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Flying Machines

I just spent a small part of my day having a great time on the water. Every time I sail a Com-Pac 16, I have that same feeling. ďBoy, was that great sail or what?Ē I could have sailed away from the dock and back to the dock, but marina rules say ďdonít do thatĒ, so we motored out and motor back to the dock. Sailors have a good reason to sail from and back to a dock. Motors donít always run and you will have to sail home at some point during your sailing career. I make a practice to always sail back to the dock when I can.

As we were sailing the 16, it came to me that our little 16 is a lot like the early flying machines from the barnstorming days during and after WWI. Those old aircraft would turn on their Center of Gravity (CG) like we turn on our Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR). Good pilots would know how to bank and slip, climb and dive and make their aircraft perform. We can do the same thing with our 16 except for diving and we donít want to do that anyway. We move our body weight to different parts of the cockpit to get the right heel angle. That gives the sails; hull and keel the right trim angle for good performance. A bi-plane pilot could do the same thing using his ailerons and flaps. I think the early pilots knew their machines and they kept track of the weather and the wind. I think some of the early aircraft used water-cooled Liberty engines?

I try to maintain twist in my sails when Iím sailing. You pull them too flat and the twist will be gone and you will slow down. Twist is required because the drag at the surface is more than it is at the top of the mast. When the drag is different (more at he bottom of the mast than at the top), the wind speed is different and the wind direction is different. Not by much, but enough to stall the top of the sail in most cases. Heeling the boat with no sail power at the top is slow sailing. Both jib and main need twist and well places telltales will tell you when they are in trim. A jib with a telltale that's straight down is getting close to a stall and a telltale straight up is getting close to a luff. You only have three degrees of trim angle adjustment for a given course and wind direction. A boat with a jib telltales pointing up points higher and a boat with its telltales pointing down has more power. They all have to be within the three degrees. The twist is right if the all the telltales are moving like little soldiers marching on a parade ground.

The 16 is designed to sail in light to medium winds and even more wind if required. Larger boats need more wind to make them move in light winds. Some don't move at all in light wind. Have you ever wondered why this is true? Big boats are designed to travel to far off places safely. The 16 is designed for an afternoon sail on your local lake or river. The 16ís displacement is 1100 pounds with 450 pounds in ballast. An average two-person crew is another 350 pounds. What that means is the crew can change the trim of the sails, hull and keel by moving around in the cockpit. You canít do that on a light board boat and you canít do that on a boat with a heavy displacement. The board boats and the big boats are designed for different purposes. My solution to a big family that wants to day sail is two 16s.

Why is a shoal keel and ballast important? The shoal keel will slide sideways in a big-big wind instead of rolling the boat over and you going for a swim. Sliding sideways while sailing is solved by not overpowering the keel with the sails. The ballast makes the boat hold a position while you analyze your trim settings. No one can sail a tippy boat well. If you live in a location with a steady 12 knots of wind, day sailing a medium size boat isnít that bad. If you live in a light wind area with some big wind now and then, you canít beat the little 16 or a boat like the 16. How many boats are like the 16????

New sails are hard to live with until they become used. Sails that are a year or two old will hang properly on a 16. The maximum camber on both the jib and the main should be at 50 percent. When it aft of 50, increase the halyard tension until it is at 50 percent. Maybe the jib should be a little forward of 50 percent. Little wind need slack sails. They still need to hang correctly. The slot between the jib and main is designed for 10 knots of wind. If you have less than 5, grab the clew and bring it closer to the main. Point the keel with your body weight aft in the cockpit when you are on the wind in very little wind. Use the jib as a wind catcher to direct wind to the main in a no wind conditions. Get ďgood at sailingĒ by sailing back to the dock every chance you get and use telltales when you sail. Read the wind and grade yourself when you are right and when you are wrong. Wind coming down a valley can move around a point of land at the end of the valley. You see it as the wind moving in a circle on the water. It makes for some exciting docking.

Those old bi-plane pilots flew back to a safe landing if they could see and read the wind. They couldnít land downwind and a cross wind wasnít that good either. The pilots with the most experience lived the longest. Sailing back to the dock could be almost as important to us as sailors. When that piece of iron on the transom quits, you start planning your way home. A confident experienced sailor is someone that can sail to any destination in almost any wind. The 16 does that in coastal areas and lakes well.