Downwind rig and gennaker test

Excalibur was launched on a Friday morning. The stern gland leaked a fair amount, but one of the guys from the yard was able to tighten it up and the dripping stopped. I had the stern gland repacked less than two years ago, so this will forever be on my mind until its changed for a drip free stern gland. Other than that, my new seacocks didn’t leak and I was in a berth, working remotely to launch a site that day in no time.

Big James came over for a quick drink.

Richard came up that evening, we had an early night, both exhausted from boat work and work work.

The next day was glorious. The sun was out, we had the mandatory pre sail full English, said goodbye to a Halmatic owner I had met in the marina (spotless boat).

We set about learning how to pole out in the marina before heading off.

I watched this video on how to pole out and set out giving it a go with Richard.

We had the pole out rig set up in no time at all. I keep banging on about it, but having the spinnaker pole on a track on the mast is amazing, and makes it super simple to set up as one end is already connected to the mast.

The poling out setup is super simple when you know how, and because the jaw of the spinnaker pole clips onto the jib sheet, and not the clew of the jib, you’re able to furl in the jib without interfering with the spinnaker pole, useful in a squall at sea.


One downside to my current setup is that my baby-stay gets in the way and prevents me from tacking whilst poling out, though at least I can furl the jib at will using this technique.

I’ve also rigged up a preventer by running it through a block hooked around the main bow cleat. Very simple. I like simple.

We also had a go at getting the gennaker up in the marina, though with no wind we couldn’t pull the snuffer up, the theory seemed fine though.

The gennaker and poling out technique seemed like a mystical art, and something I had been wishing to investigate for a while. Both me and Richard got pretty excited when we tested it out in the marina, it all started to make sense.

I have done trips in the past on Oliver and Carlotta’s boat using a downwind rig, but it’s only when you come to do things like this yourself that you really take it all in, and fully comprehend how it all works.

I had pitched to Richard that we would go to the River Deben that weekend, but realised that wasn’t the best choice given my future plans which is a real shame.

I left Richard to come up with a weekend sailing plan whilst I busied myself with other jobs. Richard came up with cracking plan to anchor in the Walton backwaters. I would normally have looked over the charts and avoided any destinations with lots of green, wuss I know.

With a northerly wind we went sailing!

I spotted 2 more Halmatic’s on the River Orwell on our way out!


Once we turned south we had a leisurely journey to the Walton backwaters. as we had plenty of time on hour hands and only a short distance to cover. The approach takes you very close to some sandbanks.

We anchored up, and I couldn’t remember how much chain I had so we ended up letting it all out. I’m pretty sure I have 30 metres. I’ll add another 2o-30 at some point. I think 30 metres doesn’t give you much leeway in a blow. I ‘d  love to hear some opinions here. The boat is  also a bit stern heavy so would be a good thing to have a bit more weight at the bow end.

The next day was one of my best sailing days in a long time. We egged each other on.

“Shall we get the gennaker out?”

“Yeh sod it lets have a go”

“Shall we try polling out the gennaker?”

“Yeh sod it lets have a go”

For a about 10 minutes we had it all working fine, and then the wind died.

We headed in to Brightlingsea, and had a cracking beam reach in.

To top things off, as we were admiring a passing boat, the owner shouted out “nice boat!” and then “is that a Halmtic 30?” and then “proper boat!”. I couldn’t help feel all warm and geeky sailory inside! Must keep those topsides shiny! no one ever said that before when she was a mucky pup!

Turned out there was a Regatta that weekend in Brightlingsea, so it was busy busy busy.

We were met at the entrance by a rib and followed him in to be shown our berth. He wanted us to turn anti clockwise at the end and spin around, which Excalibur doesn’t like doing. I’m sure this is a dilemma everyone faces, either you listen to the marina staff, who have plenty of knowledge of wind and tide, or you ignore them at your peril, and possibly end up with egg on your face. I did as instructed, Excalibur couldn’t turn in the space, so the rib had to come in front and push the bow over by ramming my lovely shiny topsides. Everything was fine and we moored up without any problems.

Another reveller came up and told me I had a proper boat.

I had semi seriously joked to Richard I’d drop him off at Brightlingsea and head to Ramsgate. I wish I had, as it took me 7 hours to get home on the trains as there had been a power cut on the train line! This is possibly the only time that I’ll find sailing to be a quicker mode of transport than a train.

Finally. Here’s a vid my android phone made up from my photo’s and videos.


Author: Tim Butler

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