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Travelling with an Etchells

24 July 2012 David Ritchard

Look up! Out of the water onto the road trailer.

"Look up! Out of the water onto the road trailer."

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

Etchells are one of the truly great regatta boats. We enjoy large fleets and the events are generally very well run, both on and off the water. I can say that the Etchells mob is also great company and very decent people. The same cannot be said for all classes, believe me! In order to go to regattas, you have to make it easy to pack up and rig your boat, otherwise the chore becomes daunting and you end up not doing it. As a minimum, you should plan to do the States, Nationals and the Midwinters and the following serves a few tips to make the whole scene easy and quick.

Trailer: We all seem to have four-wheel-drives these days. However, ensuring it can be extracted from domestic duties may prove to be a challenge, but if you can, then towing the boat is a doddle. What is important here is to make sure your vehicle and the trailer are compatible, so do not attempt it with the family hatchback, for instance. If the trailer is equipped with electric brakes, ensure you have the appropriate brake controller within the vehicle. Before you set out on the journey, take the trailer to the garage and pump up the tyres to the recommended pressure, usually about 42psi. Run the trailer over a distance to ensure the bearings are not overheating, although this is not foolproof until the weight of the boat is on the trailer. Obviously make sure all the lights are working and if you are going to Queensland that you have an "Oversize" sign and a light for the mast tip.

Single pole lifter: Much easier to handle than the two-pole, or chopstick, method. It is really simple to fabricate. A good start is with a used 470 mast. They are light and strong and you can source them easily, as that fleet replace their masts quite regularly. A couple of saddles, some wire and Wishart clips and you are in business. Having your own set-up is a must, for borrowing puts you at the back of the queue when you are taking down the rig. For the first time user, don't forget to rig a downhaul to bring the tackle back down the mast after you have elevated it in the boat. You should also not lift the mast by applying the lifting force under the spreaders, the downhaul puts that force on the boom fitting.

Mast partners: Have your rigger remove the mast partners that are attached to the cuddy and replace them with partners attached to the mast, as makes life really easy. Also, make sure that the saddles, which attach to the mast to allow the mast to be pulled back and forward, can be removed. As these are subject to great force from time to time they regularly need replacement. Do so in advance of leaving for a regatta and make sure you use jointing compound when you screw them back onto the mast, else next time you won't get them off.

Forestay: Many forestays are a single line passing through the deck to the bottle screw in the bow. Have your rigger split the forestay above deck. This also allows for you to make easy adjustment of your mast rake. Having to climb into the front tank to remove the deck plates along with the forestay, then getting it all back into place when you raise the mast is a pain and in hot weather, most unpleasant.

Securing your mast and rigging: You will see many guys removing the shrouds each time they drop their mast. I am suggesting that this is not necessary if you follow these simple steps. As you move your halyards to the top of the mast bring the tails above deck and, in a tidy and tight manner, tape them to the mast. The line that controls the back chocks should be tied to the spinnaker pole ring, so that the cars and the chock are firmly held in place. Use the tail of topping lift to secure this bundle to the mast. Make sure you reinstate the figures of eight so that when you restore the mast the halyards don't accidentally shoot up inside the mast, which is most embarrassing!

Make up four circles of 2mm, non-stretch with about a diameter of 12mm. When you remove your shrouds from the chain plate, pass these (double) through the pins that locate the shrouds to the plates. As you lift the mast, tie two three-metre lines of say 6mm centred on the plate on the bottom of the mast. Tie these four ends to the loops you have just attached to the shrouds, double back and tie as firmly as you can. This locates the shrouds in a diamond shape from the top of the mast to that plate, keeping them off the mast during travel. A bungee cord from each of the lowers and the caps at about the centre of the mast will tension the shrouds again, ensuring they do not bang on the deck or the mast. Tie the forestay and backstay in a circle and put inside the front mast box, thereby keeping them off the deck.

Locate your mast so that the hounds are immediately behind the forward mast box, tie it all down and off you go.

It's easy - do it!

David Ritchard

David has given us plenty to think about when going from dolly to trailer

"David has given us plenty to think about when going from dolly to trailer"

Photo by:
John Curnow


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