Home>Sailing tips from the Caledonia Yawl Crazybird
Origins of the Caledonia Yawl design The Crazybird crew Go to the Discussion Board

Sailing Tips

Crazybird wins races and has earned a local reputation as a fast seaworthy boat, despite our general disinterest in racing and all that goes with it. But we're not disinterested in sailing the boat fast and to her maximum potential. We've learnt a fair bit about what works and the peculiarities of a small ketch rig. At the risk of stating the obvious and also of helping the competition, I've outlined some of the key points below. Your contributions, via the Discussion Board would be welcome too.

Crazybird rounds the final mark - click to enlarge
Left - Crazybird rounds the final mark ahead of arch rival Charlie Strong to cross the line (right) narrowly ahead, winning the Gippsland Wooden Boat Messabout Big Boat Cup in 1999

Crazybird leads Charlie Strong over the line - click to enlarge

Select the following links to learn about our experience on Crazybird:

...from our experience with Crazybird...


1. Jib luff tension: We set the luff of the jib up very firmly. We do this by first setting up the mast sidestays very firmly, then setting the jib and using a 2x tackle on the fall we tighten up the jib luff so that the top of the mast just starts to bend forward, (pulling against the sidestays). We then set up the forestay using a lanyard to tension it. We ensure the forestay is fractionally looser than the jib luff so the tension is still on the jib. We try to ensure that when the jib stretches with wind pressure the luff tension is not replaced by the forestay. The forestay is only there to support the mast when we remove the jib or something unexpected happens to it. To minimise jib halyard stretch we use wire, with the fall ending in an eye/block through which the tensioning tackle passes. Back
Ensure jib luff is tight and its tension is not being replaced by the forestay.
2. Jib Sheeting: We sheet the jib through a fairlead we've located under the central thwart, about x centimetres outboard from the centreboard (one on each side), then aft to a camcleat on the centreboard. The original sheeting arrangement was through a fairlead located on each gunwale. Our new location seems to set the sail better and narrows the slot between the jib and the main to give a better draught when beating. It also improves the angle of the luff of the jib helping to sail closer to the wind. CAUTION: Sheeting the jib in hard now has more potential to back the mainsail, to avoid this ensure you can tighten the luff of the mainsail well (see below), that you can sheet the mainsail in well, and don't over-tighten the jib. In lighter winds in particular ensure the jib sheet is never pulled hard in but is always 'started'. There is the potential for enthusiastic crew to sheet the jib too hard in light winds, making the sail as flat as a board. It looses all power. Let it off a bit so that it takes up a bit of shape. You'll go faster. As the wind freshens harden the jib. You'll go even faster. We ensure we have very good tension in the jib luff too. Back
Experiment with the jib sheet fairlead position.
Don't sheet the jib in too hard in light winds
3. Mainsail luff tension control: (High peaked gaff mainsail) We ensure the lacing attaching the mainsail to the gaff allows some movement, so that when the lower luff (as in the part adjacent to the mast) is tightened, the upper luff, laced to the gaff, also tightens. This allows better control of the tension of the whole luff. We allow some looseness in the lacing to the mast as well, just sufficient tightness to ensure smooth wrinkle free setting of the sail when sheeted in hard. To tighten the luff we have a 4x tackle between the bottom of the boom and a strop around the lower mast, sheeted aft to a cam cleat on the side of the centreboard. As the wind freshens we tighten the luff. Over about 12 knots of breeze we have it very firm. Back
Ensure you can control the tension of the whole luff. Tighten as the breeze freshens.
4. Mainsail sheeting: We sheet the mainsail by sheeting the boom to a central block/camcleat on the aft end of the centreboard with a 3x purchase. This is not optimal and a sliding track across the boat would probably result in a better sail shape when close hauled, however the sail track across the boat in this location would be a nuisance and has therefore been sacrificed. The existing arrangement works OK and doesn't take up too much space in this important part of the boat. We take care not to sheet the mainsail in too hard, particularly in light winds. Beating in a fresh breeze we have it as hard in as it will go. Back
Don't pull the mainsail too flat in light winds.
5. Kicking strap?: We used to set a kicking strap (a tackle from the base of the mast to a strop around the boom about a metre from the mast), to stop the boom lifting (and losing optimal sail shape and thus power) particularly when sailing well off the wind. A kicking strap is undoubtedly a good idea however its presence on Crazybird substantially increased John's (the crew) difficulties when going about. His cursing and swearing about it eventually got to me and it went. Can't say I really notice the difference (In either John or boat speed). Back
Don't bother.
6. Going about and that mizzen sail...: We've learnt on Crazybird that in anything over a very light breeze its essential to let go the mizzen sheet at the same time as you put the helm over, otherwise you will not turn past head to wind, as the hard sheeted mizzen firmly holds you 'in irons'. We find that we can spin the boat around onto the new tack very quickly if we put the helm over firmly, let go the mizzen immediately but hold onto the jib until it is backed (just, more or less depending on the conditions), then firmly sheet in the jib as we come onto our new course, and last of all, reset the mizzen sheet. Back
Let go the mizzen sheet as you go about or it will hold you in irons.
7. Trimming the mizzen: We trim the mizzen for maximum drive all the time. Hard in on a beat, way out on a run. On a dead downwind run we goosewing the jib with a boathook to hold it out, set the main right out on the other side, and the mizzen right out on the same side as the jib. With the centreboard up and all the weight amidships, or even a little forward, we'll hold most trailer yachts flying a spinnaker. In a race we've been known to position ourselves dead upwind of a boat and then fairly quickly catch up as we totally blanket them...its like sailing with a big barn door out each side... Overall we never worry about trimming the mizzen to balance the helm, there's no need, CB is always quite light on the helm just carrying a fraction of weather helm when hard on the wind.
We have a very long sheet on the mizzen so that when we let it right out the mizzen can swing right inboard and point to the bow (if the wind is aft). I now regard this as an important safety feature. Rigged in this way the mizzen can be easily de-powered and handed at sea when running without having to turn the boat across or into the wind. A useful feature. Trust me. Back
We always trim the mizzen for maximum drive.
For safety have a long sheet on the mizzen.
8. Sailing under just the jib and mizzen: This works quite well on the gaff rigged Caledonia Yawl and we've used it many a time. Faced with a rapidly freshing wind, an oncoming squall, or even just sailing onto a conjested jetty, its great to get that big gaff mainsail down and out of the way, but still retain full sailing control of the boat. Retaining both jib and mizzen the boat remains quite well balanced and even in a very fresh breeze, jogs along very comfortably. Its not a great rig to go to windward in, but is improved if you take the fall of the main halyard aft and tighten it up as a temporary backstay to enable decent tension to be put on the luff of the jib. In these strong conditions we generally furl our regular (large) jib and set a much smaller jib on a wire strop so the foot is a metre or so above the deck. this means we don't have to change the sheeting position and the sail is in slightly clearer air. To make serious way to windward in stong conditions we prefer to set this smaller jib, double reef the main, and roll the mizzen sail up around the mast. This gives a snug and powerful rig, and quite well balanced too. Coming down to the smaller jib (tie a reef in if you don't have a roller furler) is important. Sailing under the full jib in very strong conditions we often found the boat overpowered and when set with the double reefed main and no mizzen, gave a bit of lee helm, as is to be expected. Not good and to be avoided as the necesary lee helm (to hold the boat up to weather) creates a low water pressure area to leeward of the keel, drawing the boat down to leeward. The opposite of where you are trying to go. Confused? Try it and you'll see what I mean. Back
Jib and mizzen alone are good on a reach or run or a loose beat in very fresh conditons. For serious beating in fresh conditions we prefer the reefed jib and double reefed main, and the mizzen furled.
9. Lying head to wind under just the mizzen: Often quoted as one of the (safety) features of yawls and ketches, if you furl the jib, and drop the mainsail, and just retain the mizzen sheeted in firmly, and hold the tiller amidships, the Caledonia Yawl will sit quietly facing into the wind, however she will also be drifting aft suprisingly quickly, like at 2 or 3 knots at least in a fresh breeze. Be wary of this. If you are not out at sea lee shores can come up very quickly while you are busy tying a reef into the mainsail. Also you need a way of securing the rudder amidships to avoid drifting aft in an arc although this may lead to the boat effectively heaving to, as a point is reached where the wind in the mizzen starts to give forward drive again, depending on the conditions of wind and sea, and a balance point is reached. Back
Under just the mizzen the CY sits securely facing upwind. But beware, if it's fresh, you are drifting downwind at speed.
10. Heeling: Crazybird goes fastest with some heel, this probably makes the most of her waterline length. Whatever, we know it to be true. In light winds we heel the boat with crew weight so all the sails hang in the best shape we can manage. As the wind freshens we aim to heel her so that the leeward gunwale is a little above the water level. With every gust she will noticeably point up even higher and accelerate. We win races on the windward leg by keeping her heeled, keeping boat speed up, and using every gust to allow her to point up higher. We do ship a bit of water sometimes which is why we have a good pump. Back
The boat goes fastest on a heel
11. Keep the weight amidships: Like all double enders, the Caledonia Yawl has relatively less buoyancy in the stern than a comparable length transom sterned vessel. This means that weight aft will have a much greater effect depressing the stern, increasing drag, and in bigger following seas increase the likelihood of the tops of waves slopping over the stern, (particularly with a short steep sea on the quarter). We try to keep our weight and all heavier items out of the ends. Specifically this means the helmsman not tucking themselves into the stern but sitting well forward, near amidships if possible. We find the boat goes fastest on a run if we trim the boat with the majority of crew weight slightly forward, and raise the centreboard of course. This has the effect of lifting the stern slightly and giving a much cleaner run aft. Water turbulence off the stern is certainly reduced. Of course we have a folding rudder and we always ensure there is no chance of the rudder coming out of the water and losing steerage. We don't trim her down by the head THAT much! Just a little. We notice the difference. Back
Keep the weight out of the ends.
On a run trim her slightly down by the head.
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