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How to tune your sailing rig

Rig Tension - How to tune your sailing rig - a tuning guide

Most people know what their rig settings should be, but don’t know the forces they are putting through the rig and the hull. We will try and help you get a better idea of what forces you are putting through the rig using the Spinlock Rig-Sense.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RIG TUNING AND PERFORMANCE

We know the fundamental job of standing rigging is to hold the rig up, however we can affect the performance, safety and longevity of the rig and boat by having the rig over or under-tensioned. 

Rig tuning is one of the dark arts of sailing, with some people enjoying the technical side of tuning and others just looking to ensure the rig is upright and tensioned. There are many factors that affect how you tune your rig, and the outcomes of the adjustments can be common and specific to a design. There is no doubt that rig tuning must be learnt but having access to pre-set tensions loads and advice gets going quickly.

Many sailors will join a class and download the current champions tuning guide, which in theory is the fastest setting for your boat. But is this a good setting for YOUR boat, sails, rig, crew weight or ability…?

Below is a typical tuning guide from a popular class taken from a top sailor:


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This level of information is great for the person who wrote it as they have probably been working on it over time. However, for someone new to a class or just getting started, it can seem like a lot of information to digest and understand. So, is there a different way of looking at boat tuning? Let us break it down.


BOAT HANDLING, FITNESS, STRATEGY AND TACTICS

Before we go too much into boat tuning, it’s important to know that boat handling, fitness, Strategy and Tactics will give you larger gains on the water than tuning alone. However, a correctly tuned boat is better, more efficient, and faster to sail, making boat handling and tactics easier.


HOW MUCH TENSION?

Most tuning guides come from new boats. Be aware, newer boats will be stronger and will not flex as much as an older boat. If you try and replicate a new boat, you might end up damaging your hull or rig trying to match the rig tension. Bear this in mind when tensioning very high loads and very low loads. We recommend between 15-25% of the breaking strain of the wire. For a standard 1x19 Stainless steel 3mm shroud, this will be 108kg to 180kg (approx. 720kg breaking strain).


WIND SPEED AS A DENOMINATOR?

On land we have several resources to tell us what the wind speed is, which allows us to correctly tune our rig. On the water it’s harder to tell whether its 8 or 10 knots of wind. This makes tuning more complicated if we were using the tuning guide above. Crew weight will also affect your settings, especially if you mix up your crew from week to week. By changing the denominator to something easy to quantify, we easily know when to change gears even if we change sails or crew. We recommend using the following guide to start with:

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These 3 headings are easy to measure and remember. Once you have mastered the basic settings, the headings can be divided up depending on your boat, ability, conditions, etc.

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RIG-SENSE FREE APP

The Spinlock Rig-Sense App has over 50 Tuning guides pre-installed to get you started. These were taken from the sail makers, boat builders and class websites.

Follow these steps to get you started:

1. Download the Rig-Sense from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

2. Open the App and tap on FILES, then TEMPLATES.

3. Choose your TEMPLATE and select EDIT. Then edit, add or delete the X and Y axis. SAVE it.

4. Now go back to TEMPLATES, choose your Edited TEMPLATE and select USE.

5. Edit the FILE with your settings and amend when necessary.

6. Remember to EMAIL yourself the file as a back-up, should you damage or lose your phone.

We encourage you to amend the setting to suit your boat and ability. If you are not sure how to tune your boat, ask other class members. There are also plenty of books and articles online to get a better understanding. It is important to get the right level of Tuning information for YOUR sailing.


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