Fast Sets for Bag Boats

For many readers of Tank Talk this article may have no use to them as Dave Shelton once said to me, "the only place in the world, you find bag boats is on the east coast of the U.S." Dave is right and even though he is on the launcher side of the debate, found himself in a bag boat at the 1996 Midwinters. Hopefully this article will help some "bag" people have better sets, and have those "launcher" people think that we arenít that weird. Following are hints mostly for the crew, but since we are always right, a few for the skipper also.

Rigging Setup
After many experiments with wire (that breaks) and different line, I have found the 1/8 inch Spectra Braid is the best halyard. This put on a 4 to 1 purchase, allows the skipper to pull 4 feet of line to get the entire chute all the way up the mast. On US 8263, the halyard is led to the aft thwart on the port side of the centerboard because of other rigging decisions, but it seems that it would be better on the starboard side, but probably makes little difference. As for our pole, we use the "fork" on the outboard end and a regular pole end for the mast end without the trigger. It is essential that the fork is the perfect size for the line, big enough to let the line easily come out, and small enough to not let the line fall out. Before each race, I check it, and then adjust it by bending it on the shroud.
The Bear Away Set
The last time you are on port tack before the windward mark politely tell the skipper to take the halyard out of the tidy up hook, and un-cleat the port twing. Leave the starboard twing cleated! The most important key to a fast set it to have the guy pre-cleated! It should be marked on the guy where it needs to be cleated, so before reaching the mark, pull the chute around and cleat the guy. The crew can do this from the wire on either tack. It is a little hairier on the port approach, but the crew can get the chute pulled around to the approximate location, and then calmly cleat it during that last tack. If you are not able to pre-cleat the guy before the mark, make sure you do it before putting the pole on.

With the guy cleated in the right place (hopefully before the rounding) the crew has to worry about only three things:

  1. Getting the pole on.
  2. grabbing and trimming the sheet.
  3. getting out on the wire.
The skipper has to worry about four things:
  1. pulling the halyard up.
  2. getting the centerboard up(some crews will do this)
  3. vang tension and
  4. steering.
When rounding the mark, donít come in off the wire until you and the skipper have decided to set. Sometimes you will want to go high first. When you have decided to set, leave the jib cleated, or even pull it in! If the jib is eased at all, it makes it very hard to get the chute up for the skipper. Come in off the wire and immediately go for the pole. I put the sheet in the fork and start pushing it forward and out. I am usually waiting for the skipper to get the chute up, but keep pushing until you can get the pole on. Then grab the sheet, give it a good yank, and get out on the wire. Iíve been practicing swinging out on the wire with the spin sheet before hooking up, which is fast but dangerous! The best way is to get your weight on the hook and then swing out. Lastly, trim the jib.

Light Air Hints
The light air set in a bag boat can make the crew look really good, because the chute comes out essentially where it needs to be and you can get it to "pop" into a drawing chute in about 5 seconds. Pre-cleat the guy as mentioned before and leave the sheet in the tidy up cleat. Come in off the wire or rail and concentrate on getting the pole on, while at the same time yelling at the skipper to get the chute up fast, he need not bother with the centerboard or the vang as you need their power. As he pulls the chute up and you put the pole on, the chute should "pop" full, then simple grab the sheet out of the tidy up cleat and you are on your way.
Heavy Air Hints
Donít leave the sheet in the tidy up cleat! You will likely capsize. It is also essential to get the board up and the vang off a little, as the boat is much more controllable. Get out on wire! You will usually be politely told this by your skipper.
Jibe Sets
Donít do them! I believe that Gary Bodie has said that since the bear away set is so efficient and easy, that a team should always do the bear away and then simply jibe if they need to get to that side of the course. I tend to agree with him and since I have never done one perfectly (according to my skipper), Iíll let someone else tell us how to do the perfect jibe set. I hate to admit it, but this is an advantage to a launcher boat.

A good, fast set can enable you to pass a couple of boats at the top corner, extend your lead, or get you back into the race. Practice a little and you will find out how easy the set is! Getting the chute down and in the bag and out on the wire, well thatís another matter. Have Fun!

-Allan (2 "L" )Johnson
A very similar view of bag boat sets from the back of 8263...
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