & 4

Much lighter conditions of around 4-8 knots North-East
Lighter guys did well, still getting to grips with setting up the big-head sail
Big discussions around mast-pre bend, downhaul and mainsheet tension
The 3km beat back after the races was great - just lifting the windward hull in a very steady wind.
In chatting with the top guys it was clear we had not had enough downhaul, our sails were a little too full and we did not have enough mainsheet tension to stand the leech up.
In testing the downhaul theory I broke one of the small pulleys in the mast (a quick replacement fixed this and we were ready to try out our new settings)
Mark had increased his pre-bend from 50mm to 60mm, Chris went from 23mm to 50mm (one turn on the adjuster = 3mm)

Race 5 & 6

Back to 18 knots North-East
Good start at pin end, but was slow - I went too tight on the downhaul in the first race and lost ground upwind, but in Race 6 I eased this a little, but used heavy mainsheet tension and the boat just flew, it pointed and was fast.
Chris lost his outhaul pin on the start line area and VERY upset at the lack of help by the rescue boat team to get this re-fitted (see results)
Chris went missing for a while as he lost a couple of pins and went back to the caravan park for spares
The top guys were running very deep downwind and did not seem to suffer any drop in speed. They were sailing around 90 degrees to the apparent wind, but had lots of mainsheet let out.
Learnt a lesson not to come in too close to the mark on a port tack, will target 20-50metres down tomorrow.
Picked up my first top 10 finish in race 6, with a 9th place

Race 7 & 8

10-14 knots North-East
Good start off the pin end again and was in the leading bunch up the windward leg
Followed my plan to come into the top mark about 20-50 metres down so I could come in at full speed on starboard
Backed up yesterdays 9th with another one and an 11th.
Perfect conditions with a very steady wind

Race 9 & 10

2 knots - cancelled, then up to 15 knots East North-East (perfect Taipan conditions again!)
The 10:30am start was postponed due to lack of wind and we returned to shore
Back out around 12:30 and with about 10 knots of wind we started....
I had another good start on the pin end with Dennis and deliberately ran a loose mainsheet downwind and sailed a tidy race going up the left hand side of the course upwind.
In the last race the wind picked up to around 15 knots and I managed to get into the leading group again with excellent up wind speed
I secured a 6th place, again using the left-hand side of the course.

Major Lessons learnt

1. Mast pre-bend - must be used to ensure your sail suits the wind range you are sailing in. I am happy with the 10mm increase (now 60mm) I have made and I can now flatten it enough for the 20 knots+ conditions and still have good shape in the drifters.
2. Mainsheet tension - is essential with the new sail formats. I found out that in the higher winds I went much better with more (near to block to block). By better I mean that the boat was more manageable, sailed fast and pointed high.
3. Downhaul tension - used together with mainsheet tension to flatten the sail in the stronger winds. I applied more tension than ever before in these races
4. Downwind - loose mainsheet and low angles was best, most of the top guys did this and when I did it I got up into the top 10.
5. Starting - be aggressive and get involved, ensure you hit the line as fast as possible with clean air
6. Racecraft - Sail fast and high if you can, think about what worked well last leg, what to do on the next leg, and always give yourself clean air even if this means tacking off the pack to get it. Think about how you want to approach the next mark and be careful not to sail past the lay-lines into the mark as you may get a lift and have to bear-away (wasted time)
7. Questions - if you have them, do ask the guys who are at the front of the fleet (Dennis Baker, George Hooper and Greg Goodall all helped me to improve my boat and race-craft in these 10 races - so thank you all!)
8. Opportunity - Enjoy and use the opportunity of the Nationals to improve your skills and results. You will learn more in the week than sailing a whole years worth of club racing!


Mark - Fastest/best looking boat trophy
Michael - Best Handicap result
Chris - Dummy Spit award (Race 5)b

Our Final Results

Mark 12th overall - 13, 11, 14, [16], [15], 9, 9, 11, 11, 6
Michael 18th overall - 15, 14, 19, 18, 16, 17, 19, 17, [20], [19]
Chris 21st overall - 16, [22], 18, 20, 19, [22], 20, 20, 19, 18

And the Rest

Nationals Results

Down Wind Sailing, The Art of Going Wild - Dan Van Kerckhof (AUS114)

This is one of the single biggest technique changes in my life time to performance cat sailing. It has changed the way we sail, not just intrinsically with our boat handling but the tactics we had to adopt with this technique as well. It is a must have skill in the modern day cat sailing scene, those that master it can reap the results rewards. Unfortunately it is a very difficult skill to learn and also difficult to explain.
The last time I wrote anything about this subject I was 18 years young and David 'Slimy' Elliot asked me a few informal questions which he published on the website. I have changed my techniques somewhat since then (10 years later), and the advent of the 'big head' has also changed the way I sail wild.

Important things to note:

1. Mastering this technique you will tip over more than you have ever before. Get over it; it is not failure but fun! (unless you live in Victoria and hyperthermia is an issue)

2. Watch the good guys, when they zoom past it is generally a technique skill why they are faster rather than an actual boat speed problem.

3. Bribe your crew to get low. I find beer and the promise to keep doing the dishes works for me.

4. Crew work is ultra important to go fast here. Both people working together is the difference.

Starting Off

The first thing to note about going wild is what wind range to start using this technique. I find the threshold is when you can comfortably 2 string. Once you can get 2 on the wire you seem to be able to generate the apparent breeze needed to go wild.


I generally have the luff of the main let right off unless it is really windy, then just firm. The out haul is cracked about 40-50mm. The rotation is fully out pointing nearly parallel with the beams. Both centreboards up (unless very marginal wild conditions the centreboard down then helps you generate more lift allowing you to go wild earlier).

Sheet Positioning (main)

In light conditions I find the main should be let off to the tow strap area. As the breeze increases I slowly let this out. (Sailing cat rigged I have the traveller slightly more inward in the marginal conditions and slightly further out as it freshens then a sloop set up)

Sheet positioning (jib)

My barber hauler has a bobble restricting the jib from getting any closer than 250mm from the beam.

Sheet Pressure (main)

The pressure on the mainsheet is one of the most crucial things here. Think about the amount of pressure in 7-10kts you generally need upwind to make your leech stand up and generate enough power for you to trap. Fairly tight right? Well in the marginal conditions going wild you need the leech to stand up as well. Pull the sheet on tight don't be afraid you will only tip over.
As the breeze increase this loosens to increase the twist in the head helping you (hopefully) keep the bows out of the water.
There is no 'set' and forget with this. The sheet pressure changes dramatically and every second whilst going wild as fast as you can. So throw away your cleat and get a decent main sheet system that you can pull on and let out quickly. I find the settings for sloop and cat are similar with this.

Sheet pressure (jib)

The crew should just watch three things here:
1. The tell tales
2. The bow
3. When the main is eased ease with it.
Keep the tell tales flowing and as the crew has the best view of the water coming over the bow (if their eyes are open), dump when this is imminent. The most important thing is though as the main is released let the jib go simultaneously to keep the slot open and help the boat accelerate, even if it means ignoring your tell tales for a minute.

Weight positioning

8-10kts (marginal have a coffee whilst cruising) I sit middle of the tramp fore aft and port to starboard
10-15kts (great wild conditions) Sit three quarters of the way back 200-300mm aft of centreboard slightly to windward maybe around windward toe strap.
15-20kts (the best wild stuff really sink your teeth in) Sit on the back beam and hike. Get that six pack out and hang that fat arse over the side.
20-25kts (hectic and wet) Pray to god but remember not to tell crew you are scared!
The crew is very important in regards to weight. They are readily more mobile than the skipper and can move easily aft for a bad 'set' of waves or up the tramp during a puff. 8-10kts (not too wet) Just forward of centre board on the leeward hull. Moving aft to centre board during puffs.
10-15kts (getting a few splashes down wettie) Behind centre board to back beam on the leeward hull. 15-20kts (can only see glimpses of the maniac skippers smile through the water) On the back beam just in front of leeward toe strap.
20-25kts (really wishing you where on shore with a stubby or a glass of bubbly) On the back beam in the centre to windward of centre.


This is the difficult part to learn. Not so much the what to do but how this aspect combines with the sheeting aspect is what defines going fast wild. Remember the rudders are essentially a brake, to steer the boat they disrupt water flow slowing the boat. The smoother and smaller movements of helm are the quickest.
The general rule of thumb is as power fades head into the breeze more whilst sheeting on. As the hull lifts and the boat picks up pace bear away and release sheet.
As the hull starts to drop and power fades reach for the sheet and pull what you let off in the initial part of the puff back on. If the hull continues to drop and power fades start to arc smoothly back to windward.
As the boat picks up pace again and flies a hull ease the sheet and arc smoothly away again to leeward pulling the sheet back on as the boat settles.
Watch for waves as you do this as your steering and sheet co-ordination should also coincide with how the boat is travelling down the back of a wave and then 'running' in to the one in front. As the boat accelerates down the wave bear away and give the main a quick 'pump' to help it along. When you hit the wave in front dump a bit of sheet and crest it by arcing to windward slightly.
The trick to this part is not reading this but actual practice. Get out there in heavy chop and try to make the boat feel smooth going wild. Do this a few times and then when you finally get back on the flat stuff you will be trucking.


Pressure is the key word to the above. When going wild the guy who has pressure is king. When rounding the top mark know where the pressure is and chase it. Don't just set up and follow, look for the next line of breeze coming and make sure you are well positioned to get it. By well positioned I usually use the basic rule of thumb that if pressure is at 90 degrees to me (and to windward of course) this is the next puff I will be sailing in to. As the boat goes faster or you sail a quicker boat these puffs come from more in front of the boat similar to up wind.
Watch the way the puff is travelling across the water. If it is travelling towards you from the aft of your boat it is likely to change the wind making it squarer. These are the puffs you want to gybe on. Wait till the puff is nearly on you and about to travel behind you and then gybe. This will put you in to direct contact with this new breeze and on a better heading for longer.
Don't be afraid to gybe. You need to practice your gybes and become quick at these to take full advantage of tactical downwind sailing. I will throw anytime I see one of the above mentioned puffs, even if it is my 8th gybe for the leg. Stay in pressure and do anything to stay with it.

Going wild I find is one of the most rewarding things about our class, it allows us to sail a complete tactical race. Unlike other classes who do one gybe legs off the breeze we are able to fully utilize everything around the course. There is no procession sailing making every leg possible to pass someone or loose someone. That Is great sailing.
Essentially like most skills, practice is the key here. Team up with a partner and go out and train trying different things directly opposite to each other this is the best way to learn along with attending regattas. Good luck and enjoy the swimming

Cat Rig Tips - George Hooper (AUS173)

There are a number of very good articles posted on the Taipan web site which cover a range of tuning, boat handling and setup ideas. I have used these articles as well as lots of advice from Greg Goodall, Glenn Ashby, Dennis Baker and Tim Kirkham. So I will try to cover newer ideas on the new big head as well as how we (PMYC) collectively worked together to improve our knowledge and speed. I strongly suggest reading the existing articles first. Lastly, my houghts are based on the shape of the Ashby sail I use, which appears on the flat side. This is arguably a general trend at the moment for all bighead sails, from 18' skiffs to America's Cup, more efficient, less drag etc. I weigh about 84kg, so you will need to make allowances for weight differences.


Mast Rake

I have tried different rakes in different breezes and found it makes little difference. Mine is pretty much always between the front of the hatch cover and the rear of the beam. Maybe a hole down on the forestay in very light breeze, although every time I remember to do that, the breeze comes in and I end up hanging off the back.

Spreader Rake

Spreader Rake (700 mm max wire width) - based on the belief that I think bigheads work better with a stiffer more upright mast, I have moved my spreaders forward from positions stated in web site articles. Mine are set between 33 - 45mm. I also changed to the "finger adjustable" proctor spreaders. This means from 33mm to 45mm is 3 turns using your fingers. This made mucking about and testing alot easier. We could go out tuning, get one boat to make a change and test the difference immediately. This was a big help to all of us, especially with weight differences and the way we sailed individually. There is probably a little more propensity to get over powered with less prebend, so find "11" on the downhaul.

Spreader Tension

Spreader tension - mine is set at about 32 on the newer loos gauge. Again we buggerised around with different tensions, but due to alot of 3 boat testing we found that's where it was ok in most conditions. If someone invented a "finger adjustable" tensioner, then I guess we would have another tilt at it. I would set and forget around that mark, with any minor adjustment for weight. Looser if you are a little porky, and tighter if you are sleek.

Rig Tension

Again it does not seem to matter very much. We don't have a jib, so don't need to worry about forestay sag. I pull down on a trap wire firmly (60-70 kgs) to tighten the sidestays. However they always seem a bit looser than most. Just stick to the recommendations in the existing articles.

Platform, rudders etc

I use the published articles for the hull and foil setup. I don't think there is a significant difference between rudder shapes or materials. New carbon, anti cavitating rudders are nice to have, but plenty of boats go very fast with the standard ones. It is more important to ensure they are aligned and you have only a small amount of helm (if any).


The existing articles are all still pretty accurate except for a minor change for the big heads. I think they need more sheet tension generally. I have 9:1 on my main, ratchet off the tramp, so you lose a little purchase due to flex. This also means that sometimes it feels like you are over sheeting, and I think you can (maybe not easy above 15kts). So you have to go for the downhaul a little earlier, and work the two in combination.

The rotation, I think is also in a little more and earlier than in the articles. But maybe that's because we had flat water at the Nationals and I have a slightly flatter sail. As soon as you have any waves it seems easier to stall the bigheads. So just use the advice in the existing articles. The upshot is the bigheads need to be sailed more attentively, there is less option for "set and forget". I guess that's the trade off between efficient, low drag sails being easier to stall, falling leach, not enough power etc, etc. That said, I think Greg sails with a slightly fuller sail which may have a bigger more forgiving wind band. He still seems to work it like nobody's business though. I have an extra set of light, top 4 battens. These seem to improve light wind downwind performance. And again, if the breeze comes in, it feels as though it stalls more quickly. (probably psychological). If you are light, and feel overpowered early, try an extra set of stiff top battens.

I had good all round speed at the Nationals mainly due to sailing with a large fleet of keen Taipan sailors at PMYC. We all worked together, shared ideas and gave it all when we had tuning sessions. Greg Goodall's advice on rigs, sails, setup, as well as 2 boat tuning was invaluable. The fact that he races at our club is a bonus. In fact, that is the best piece of advice I can offer - if you can work as a fleet and spend time on the water tuning as well as racing you will improve much faster than doing it on your own. Apart from improving faster, it's alot more fun.

Lastly, since we enjoy sailing a truly one design boat, the most effective way of improving in a regatta, is having a plan. How to approach the starts, where would you like to be on the course tactically, keep your head out of the boat etc, etc. As well as basics like don't get caught up in duals in a big fleet, don't end up in the "corners" of the track and overlay marks. Try reading Dave Dellenbaugh if you are interested in race tactics. It's also good to know the racing rules. Not because you want to look like a hero in the protest room, the knowledge helps avoid the protest room (and collisions).

4.9 Sloop Rigging and Tuning - Dan Van Kerckhof (AUS114)

There has been a fair bit of detail written over the years on how to tune your boat and get the best performance out of your craft to help give you an edge at a regatta. This has been compiled by some great sailors, sailmakers and folk who just know stuff about stuff.

During the last couple of years our class has undergone the biggest change in how we sail the boat and how we tune the boat since we started going 'wild' downwind way back in 97.This change was brought on by the introduction of the 'big head' main sail.

This is a bit of a narrative on my transition to this rig and how I approach setting up my boats whether they be taipans or other genres of cat (god forbid). Please note this is not a hard and fast set of rules, there are many, many ways to skin a cat, these are just how I prefer to skin mine.

I purchased my boat (114 yet to be named) in early November leaving me with a couple of months to prepare myself, my crew and the boat for the nationals in January. The boat was well maintained and structurally sound, I know that sounds like common sense when purchasing, but always check the fundamentals for damage and or bad repairs.

The first thing I do after purchasing a boat is to go through all the rigging thoroughly checking for undue wear and tear, corrosion on swages, broken strands of wire and kinks. Any thing I feel to be a bit suspect I replace (thank fully nothing on my new purchase was).

The second thing I look at is all of the systems used to sail the boat. It is important when sailing your boat that the systems are easy to use for both the skipper and crew as well as fool proof and break proof. One of my major mottos with systems is the less ropes I have to pull the more time I can get my head out of the boat and concentrate on sailing. This has led to very clean minimalistic set ups. I always start with stripping the boat of any excess ropes and rope length. The first rope I always pull off a taipan is the over rotation system. Since sailing the boats from 94 to present I have never ever used this feature and don't know of anyone that does.


Main Sheet System

The most important rope/system on the boat is the main sheet. I have used many main sheet systems in the past always trying to find a 'cheaper' option. After many failures and a lot of excess grunt being wasted I finally one day bit the bullet and brought a harken 57mm carbo ratchamatic bottom block and 57mm carbo quad top block. Now I know this system is expensive but after sailing with one you will never use anything else. It actually makes hauling the sheet on pleasurable! I have never heard of one breaking one so longevity is great. They are also an 8 to 1 system so 'pulling on' and being able to 'play' the sheet is easier, this point is extremely important when sailing a 10 race series as it helps the gorilla arm you seem to suffer towards the end. But the most important feature of all is the ratchamatic block. A lot of companies have tried to emulate this feature but I feel none have it as right as harken yet. The ease at which this 8-1 releases thanks to the ratchets ability to turn on and off under load and load release is the key to this blocks pleasurable use. This greatly helps your downwind pace going wild when sheet needs to move quickly out and back in. This is a block system that you can keep for a long time so maybe think about not selling it when upgrading your boat for better financial reward. For the record I also use a 8mm main sheet which runs very well and is not too bad with good gloves but if your a wuss I suppose you can go bigger.

Jib Sheet System

The second most important rope is the jib sheet. Coming from NSW I use cleats on the actual ratchet block. A lot of guys from other states use cleats on the stay. Both I have found to be very effective and I feel the decision on what is to be used should be left up to the crew and what they feel comfortable using. I also use harken 40mm carbo ratchets for these, mainly because of size and weight, but they also look dead sexy which is also very important. This expense is not necessary just a block with a good ratchet will do, but remember the bigger the block the more likely it is to get caught in the crews sailing gear, especially if your crew has a big bum.

The problem area I have found with the jib has always been getting the blocks around the mast and diamonds quickly and cleanly through tacks and gybes. Shackling the jib to the blocks is nearly the worst thing you can do. Over the years we have settled on two simple bowlines to secure the jib eye to the blocks but if you are handy with whipping ask Steve Kiely for a cooler way to fasten them.

The other problem I see here is the size of the blocks people use. Generally speaking most use blocks better suited to sheeting the main sail! The jib sheet is generally static with not much block rotation meaning I have been able to scale my blocks down to ronstan high load with 20mm sheaves. I have NEVER had one fail and they never get caught because of there small size.

Another problem I always encounter here is the size of the sheet used. I have seen some sailors use 10mm sheet!! This is jam waiting to happen and as my dad would say big enough to hold down the queen Mary. Most jib sheets (whether or not it is good sailing) spend most of there upwind sailing (high load) time in a cleat. To this effect the crew only really deals with the loads for a very short period of time. We use a 6mm FSE robline dinghy sheet. This freely flows through the block and is fairly soft. I sail with my betrothed and sister who both feel this is comfortable enough not to beat me around the head.

Barber Hauler System

Sticking with the jib systems I use a double sided barber hauler with a bobble stopping the sheets pulling to the beam. They end up about 250mm away from beam fully pulled down. I find this the best sheeting angle for the jib off the breeze in all conditions.

A lot of crews in recent years have changed to the single line system pulling from (usually) just starboard of the mast on the front beam.
The single line system is good if you sail with an inexperienced crew. Less ropes to think about.

Here are the reasons I still use the double sided system.
1) When rounding the top mark the crew can always be to windward to pull the barber hauler on.
2) Less blocks and turns in rope means less friction which means quicker and easier to pull on.
3) About 1m to 1.5m less jib sheet on the boat (I hate messy boats) due to less distance sheet travels.
4) Quicker to gybe. Now a lot of people will debate this but here is my reasoning which is based on sailing with two of the best crews alive (I am sucking up now) Aimee and Liese. I let the bauber hauler off for the crew as we enter the gybe, this instantly releases the sheet so it springs back to the mast on a 1-1 it does not need the actual jib sheet to flow through a 2-1 system to get back to the mast (double the rope to let go). When the crew then pulls the new line this instantly pulls it out to the beam on a 1-1 meaning the crew has to pull a lot less sheet than the 2-1 system on the sheeting system to get it to sheet on the new leeward side. When you have this system down pat with a good crew there is no doubt in my mind it is quicker.
5) It is a crap load easier to set up- one line, no whipping, extra pulleys, holes in beams, torches, clothes hangers, grey hairs and long nights in the shed!

The double system does relies on an experienced crew and there is no doubt in my mind the single line is quicker with an inexperienced crew.

Jib Luff Tension

Again with the jib another important system often over looked is the luff tension. I usually set the tension on this before the start of every race. It varies quite a bit depending on the conditions. I use a simple loop creating a 2-1 through the tack to a turning block on the bridle chain plate (near hull) which then goes to a simple jam cleat on the beam near the hull. Set and forget is no good for this control.


The out haul is a standard 3-1 on the rear of the boom simple but effective and can be controlled by either crew or skipper depending on who forgets or remembers it first.

This leaves just two ropes, down haul and rotator. These are the two major controls apart from the sheets. Generally speaking most crews on a taipan are smaller than the skipper, with this in mind they need to be set up for someone with less strength than the skipper.
Both of these very important systems should be handled by the crew. When they are most often changed is usually when the skipper has the most on his plate. The bear away and the bottom mark rounding. The skipper concentrating on letting off the downhaul or tweaking the spanner whilst careering around a top mark in a fleet with 20kts is not a pretty sight. Make these systems so the crew can use them. Use the crew that is what they are for!

Down Haul

My crews don't quite have the pulling power I do, so I up the down haul by adding an extra pulley in on the mast, doubling the standard purchase I think? If you have the newer and a lot better cascading system it should be okay as standard as it is a lot more efficient. My downhaul 'tail' runs from my mast around a pulley on the chainplate and retracts on bungy in to the beam. This keeps any excess rope sucked into the beam as well as giving the crew a good deal of line that is always in the same place to grab quickly. It is neat and effective with no tangles.

Rotator (Spanner)

The rotator on my 'new' boat is off the deck and through the tramp. This is the first boat I have had with this system and it works well. I have always had the standard one off the mast to boom and have found this works well too. Personal preference for the crew is the name of the game here I feel

Enough about rigging and now to set up


Nathan my younger brother had been sailing with the new 'big head' for quite a while before I purchased mine. This was great as he gave me a lot of detailed feed back about how the boat was performing. When initially changing Nathan left his rig exactly the same as the standard sail set up so this helped me isolate the changes I thought I needed to make.

I approached Andrew Landenberger to cut my sails. It is important to have good contact with your sailmaker and discuss what you want as well as what they recommend. I had a good idea of what I wanted and again Nathan was already using Andrew's sails so I had a good look at what was coming out of the loft plus Andrew makes the quickest sails around wink wink.
Without giving Andrew's secrets away what I was impressed about was the versatility of shape I could achieve over a range of conditions with Andrew's base seam shape to luff curve balance. When talking with your chosen sail maker, make sure you discuss body weight you expect to sail at, age of the mast, as this affects its bending characteristics (what batch it came from etc) and most importantly what type of base pre-bend he or she recommends. This recommendation should be fairly close to right if the sail is made with the balance of the above mentioned things in mind.

Mast Pre-Bend

Andrew's sails work well with 38mm of spreader rake (measured with no diamond tension applied) and approximately ............ on the loos gage. My crew weight for the record is 121kg. Nathan has the same (within a couple of mm) set up and tops the scales at around 135kg. Andrew recommends 35mm pre-bend which is probably conducive to a slightly porkier crew!

Mast Rake

The next big thing I discussed with both Nathan and Andrew was mast rake. I felt after looking at the new sail plan and talking with Nath that this is where the biggest changes where going to happen, Andrew agreed. So much more sail area so high up meant a lot more pressure on the bows which are very fine compared to more modern designs of boat.

Before the nationals I got on the water as much as possible because of the limited time I had to get up to speed. It was very beneficial to have a great training partner in my Bro and his crew Adam. We measure rake by using the trap wire. Measure the height of the trap ring off the centre line of the deck at the front chainplate and then take the trap towards the stern. When the height of the trap ring is the same off the deck at the stern as it was at the bow then this is the rake. On our first 'trial' run with the new sail plan we lined up with Nath and Adam. Nath kept his mast rake as he would for the standard sail plane (about 80mm behind rear beam using the above method of measurement). I set my boat up with about 230mm rake. We sailed in a beautiful 15-18kts Nor east breeze. The first run we did was off shore at Newcastle harbour so there was plenty of swell as well as a short sharp 1ft chop on top of the swell. Going to windward we where the same pace but I felt I had a couple of degrees more height than Nath, so no real big difference we concluded. The big difference came when we 'turned the corner'. I had much more control over the bows and could drive the boat a lot harder meaning my apparent was better allowing me to go lower and quicker. The difference was astounding over a short leg of around 700mtrs I was putting 50-70mtrs on Nath and Adam.

After a few more runs to conclude our findings we headed for the flat water inshore of the harbour mouth. Again beating the boats where very similar but I thought I had a minimal speed edge on the flat water rather than the height edge I had offshore.
Off the breeze it was impossible to separate the boats. They performed at exactly the same pace no matter how much sledging we threw at each other! The big difference we did notice though was to keep my boat trim correct I had to place my crew well forward of where I would usually sail and we had to move our body weight a little more than usual.

So to conclude the mast rake I used at the nationals was 230mm behind the beam using the above measuring system. The extra rake allows me to really keep driving the boat hard whilst going wild. I feel that I could even take this back a little more and not sacrifice anything but have not done this yet.

Rig Tension

The amount of tension I use is a little more than I used to with the standard sail. As a standard set up I used around 65kgs to tension the rig now I am using around 70-75kgs. I feel this helps the luff sag on the jib and again reduces the pitching off the breeze.

Rotation (Spanner) Angles and Cunningham (Downhaul)

Whilst training the other big difference I noticed with the big head sail was its susceptibility to mast rotation. Using the standard sail plan I would frequently pull the spanner in to as close to 0 degrees as possible and focus a lot more on cunningham pressure and sheet pressure to control leech twist and power needs.
The big head sail does not like being pulled in too far. As soon as the spanner is pulled in too close the extra sail area in the head pushes the tip of the mast to leeward very quickly making the leech of the sail twist too quickly resulting in a lack of leech pressure, and therefore lift and height.
I found the back of the mast pointing to the back of the centre board case to the edge of the rear beam was where the sail performed the best. Dependent on sea state this would change a little.
If I felt the boat was 'jamming' a little too much in the chop I would use a little less rotation (closer to the rear beam) allowing the head (leech) to twist off and the boat to punch a little more through the swell with out so much heeling moment.
In flatter water I leave the spanner rotated more (towards the back of centreboard case) and start pulling cunningham first. This flattens the sail but still allows the leech to 'stand' up a little more. This gives me good height but allows me to 'get rid' of some that excess power in the sail.

Notice of Race - 2010 Nationals