Gorge Rigging Tips – Part One: Downhaul
Since 2001 I’ve rigged hundreds of Ezzy sails for demos, rentals, and other sailors here in the Gorge. I would like to share some personal rigging tips that I feel apply specifically to the Gorge. Most sailing sites around the world will have unique conditions that sailors will either learn by experience or by talking to local sailors. The Gorge presents sailors with conditions that will test and challenge everyone who comes here. High winds, big swells, current, and during the summer months, crowds at the popular sites (The Hatchery, Swell, and Doug’s), will stretch everyone’s skills and attitude on the water. Let me share what I’ve learned on the water, gathering feedback from sailors on the beach, and hanging with David Ezzy.
Helen from Denver decided she needed to add a Panther 3.7 for Gorge trips.
Sail Selection: Although these tips center on the Wave Panther, they also apply to other models and years of Ezzy Sails. First, before selecting a sail, know yourself (height, weight, strength, and skill level are all factors to consider before heading out). Each of us has developed a personal style of sailing that helps us enjoy and sail comfortably…sailing relaxed is much more fun than fighting the conditions or your rig. I’ve found that long time Gorge sailors have learned what sail to use and how to rig it for certain conditions. Using myself for an example, I’ve found on a full-on Gorge day, I’ll rig a smaller sail with near maximum downhaul and use the outhaul for tuning the power I want. The Gorge seldom has steady winds, and the difference between the lull and gusts is usually: lull X 2 or even greater. So when iwindsurf shows an average wind speed of 25, lulls 15 and gusts to 35, that’s not unusual. Being a lighter sailor (158 lbs) I’ve learned that sailing a little smaller sail is much more comfortable and fun. It’s also taught me to be more efficient since a smaller sail is better for me in the high winds, but not in the lulls. But other sailors rig big and pray for the lulls. Consider your personal preferences and rig accordingly.
Setting The Downhaul: If you check the downhaul numbers printed on the bottom of the sail you will notice that the difference between minimum and maximum downhaul length is only 1 cm. Always adjust the top strap or the length of your extension so that maximum downhaul brings the pulley as close to the extension pulleys as possible. David has designed the sail to be rigged in this position for best performance. Set the downhaul before attaching the boom (the exception to this rule is the Infinity) and watch the leach between the 2nd and 3rd batten from the top of the sail. The looseness will travel from the leach towards the mast as you increase the downhaul. It’s important to understand the wrinkle doesn’t travel in a perfect arc centered between the battens. Focus on the three downhaul marks in the center of the panel and watch as the wrinkle moves from and through the light, medium, and high wind marks. The correct setting is when the wrinkle touches the mark, not above or below it. The #1 question I get on the beach is, “what does correct setting look like?” It’s a fair question, and here’s the best way I have found to see it. Place the sail on a flat area with the tip of the mast and the two top battens touching the ground. Then gently lift the mast base up and down while watching the downhaul marks. Lifting up and down will let you see how far the looseness extends in as the short leach batten moves up or down through the marks. Most sailors find that setting the downhaul near the high wind mark works best for the Gorge. If you like riding a more powered sail, set it toward the middle mark.
I’ve found that setting the downhaul is a once a session proposition, I then tune the power I need with the outhaul. The outhaul setting is crucial to enjoying the balanced smooth power the Wave Panther is known for. I’ll cover that in Part 2, but here’s a tip for setting the outhaul. If the Panther ever feels heavy or unbalanced…increase the outhaul. This also applies to the ’07 and ’08 Special Edition Wave. See ya on the beach, Gary & Nancy