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Seven Tips To Racing The SJ24

Three Time North American Winner Chuck Skewes Shares His Secrets

Mon, 24th Feb 2014
By Chuck Skewes

Seven Tips To Racing The SJ24 Three Time North American Winner Chuck Skewes Shares His Secrets
San Juan 24 Genoa Design

When I first sailed the San Juan 24's in the late 70's there were a couple dominant boats.  Garden Tools was one of the most dominate.  It was owned and sailed by Dennis and Margie Clark of Clark boat works and Clark Sails.
Years later I went to work for Dennis at what was then Shore Sails.  Fast forward several years I purchased Shore Sails and then merged it with Ullman Sails.

During this progression I had the opportunity to sail the San Juan 24 and have now won 3 North American Championships in the class. 
In 2001 I spent some real time trying new things out and learned even more about the boats and how to sail them.  Here is a list of 7 tips that I learned to make the boat faster and to sail around the course better.

1)    Rake, most of the boats did not have enough rake to the rig.  This helped the light air performance quite a bit.  The light air pointing was dramatically improved and it was easier to keep the boat going fast.  The best rake setting I came up with was 52” measured this way.
   a.    Swing measurement using the Genoa halyard. Mark halyard at  top of lower mast band – 25” from deck. Swing forward to headstay/foil. Using the same tension used when marking at the mast, mark wire/foil then measure to the center of  the forestay pin (on the side, not forward – easier to measure).

2)    Rig Tension.  Most boats carried slightly too much rig tension.  I had a base setting like this
a.    Upper 24 Lowers 34 Baby stay 20.  With the ability to release backstay to all the way loose.

3)    Weight at wide point of the boat.  This is extremely important and was one of the hardest to solve since the genoa winches were so far aft, the genoa trimmer would straddle the tiller behind the driver to trim the genoa.  To get back forward he would then have to climb over the driver.  This step had to be reversed to start a tack and was extremely distracting and slow.
To solve this we took the genoa winches off (which reduced a lot of weight in the stern by itself) and ran the sheet for the genoa to the cabin top winches.  This kept the crew forward at the wider part of the boat the entire time and proved to be much faster.

4)    Tacking in medium to heavy wind.  I learned this lesson the hard way a long time ago and never forgot.
   a.    In Medium to Heavy wind (any wind over 12 knots) the San Juan 24 almost stops in a tack.  This means to lee bow someone you have to be able to cross by a full boat length.  Also to tack and cross you have to have enough distance ahead to be able to accomplish that.
   b.    It also means that you want to limit your tacks.  You have to pick a side of the course and sail on the favored tack a high percentage of the time.
   c.    Remember the slow tacks when approaching for starts!

5)    Sail the boat as flat as possible.  In the windier races in the 2001 North Americans we were the fastest boat in the breeze because our guys were hiking hard all the way around the course at the widest point of the boat.

6)    In light air downwind, keep the boat moving.  We were always fast downwind in any condition by keeping the boat moving and keeping the pole at the correct height.  I always like to keep the pole end of the spinnaker slightly lower than the clew.  This keeps the spinnaker more exposed to the wind and more stable.  Since the San Juan 24 likes to roll a little downwind this keeps it a little more stable and keeps the spinnaker working more for you.

7)    Keep the boat light.  I have always been an advocate of keeping a boat light but when you are dealing with the short waterline of the San Juan 24 it is extremely important.  We carried minimal gear on the boat and what we did carry was in containers sitting on the keel to keep the weight centered and low.

I hope these seven tips will increase your performance on the racecourse.  Stay tuned for more tips and webinars to help you win some races.

This article was posted on Mon, 24th Feb 2014