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Matt's Monday #8: Rigging is No Bull!

Jan 11, 2010

Matt’s Monday Jan 11, 2010

Rigging up! Most of the time, it is very easy for most of us to choose what gear we will ride. There is only a choice between a few sails for the given wind conditions.

Your Board can influence Sail Choice:

Choose a sail size that fits the conditions. Of course, you won't go out on a 7.0 when it's blowing 25 knots, but sometimes it’s hard to know what size to take. I like to ride a bigger board and smaller sail rather than vice versa. WHY? Well my theory is that with the bigger board, I am always able to float on it. I will be able to get planing earlier with the wider tail and bigger overall dimensions. This enables me to use a smaller size sail and still get going and have more fun!

Rig Right:

Rigging your sail is easy to say, but I still have people come up to me and ask why there sail doesn't work even though they only pulled half the downhaul that they should have. Check the specifications on the sail. Most all the sails these days have recommended specs and are pretty close to being in the ballpark. If you use a different mast other than the recommended one things may be a little different by 1-2cm or so.

Is this how you want to sail?Avoid Shape Up High. Nowadays, most sails are made to twist off slightly above the top 2 battens. If your sail is not twisting off, you are setting yourself up to get pulled all over the place like a BULLRIDER! The reason you are getting pulled around is because the sail is cupping the wind up high. The top 3 battens probably look pretty full. This is very hard to control. Think about where your boom is and note the physics involved. When you get hit with a gust, the power up high in the sail is going to throw you forward.

Boom Height. This brings me to another point… proper boom height! I recommend that you should set your boom between shoulder and chin height. If it is lower than that, you will have trouble controlling the sail.

Harness Line Length. With your boom set right, you should then think about your harness lines. This is a touchy subject as some people swear you have to have them super short (like 20-inches)… well I think that is a recipe for disaster! Look at it like this - you want to have your rig as vertical as possible and you want to have your boom at the right height… If you have short lines, you are naturally going to pull the sail over to windward and not let it stand-up straight to be most efficient. I think most people should be using a 26” line as a start. The girls and smaller people that have their booms really low are OK on the 20 or 22” lines... but not the majority of sailors!!!

Downhaul vs Outhaul. Now that we have that sorted out, let’s set our downhaul. I always like to pull mine down to max setting and then if the wind is light and I know I’m going to need some power, I will back it off less than 1-cm. Generally, I always set my downhaul the same for most conditions. I really play with the outhaul! I think this is the best way to tune your sail. I am not afraid to have the sail bag out on the boom if I need it to and for light wind get up and go this really helps. I would say to set your outhaul spec on the minimum and maybe even a cm less if need be. If you pull too much outhaul, you will choke out the power in your sail and it will feel very on/off all the time and you will never settle in to a comfortable sailing position.

Never do this. The worst possible combination is too much outhaul and not enough downhaul. Oh boy, talk about catapult central!

You really have to play a little bit with your particular sails and learn for yourself how well this works. It can make your session a good one or a bad one... trust me! A general rule is, if the sail doesn't feel right, it probably isn't rigged right. More often than not, most people under downhaul their equipment - so don’t be that individual!

Batten Tension. One last thing that people often overlook is batten tension. This is what makes the rig feel TIGHT and snappy. Batten tension holds the pieces together, if you will. It puts skin tension on the sail and gives you more direct input to your board - every pump you make translates into instant acceleration, which equals MORE FUN!

Tighten up the details. Some other small things often overlooked are getting your pulleys all the way tight to your base. Don’t leave an inch or two of rope exposed. The rope stretches everytime that mast bends, so drop the base extension down and get that pulley tight! Same goes for the outhaul - don’t leave the rope showing. Get it as tight as possible.

Plug all this in and you should be getting ready for a great day on the water!



Three-Time World Champion, Matt Pritchard is sponsored by Gaastra Sails, Tabou Boards, Da Kine, Kaenon Polarized and Camaro Wetsuits. Matt Does Private Lessons on Maui as well as several clinics throughout the year in different locations. For any further info, you can contact Matt by email:


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