This bit assumes you have made the transition from a ‘production’ catamaran to the high-performing F-16 cat. Currently in Southeast Asia the most prevalent F-16 is the Taipan and Viper with a fleet of more than 35 at Changi Sailing Club in Singapore. As such some of these notes are targeted directly at the Taipan sailors enjoy a rewarding sailing experience with the wing-mast.

Going Formula 16
The biggest ‘obstacle’ to overcome is the 17.5 sqm spinnaker of the Class. Thankfully the dilemmas over deck launching a kite are gone courtesy of the mid-pole snuffer system. With a one-string up and down operation, getting the spinnaker up and down is a breeze. But the biggest single step-up you can make in performance on the F-16 comes from understanding how/when to de-power. The modern square head rig has taken much of the headache out of hi-performance sailing and once you have the rig and systems sorted out it’s pretty much like sailing in “automatic” as the mast flexes and releases pressure by twisting the mainsail. The boat accelerates more than simply flying the hull!

The modern hull shape is very forgiving, the F-16’s lightweight nature allows even average ability sailors to enjoy cat sailing. The F-16’s lightweight nature doesn’t mean she’s fragile – far from it! 

Lots of sailors spend $$ on lots of equipment onboard that is really unnecessary. See what the top guy uses in your fleet and follow that. If you look at a World Champion’s boat you’ll be surprised to see that it’s probably the most stripped one. The F16’s imported into Singapore by Pro-Sail Asia are complete boats including, Carbon foils, boat covers, beach rollers basically equipped on-par with the best there this. All you really need is your personal gear including vest and harness – then go racing. 

Less gear onboard means a lighter platform but also increased reliability as there’s less to go wrong.

Don’t spend hours and hours fiddling. 

Before a race, just simply rig up and get on the water as early as is practical. We’ve seen guys fiddle for hours before a race; it just tires you out and frustrates those watching!!! 

A Taipan should be able to be rigged in 20 minutes, aim for that.

DON’T put your sails up and then go and have lunch. The jib is non-battened and a few hours of flogging in the boat park is worse for it than a hard race. Kevlar mainsails – it isn’t that good to leave Kevlar out in the sun. Minimise the exposure by only pushing up the main when you are ready to go on the water.

Smooth steering and transitions are what you are trying to achieve. The lightweight precise nature of boats like the Taipan means they respond to every input. The slightest correction on the rudder translates into instant movement – you don’t have to use much effort to guide the boat along.

COMMON ERROR – is over steering! Initially this will happen until you get used to the cat that responds. Sailor’s crossing over from recreational cat’s will feel this immediately. Once you realise that it does respond steering is by millimeters!

Instead of trying to do things fast try to do them slow but smooth first. 

There’s no way a F1 driver will survive the first corner if he steers in a jerky fashion. The same goes here – everything must be smooth. 

If you can feel your own steering – it’s way to rough!

Steering should be so smooth it’s imperceptible. Only when its smooth onboard will your performance go up. This relates to steering, moving on the deck and swinging in and out on trapeze, in fact every movement!

There is often a comment from skipper, “crew just can’t stay on the side of the boat!” – it’s seldom got anything to do with the conditions and everything to do with steering. Remember that a body on trapeze is like a pendulum, you bear away and the ‘body’ wants to continue moving in the direction it was traveling in i.e. away from the boat. 

Steer smooth and it’ll smooth most problems out.

The modern F-16 is a fully functioning piece of kit. Ample controls allow the crew to adjust the rig to any prevailing condition.

The outhaul sets the draft in the bottom 1/3 of the main sail. What you need to do is use the outhaul to flatten of the lower 1/3 of the sail and then use the mainsheet AND downhaul to flatten of the rest of the sail. 

The outhaul comprises a 3:1 system and is set relatively tight.

A good starting point is to have enough pressure on the outhaul so that the foot of the mainsail lies about 30mm off the boom with a little pressure applied to it. If you’re sailing in decent wind you could set it there and ‘forget’ it as you’ll have enough other things to worry about.

One thing is for sure, don’t try sailing upwind with the outhaul set ‘fatter’ than this – you’ll spend more time hull flying and going very slowly as there is much drag with such a full sail.

Downwind, when you remember, release some outhaul so that you get a bit more fullness in the lower part of the mainsail.

The downhaul stretches the luff of the mainsail, which then compresses the mast, and helps induce fore and aft bend. More downhaul means a flatter mainsail (less drag) and more fore and aft bend on the mast which in-turn allows the leech of the sail to ‘open’. An open leech allows the top portion of the mainsail to twist to leeward that gives less hull flying and more speed.

It should be used in combination with the mainsheet tensions and needs to be adjusted almost simultaneously with the mainsheet.

This is one piece of the puzzle that throws many sailors coming from classes that don’t have controlled rotating masts.

Some of the F-16’s now have wing and super-wing masts. Basically a wing mast is aerodynamically shaped so that when it’s pointed directly into the wind, it presents a minimum profile to the wind that reduces drag and increases efficiency.

Rotation basics
Rotate the mast into the wind for minimum drag maximum efficiency. 

If you are sailing upwind the angle from the mast to the rotation arm will be about 30°.

If you are reaching, the angle will be about 70 – 80°. 

Downwind you’ll need about the full 90°.

More science
Get used to the basics of it and there is a more advanced science. To increase the overall power, ‘open’ up the rotation in small amounts. To decrease the overall power, ‘decrease’ the rotation in small amounts i.e. move it more toward the centerline.

This aspect alone will allow you to sail in much stronger breezes with a higher degree of comfort and speed.

Total control
Comes from using the rotation and downhaul nicely together. For starters set the rotation for the point of sail you are on. As the wind and your speed build increase the downhaul tension. If the wind and your speed were to continue building just increase both so that you maintain full control.

The F-16 is a high performance platform, the best and easiest way to increase your performance is to trapeze horizontal with the water. There’s not a whole lot of sense in worrying about all the other settings if you’re trapezing way high. Have a look at the A-Class sailors to get a good idea about how low you can go.

In a single sail you are going to basically double your horsepower downwind. Spinnaker shape has really evolved in the last year. We commenced ‘kite-flying’ with a 21sqm spinnaker some 2 years ago. Under F-16 Rules 17.5sqm is the limit. The “weird” bit is that the 17.5sqm kite is faster than the 21sqm kite. Spinnaker ‘speed’ comes from the luff length not the overall size!

The best spinnaker setup is the mid-pole snuffer system that offers almost effortless spinnaker work. 

Make sure you have a pair of ‘smart’ ratchets on each sheet. One somewhere near the shrouds and another up near the front beam. Double ‘smarts’ will ensure that the spinnaker load is greatly reduced but release pressure easily when you need to. Ratchet blocks do work but not nearly as well in release mode!

Launch the spinnaker with the cat in a very broad reach position and the mast is rotated to 90°. Make sure the crew hoist it up in a quick manner. The single string systems will take the spinnaker out to the end of the pole and up the mast in the same movement. 

Once fully hoisted, the skipper needs to make sure that the main traveler is about 30cm’s off centre and that the mainsheet comes on tight (mast rotation must be fully rotated i.e. 90°). 

The mainsheet needs to be tight to act as a backstay and make sure the mast stays in one piece.

You can play the main traveler a little in the puffs but don’t let the mainsheet off!

To heat the boat up head up towards a reaching course in small amounts as it really is like a turbo charger kicking in. if you find it really powers up just bear down to a more very broad reach position until the power drops off. 

It helps to put a crew on the wire but in one-man F-16 mode, this will be you and you alone! With some weight on the wire the boat will be much more stable and a lot easier to control.

Trimming the spinnaker is a matter of keeping the luff of the spinnaker just flicking. The spinnaker luff should be on the verge of collapsing the whole time. If the luff isn’t flicking you are over sheeted!

Once under kite, as you feel the boat pickup just bear away to keep the whole show on the road. There’s nothing like being two on the wire, going flat out on a broad reach and still having the hull at 45° while bearing away as the apparent wind comes around!


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