R 22

Rhodes 22


Mainsail Handling

In gusty conditions, my usual sailing position is up on the windward gunnel at the traveler, steering with the tiller extension. Quite often, I will pull the traveler car up the track to weather and then let out enough mainsheet to center the boom. This geometry permits the boom to rise a bit to put some twist in the upper part of the mainsail to spill wind. I would imagine your IMF mainsail with no battens would be very sensitive to this trick. With no battens, your mainsail should twist & spill wind like mad. With only a 2:1 block and tackle on the traveler car, I've never had mine jam when I wanted to dump it. In fact, just the opposite.

With only 2:1 rigging and the traveler car pulled up to the weather end of the track, dumping the traveler seems to let the boom out faster than letting out the 4:1 mainsheet. After the gust has passed, the 2:1 rigging lets you get the traveler car back into position faster than the mainsheet too, assuming you're strong enough. My wife and sons complain the 2:1 rigging isn't enough mechanical advantage for them to use when it's really windy.

I wish the traveler control lines were led around a block at the end of the traveler track so you could pull on the control line from in front of the traveler instead of from the side. Even sitting up on the windward gunnel, you have to reach around the end of the track to use the clam cleat and it's a little awkward.

This winter, I have a project planned wherein I'm going to take Harken 256 (port) & 257 (starboard) traveler control cars and machine out the bottom so they fit over the round Rhodes 22 traveler bar instead of the proprietary Harken traveler track. I'll thru bolt these modified Harken cars in place of the present clam cleats at each end of the traveler bar.

I'm expecting this modification will get me several advantages:

  • 1. The control line will now be one continuous loop, instead of two separate lines. The mainsail trimmer will not have to leave the windward gunnel in order to manipulate the leeward traveler control line.
  • 2. The Harken 256 and 257 control cars have built-in ball bearing blocks and a 356 Cam-Matic cam cleat on a pivoting arm. This combination of features should permit the traveler control line to be operated from an ergonomically better position in front of the traveler, hopefully without an unacceptable increase in friction.
  • 3. I'm hoping the helmsman will be able to move slightly forward for a better view of the genoa telltales and to be more nearly perpendicular to the end of the tiller for good steering. It may even be possible to play the traveler while seated in the cockpit!
  • 4. I'm hoping the improved ergonomics will give my wife and sons the extra mechanical advantage they need to operate the traveler in heavy air.

Sounds like maybe the moving parts on your traveler car could use a little TLC. My traveler car rolls pretty freely, even under load. If it didn't, then, I would thru bolt a section of Harken 154 small boat traveler track to the existing traveler rod & use one of the ball bearing Harken traveler cars along with the 256 and 257 traveler control cars. This configuration is probably the ultimate Rhodes 22 traveler. But, as I said, my traveler car rolls pretty easily, even under load, and I don't think it's necessary to go to the Harken ball bearing traveler cars.

By the way, sailing in gusty conditions is a proactive as opposed to a reactive activity. By that I mean you need to be scanning the surface of the water out to windward looking for the dark patches that signal a gust. On Dynamic Equilibrium, anyone who spots the gust will call it out and count it down as it comes in. The helmsman prepares by heading off the wind a bit if possible and the sail trimmers ease out on the sheets and traveler. When the gust hits, the boat is already pre-configured to accelerate rather than heel. After we've sucked every last knot of boat speed from the gust, we point back up and spend our hard won kinetic energy to climb to windward. Gusts are not something to be feared; but, rather handy little packets of energy that need to be harvested and used.

Roger Pihlaja
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
24 Sep 98

I understand what you're doing, Roger, but how do you find time to dump the traveler in a gust? Mine tends to be a little "sticky" due to the various forces vectoring on it. It seems that all I can do is shove the tiller to round up and dump some main sheet at the same time...if all else fails, I dump some jib as well, but this all takes time. Haven't tried dumping with the traveler though. Do you think it would work satisfactorily with a standard batten (non IMF) main?

Larry Sparks

General Boats' Sail-Ease

1) What it is:

Sail-Ease is a main sail control system. Its purpose is to apply a "constant" tension to the main sheet and in turn maintain the trim of the main sail. The theory is that a gust of wind will increase pressure on the main sail, which will be transferred to the main sheet, and the Sail-ease will release some line to maintain the "constant" tension, spilling some air and preventing the boat from over heeling. It reminds me of my dingy sailing days, keeping the main sheet always in my hand. I have been using "constant" in quotes, in truth it is a spring that has a force curve depending on the load.

The unit is a spring-loaded tube with a line that will compress the spring when withdrawn, its range of motion is about 3 feet but the useful range is about 16-24 inches. There is an adjustment on the unit to allow different stiffness settings (not normally changed).

2) Mounting:

On The Rhodes22 with IMF the unit was mounted on the boom forward of the aft cleat using aluminum standoff brackets. The brackets were pop-riveted onto the boom. The unit was then slid into the brackets and tightened down. The line from the unit was lead aft into a turning block attached to boom end and down to and attached to the mainsheet purchase.

The two forward under side cleats should be relocated to the side of the boom. Installation time was about 45 minutes with 15 minutes spent finding the mounting location. I believe the unit is "user installable". For a neat appearance, the bracket should be bent to conform to the shape of the boom. The unit with brackets drops down about 4 inches. You do have to watch your head a little more. Clearance was checked for the pop-top (high and low mast) and the bimini. There should be enough room left on the boom for a future boom-vang. With a little engineering and customer demand the unit could be incorporated into the boom itself.

3) Close hauled and a close reach performance:

This test was in winds of 10 knots with gusts to about 15 knots. Full IMF main and full 110% jib. Using the stiffer spring unit. The unit performed to theory. After setting the course and sail trim the unit would release the main sheet in a gust of wind. By setting the tension using the main sheet the amount of heel was controllable with "smoother" transitions. It allows more reaction time in changing winds and the ability to ride out a short gust without rounding up or changing trim (within limits). The crew will get thrown around the boat less. The skipper can sheet in as hard or soft as they wish (up to the limits of the spring).

Overall it is a WIN on a Rhodes 22. The unit is not a panacea the boat still needs to be trimmed and reefed to the conditions and the unit has a limited range of motion. The unit with stiff spring seems to react in the 15-20 degrees of heel (a function of the spring and the heeling forces. adjustment).

4) Down wind and a Broad reach:

Little if any effect, the unit needs about 22 pounds of sheet pressure to react. I am still waiting for a 20+ knots day when I can push the unit on these points of sail.

5) Tacks and Jibes:

It helps with what I describe as the butchered tack. The one wherein crew is a little off guard and the boat heels quickly on the new course. It buys a little time for the crew (or skipper) to sheet in the jib correctly and settle in before going under the leeward seat. The same goes for a jibe. Overall control and stability are better maintained. The unit also has the advantage of shock absorbing, helping to take the shock load off of the rigging. For the Rhodes 22, with the mainsheet mounted to the backstay, this might not be an issue but it should help prolong the life of the rigging, chain- plates, boom and gooseneck.

6) Auto-pilot:

I have a Navico TP300 Tillerpilot on board. I found Sail-ease and the Tillerpilot a good mix. The Navico had a problem keeping on course in gusts (it would round up), and I would limit its use going to weather. I found the unit improves its performance and I am exploring this further.

7) Faster sailing:

The unit maintains the boat at a more constant heel, giving the sails a better aspect to the wind (also some help with wave motion). I don't think a racer would use this, but as a cruiser not wanting to fiddle every few seconds, I think it gave me better overall speed. I was setting my course, dialing in the sails and maintaining overall speed with little lost for over heel or rounding up. I cannot prove this with out running two boats exactly the same side by side and it might be true because I want it to be, but my seat-of-the-pants conclusion is the boat felt faster than normal.

8) Poor man's boom vang:

The way the traveler, mainsheet and the loose-footed sail work leads to some interesting properties. I find I am more comfortable sheeting in the main/traveler tighter because the system has more give then the main sheet alone (stress to rigging and other parts). In addition, the tension is more constant as I change tacks using the traveler. I think the IMF main is setting better but I need to play more to get a feel for it.

9) The Sailing Expert:

An expert sailor (or expert Rhodes sailor or Stan) can control the boat for very little heel in almost any wind. By balancing the sails, controlling the boom height, sail trim and course the Rhodes 22 is stable. The problem is the lazy sailor or the novice or intermediate might not have every thing in control, the unit could add a margin. It could also lead to leaving too much sail up for the conditions. It might make a novice taking the helm much easier (like share the fun or taking a break). A consideration might be the spouse and kids that might not have the same feel for quick advances in heel, keeps them and you sailing more.

Bottom line is I like it and want to try it out some more.


Very interesting. Where can I purchase a Sail-Ease? I remember you telling us about it in previous posts; but I deleted them. On Dynamic Equilibrium, I sail to windward by playing the traveler in gusts. With my fully battened mainsail, the mainsheet is more of a sail shaping control. Is the Sail-Ease adaptable to the traveler?

Roger Pihlaja
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium

I pull out my boat around November each year. When I get it home, I take the mast off the boat and lay it across my back deck. Then I lubricate the entire mast, shrouds and fittings with WD-40. I guess the lubricant you're talking is different than WD-40. When I put it back in the water around April, I clean off the WD-40 and wax the mast.

I assume the lubricant you're talking about would not stain my sail. I will have to try some of that stuff; the mainsail gets hard to raise by the end of summer.

So they're called slugs not slides/shackles. When I don't know the right word I make up one.

Steve Little

WD-40 is not what you want. It won't last a week in the sun. West Marine sells a mast slot cleaner/lube kit called super sail or some such. It is a fabric slot slider that you lube, attach a downhaul to and run up and down the mast slot to clean and lube it. You can really tell the difference after 2 or 3 trips up and down with the sail. The lube is jelly-like and silicone based. The whole business is less than $10. If you can't find it, I will get the name the next time I'm at the boat.

Larry Sparks

Lots of questions: Do you have slides on your mainsail? I am running the mainsail rope up the mast slot (no slides/shackles). I would have to convert my main to the slides/shackles with a stop to keep the main hooked to the mast. The shackles go about every 2 feet don't they? Wouldn't this be my first step before I try to run the halyards to the cockpit?

Finally, did you do it yourself or send it to a sail shop? How much did it cost?

Steve Little

About two weeks ago I had slugs put on the new/used main I bought from GB. They are spaced about 18-inches apart. The cost was about $95 at my sail chandler using grommeted slugs, not sewn.

To keep the gooseneck below the mast opening, I tied a running stop knot on the boom "downhaul" line. My old sail was all above the slot and I had a stopper pin in the mast. You can also use one of the mast stops from Davis for the same purpose

Slugs are definitely worth the investment. The sail goes up easier and slides down most of the way.

Have you cleaned and lubed the mast groove (and subsequently, the bolt rope)? It's really important to get some slot cleaner/lubricant and apply it 2-3 times to get the slugs good and slippery!

Larry Sparks

I ran the main halyard and boom "downhaul" back to the starboard aft side of the cabin top. Can run it all standing up in the cockpit and hold, more or less, the tiller via the hiking stick at the same time. I am thinking about adding a Harken 'Dutchman' mainsail flaking system. Anyone have experience with installing and/or using one?

s/v "Sailsman's Bounty" 1984

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