Monday, July 2, 2012

A simple downhaul

It turns out that I have spent a lot of time unnecessarily thinking about how to create a downhaul for the headsail. All the advice I have found suggests a turning block between the headsail tack and the forestay but the Alacrity, or a least my Alacrity, does not have a fixing point that allows this. I had come up with all sorts of ideas but I waited until the boat was back on the water to try them because my previous, albeit brief, attempt when little Grace was on the water in 2010 did not work out. This was because 1. the route I tried to use back to the cockpit via the stanchions had too much friction and 2. the block I tried to use kept falling over and snagging when the line was slack.

I spent last weekend on the boat catching up with those things I had not managed to finish before moving Little Grace to her summer berth. I had just finished the new jiffy rigging at the fore end of the boom and had a lot of leftover very slippery 4mm line in my hand when an imaginary line from the cleat for the pole downhaul, through the appropriate bullseye to the bottom of the forestay and use for said leftover appeared before me.

When rigged for the pole the line will go from the cleat via the bullseye to a block just behind the hatch. The uphaul for the pole will be bungee cord attached to the mast. The system used to work well on the GP14 dingy I once owned and as the forces on the Alacrity are relatively low it should work on Little Grace too.  Anyway, it occurred to me, as it had not done before (doh!), that if conditions are such that the genoa is poled out the downhaul will be A unnecessary and B useless until the pole is removed and the downhaul can be brought back to a cleat on the mast. Of course, the headsail will have to come down if the spinnaker or unstayed drifter go up but these will be in light conditions and someone will have to be on the foredeck anyway, so they can hand the jib or genoa too.
I wanted to try getting Little Grace in and out of her new berth on my own so I combined it with motoring out of our little harbour and upwind for 1.5 nms, then turned for home and set the small jib. The jib is so small the foot passes in front of the mast. When the time came the downhaul worked as perfectly as it had when I tested it head to light wind at the berth.

Unusually there was a ship coming up astern and as it is a narrow channel charted as a shipping lane I did not hang around to do more trials. However, it seems that in an emergency the downhaul will work OK at any angle to the wind. In the test in F3 I tried it on the run with the sheet still cleated, which was efficient but not pretty. To bring the sail on deck neatly it will be necessary to round up into the wind, especially with the number one or the genoa.

Captain Grace at the forehatch - but also note the bowline attached to the first hank and that the line simply turns on the same shackle the strop for the foresail tack is attached to.

The slipperiness of the new line may be relevant to the effectives of the system and I may have to replace it every year or so. But this type of white line (it may be the same type used for starter cord for outboards, which is what I used for the jiffy reefing at the aft end of the boom two years ago) is very cheap compared to other types of line.

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