On the Formula circuit there is still a lot of people still using various downhaul-cranks or “ting-tuggers” (as they are known in Australia) to apply the high downhaul tensions required on the larger formula sails. The time and effort it takes you to insert and secure the crank, feed the rope into the loop and strenously crank the arm until the final mm’s of downhaul are applied, seems like a wasted effort in comparison to using a simple but effective downhauling technique with your harness. I thought cranks were supposed to make downhauling easier? Try this one…
Sure, there’s probably a lot of different ways to downhaul your sail, but I thought I’d just show you my technique. The key is that it’s quick, easy, simple and most importantly, VERY friendly on your back.
The photos will give you a better idea. To apply the final downhaul settings to your sail (this is where the really high tensions begin) simply:
- Loop the downhaul rope through your harness
- Feed the rope around itself twice (no more no less)
- Wrap the remaining rope around your hand to act as a cleat
- With your right foot, push against the mast foot and hold the downhaul rope tightly
Using your legs to apply the pressure and supporting the load with your back through the harness you can apply a considerable amount of force without damaging your back or wasting valuable sailing energy.
- Pull a cm of downhaul and then pull your left hand (with rope wrapped around) away from your body to shorten the downhaul rope
With only two wraps of the rope around itself you can pull the rope shorter quickly and easily without having to muck around with knots or the like.
This downhaul technique works better with superior ropes, such as the Marlow “Formuline” (which is identical to the rope now supplied with 2008 NeilPryde Extensions). As this rope is thinner (3.5mm??) and very slippery compared to other ropes you can pull the downhaul on very easily. Too many times I have seen people struggle with downhauling their race sails simply because they wouldn’t spend the extra few $$$ to get a decent rope. Your sail is probably worth over 1000 euros, why not spend an extra 4 euros and buy some really nice rope?!
There are other techniques available but I thought I would share this one with you because I think it’s the simplest and quickest way to downhaul your sail that also allows you to “feel” how much downhaul you are putting into your sail. Ask any pro-windsurfer, they downhaul their sails by “feel”. No idea what that feel is? Maybe you are using a crank. Downhauling with this method – which is effectively by ‘hand’ – will allow you to feel how much tension you are putting on and over time and with practice you will start to feel the zone when the correct amount of downhaul is applied. But make sure you go and test it on the water afterwards just in case!