Other Changes Besides the Rudder

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I am 140 lbs, and have used the new rudder in 18 – 20 knots Frostbiting in RI. Yes, it is better. However, I am not sure that it is enough better to offset the cost and the fact that it is going to further separate the recreational sailor from the racing sailor. I have been watching the debate on the rudder for the last few years. In fact, my wood rudder split last year, and I was ready to purchase one of the new fiberglass rudders. But the last thing that I wanted to do was spend over $200 on a rudder that would be obsolete if the new design was approved. So, I fixed the wood rudder, and it has held up well. Back in the early 80’s when I was racing my Sunfish at my local yacht club, there were new people coming out all the time. They could jump in any Sunfish and be reasonably competitive. Now, with the racing sail, plastic daggerboard, hiking strap, adjustable outhaul and Cunningham, and sail ties (vs clips), there is much work and money to make a recreational Sunfish reasonably competitive.

Having used the new rudder, and sailing Sunfish competitively for many years, I can say that there are a bunch of things that would make the Sunfish easier to race, especially for the lighter sailors (those that would benefit from the new rudder design, too).

1. An easy way to setup and rig a Jens on the water. With the Gust adjust (and variances of it) coming into play in the last year, this has become easier to deal with on the water. But to get it setup initially is quite a feat, especially for a new Sunfish sailor. The lengths of line needed for this is large. Some simple rules changes could make this much easier. Perhaps allowing 2 halyards. Maybe an additional cleat on the mast or the deck.

2. An easy way to setup and adjust the Vang during a race. Racers typically use the tail of the halyard as a vang. In most cases it is very difficult to adjust during a race, unless you create a huge purchase back to the cockpit. This means the halyard/Jens line needs to be even longer. This could be much easier if an additional line could be used for the vang, and there was hardware allowed on the deck to adjust. Wouldn’t it me nice to have cam cleats on the deck next to the daggerboard that allowed for easy adjustment of the vang?

3. An easy way to setup and Reef on the water. For lighter sailors the Reef and Jens are key. Since you are only allowed to have either a Cunningham or and uphaul, a reef is very difficult to put in while on the water. If additional line and cleats were approved, this would make it much easier.

4. An easy way to set the sail on the spars. This drives me crazy. It can clearly be seen at the Sunfish Worlds. The time that it takes racers to set the sail on the spar before the Worlds, and the time that it takes to remove it afterwards is way too long. Imagine if we go to spend that time sailing. I purchased a new race sail over a year ago, but still have not switched to it since my current sail seems to be set on the spar so well. I don’t want to spend all the time getting a new sail on, and then spending the next few months adjusted it to get it just right. There must be a better way. I know that I can use clips, but it has been proven clearly that using small line is more effective and competitive for the racer.

5. An easy way to create and adjustable hiking strap. Many people have rigged up adjustable hiking straps with long line. Why not just make this easy and allow some kind of cleating mechanism.

6. The New rudder design. This makes the boat easier to sail in certain conditions.

To do #1 - #5 would need rules changes, but to implement would have just a small cost for sailors. Though none of these would affect the straight line speed of a boat if it was setup ideally for the conditions, it sure would help in the transition of conditions that we normally see on the racecourse. #6, the new rudder, however, would have a significant cost impact, and would perhaps change straight line speed. So, to be competitive, this might be a must.

The great thing about #1 - #5 above, is that someone with a Sunfish equipped to race today would continue to be competitive (especially if they were not on the light side) even without any changes. The changes just make lots of things easier, and make the boat less complicated to rig.
Good points! It seems to be human nature to want to improve upon things and the Sunfish has many areas in which improvement would make for more efficiency, but simplicity has it's virtues also. For those racing in Sunfish fleets, everybodies faced with the same restrictions, for the recreational sailor, make whatever changes you like. There are plenty of "tweaky" high performance dinghies out there, just pick the one you like.

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Buy a Laser Radial, perhaps??

There are plenty of "tweaky" high performance dinghies out there, just pick the one you like.
I think Andy might be best off just switching to a Laser Radial. It would be too bad to have him leave the class, but the radial already has a good adjustable vang, an easy way to get the sail on and off, and seems to address a lot of what he is looking for.

I am happy with the Sunfish more or less the way it is, but for those who want more, its available.