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Com-Pac 23 Tips and Tricks

I used the Com-Pac 16 as the example boat for the Shoal Draft Sailing article above. The 23 uses many of those same techniques to perform its exceptional sailing performance. Pointing the keel, moving crew to the low side to heel the boat and changing sail shape works the same way on both boats. We are going to talk about category 3 sailing for the 23 in this article.

The Com-Pac 23 is a fast boat when we have enough wind to make her move quickly. Not enough wind falls into the 4 knots of wind or less with slick water. A 16 will out sail a 23 and most other large boats in super light wind. The 23 comes alive in 5 knots of wind and likes the light wind on the nose to increase the relative wind speed across the deck. A jib and main will out sail a genoa and main in super light condition because surface drag is less. The jib can also squeeze the air between jib and main (smaller slot) better than a genoa. Lighter air means the slot needs to be smaller to increase the velocity of the air between the two sails and make the main more powerful. The factory hardware is designed for 10 to 15 knots of wind. Donít use the factory hardware when you have super light winds and you want to sail category 3. Know what sail shape you need and tie a sheets to anything to make the sail shape you need. The 23 doesnít like super light winds and it more at home in the 10 to 15 or higher winds.

Main and genoa sheet adjustment is critical in the middle winds. The boat will respond with extra speed if you do it right. We know that we could use tell tails on the genoa and that would be a wonderful way to achieve super performance, but thatís a whole lot of work. An easy way is to let the top of the leach flutter a little bit on both the genoa and the main. That makes sure that we havenít pulled the leach too tight and screwed up our sailís shape. A main thatís has the top of leach shaking should increase boat speed by Ĺ knot. Genoas and jibs should have all their power in their sails about 1/3 of the way back from the luff. The main is designed to have its power point half way back from the luff. When you are on the wind, look at the sails and you will see where your power point is. It will be taught from top to bottom along those power points. The cloth forward and aft of the power point will be loose. As you tension the halyards, the power point moves forward or aft. Increase halyard tension and the power point moves forward. A shaking leach only works with the right halyard tension. Sitting on the low or high side works well in this speed range. If you are sailing in category 3, you will constantly need to adjust the jib or genoa for correct trim. The main isnít as critical. Maintaining no more than 3 degrees of rudder movement off the centerline is what we call sail balance. If the helm is more than 3 degrees and if you are sailing a straight line, your rudder is a brake and thatís going to slow you down. You have to adjust the sails to reduce the helm or you will come to a stop. Well maybe not a stop, but you are going to be very slow. Doing the helm and the sails at the same time is normally more than one person can do well. Two people sailing the 23 requires good communications and practice.

The upper part of the middle wind speed category and in big wind sailing is where the 23 really shines. The halyard tension needs to be all you can get with the following exception. If the main has too much halyard tension, you will see a reverse curve or curl just behind the mast. Thatís not likely in big winds. The jib or genoa will do the same thing, but it will be more difficult to see. If you are sailing in 50 knots of winds, a jib and 2 reefs in the main are required. You can pick your sails for use in winds less than 50 knots. They need to balance the boat without too much power in the sails. The 23 sails in 50 knots of wind with a jib and 2 reefs in the main like it would sail in 18 knots with a genoa and a full main. When we raced in that much wind, we had moderate waves and the 23s were faster than the 27s. A 23 heaves to well in those wind conditions with just a 2-reef main. In winds above 18 knots, we use 2 rudders. One rudder is the real rudder and the other rudder is the main sail. It helps if you can rub your stomach with one hand and pat your head with the other hand at the same time. If you are on the wind and you have too much sail power and you donít want to round up, you bleed the power off the main sail by using it like a rudder. You donít need the main sail power and you really want less power and so you steer with both rudders at the same time. Keeping in mind this is category 3 sailing in a straight line. Around the 20 to 25 knot range, we want to keep our full sail power available, but not necessarily in use.

Long-range sailing is a function of wind and waves. No 23-foot sailboat is going to sail well in 4 or 5-foot head seas. 2-foot waves with enough wind power to sail through them are about all thatís possible with small boats. Big winds can work in your favor, but big waves on the nose never work well.

One fancy maneuver that I like to do now and then is a 360-degree turn. It takes about 5 knots of boat speed to do the turn. You sail on the wind and tack. Donít change the sheets and keep on going after the tack. The boat will continue in a circle and then jibe and then pick up its original course. The 23 makes a circle in the water a little larger than its length. Itís a good time killer at the start line in a race and the competition always wonders whatís going on?

The first CP-23's keel was all ballast like the CP-16. The boat had tons of weather helm and something had to be done (See note at end of article). The number 2 boat had the familiar bilge that we know today and the weather helm was improved. The next sail improvement for the 23 was the bowsprit. It moved the jib tack 12 inches forward without changing the standing rigging. The top of the mast moved forward with the center of effort also moving forward. The balance was getting better and better. We have already talked about the power points on the jib, genoa and main. They are adjustable with halyard tension and the center of effort can change with the type of headsail used. The one-third back power point on a genoa is more aft than the one-third power point on a jib. Old blown out sails have their power points almost all the way back to the leach. Bad, old or poorly tuned equipment will normally cause weather helm. A 155% genoa will point better than other genoas because the clew raps around the shrouds giving us a closer pointing angle to the centerline of the boat. A 155% genoa will have a power point that more aft than other headsails and that may increase your weather helm some. It's best to know all the facts before you pick a headsail to use in your area.

I like a 155% genoa for category 1 (see Shoal Draft Sailing above) sailing. Most 23 have furling gear (I really like Harken) and with a 155% genoa (no main), you can sail with the power point back because it's a 155% and almost have a balanced boat. I use the headsail only and don't raise or uncover the main. If I'm as fast as other boats using 2 sails, why should I raise the main?

An article from the CPYANC newsletter:

Buck Thomas was the marketing manager for Com-Pac Yachts and a partner in the business. It was his responsibility to find dealers and sell them boats. Buck was really good at what he did and he kept the boats moving from the factory to the dealers. He also had the responsibility of transporting boats to the dealers if they didn't pick up their own boats. The largest order he transported for us was 6 Com-Pac 16s on a big 18-wheeler. They were stacked 2 high on a very high trailer. He once told me that he had to unload a 16 using a tree limb up north. The old boy that used the limb was the Parker River dealer and he kept his boats in a barn on his farm during the winter. Buck had some great stories to tell. He was also the driving force in the design of the 23. Clark Mills is the official designer, but Buck is the person that gave the 23 its character by doing most of the detail work. The Hutchins Company decided that everyone at the factory was going to have some input into their boats. Mr. Hutchins (we all called him Hutch), the founder of Com-Pac and Gerry and Richard's father selected the ports for the 23 and Buck picked out the sail plan and other performance details. Buck was into performance boats at the time and he suggested a little more sail area than a normal Com-Pac would have. The 23 sail plan is a semi high aspect rig. Small foot and high luff with a good size genoa makes for a great sailing boat. The ports that Mr. Hutchins picked out only lasted for a few boats. Everyone called them manhole covers and they didn't open. The first boat had a full keel of concrete ballast. They made the second boat with a bilge in the end of the keel and a little less ballast. That took care of stern down problem with the first boat. Those early 23s were called Mark I boats and they had aluminum hardware and mahogany plywood interiors. We sold some of the early boats for a little less than $10K and they looked great at the time. Some of them still do. They were too hard to rig, launch and sail from a ramp for daysailing and most of our customers didn't buy trailers. The trailers would become more popular when the hurricanes came and the cost of slips increased.

The next 23 out the door was a Mark II. The Mark II is my favorite and a great sailing boat. It has stainless on the outside and teak on the inside and both were big improvements. I didn't like the brown cove stripe that came with the Mark IIs but Gerry said it was an earth color and would match lots of other colors. The 84 model was the only Mark II with a white cove stripe and it looked good to my eye. The Mark II had a 12-inch bowsprit that balanced the boat better and it sailed better. The bowsprit moved the top of mast forward to move the sail plan center of effort forward. The wire rigging remained the same with the new bowsprit. There was enough slack in the turnbuckles to accommodate the bowsprit change. Everyone that had a Mark I wanted a bowsprit and Randy Angel from Sanford NC made them in his garage. Randy was good at welding stainless steel. A 23 with a bowsprit and a 155% genoa was a fast boat and won most of our club races in North Carolina. We had one night race from New Bern to Oriental and back that took all night. The race started at dark with light wind. The wind picked some and the first boat that rounded the half way mark was a 27. The wind died a little in the early morning hours and our 23 slide by everyone for a win. We were the first boat to finish and of course we won big time on handicap.

Com-Pac built a special 23 for someone in Florida. It had wheel steering and a boot stripe that grew in size going forward. Cool boat, but I don't like wheel steering on a 23. The newer boats had halyards aft and I didn't think too much of that improvement. The only time halyards aft work is when your racing and you need to adjust the sails. Other than racing, halyards aft get in the way and are a general pain in the neck. The 23D was a big change. It had a diesel for power and it made the boat sail even better. A diesel in a 23 is a good installation and well worth the extra money. It's a boat where you can have a normal conversation in the cockpit and hear what the other person is saying. Richard Summers sailed his 23D over thousands of miles. Another favorite 23 of mine is when the 23 lost the brown stripe and gained the tan nonskid on the deck. The forward hatch change was good and retooling the deck mold to get the angle for the sheet winches was another good improvement. The catbird seat with a diesel installation was another good change. Our rumble seat modification may be a little better. A soft cushion and a bimini that works over the rumble seat is in the works. The next new improvement on a 23 should be a centerboard. Reduced draft will improve launching from a trailer and a centerboard will improve pointing ability in less than 5 knots of wind. A counter balanced mast hinge using lead and blocks inside the boat would be another improvement. Since we have lots of older 23 in North Carolina, we don't see many of the newest boats with the stainless steel ports. When we do see a new boat at a show, the quality is still there and we think the 23-foot size is about as good as it gets for most people.

Clark Mills, Buck Thomas and the Hutchins family made a great boat when they made the 23. Boats that will sail just about anywhere and can be maintained by the average person without breaking the bank. As soon as they make the mast go up and down easy, it's going to be the perfect boat for most sailors.

Note: I just heard from the owner of CP-23, hull #1 and he said that he has a standard bilge in his boat. It appears that the Factory modified the ballast on that boat. He said the ballast in his boat has one additional separator (wood dam) further forward in the ballast. The first boat like all first boats was the research and development boat. It's great that the first boat is still alive and well.

The Sailboat Company
Richlands, NC 910-324-4005