PA on Apollo at Brid

Apollo's Racing Yacht Conversion

Apollo is a 23 foot Legend trailer sailer. I bought her many years ago, when I knew very little about sailing. She had a fully battened mainsail, a 110% genoa, fixed blocks for the genoa sheets and no traveller.

Apollo was an excellent trailer-sailer, a good boat for a beginner to potter about in. On the East Coast, with the nearest port twenty miles away, the best way to spend time on the boat during busy weekends was racing, as repeated pottering about the bay could get quite boring. Unfortunately, we were hopeless at racing.

We could not make the boat go fast consistently, and, even when we did, Apollo would not point high enough. On the other hand, she is a sleek good looking light boat with a nicely shaped wide hull eminently suitable for downwind sailing, and a specification which gave her a truly unbelievable fast CHS (as it was then) rating of 0.870. What were we doing wrong?

Speed, I discovered, comes to those who set their sails right. Sailing text books are not the easiest books to understand, as they assume the reader knows very much more than I did, and are full of an unfamiliar jargon. It took me a long time to understand elementary concepts such as, for example, when and how to twist off the sails - and an even longer time to get it anything near right in practice.

Pointing, I found, has as much to do with the design of the rig than with the skill of the yachtsman. Early on we made some basic modifications: we fitted a traveller and genoa tracks. However, this did not stop the forestay from sagging excessively, and more drastic measures were needed.

So I decided to completely change the rig. One way of preventing sag was to put more pressure on the rig. It seemed the top of the boat was fastened to the hull by glue and eight bolts - four of them being tied into two six inch long chainplates. So I had bolts fixed at six inch intervals around the gunwhale flange, longer chainplates fitted, which were then secured to the hull by two interlocking stainless steel plates.

I knew that this would not entirely cure the problem. So I thought about a backstay, and consulted Chris Ratsey of UK/Mc William Sailmakers in Cowes, Isle of Wight, and Coates Marine at Whitby, who in turn consulted Opal Marine, the selling agent. By this time our sail wardrobe had already grown with the addition of a 90% jib and a large J24 genoa, which had been adapted for Apollo. This large genoa would not fit inside the stays as the others did. So, Apollo had had to take the sheets outside the stays and through the spinaker blocks on the transom - which was good for speed, but not particularly brilliant for pointing!

Coates Marine agreed to install a backstay, but then it became obvious that the roach on the fully battened main would get in the way of the backstay. So I asked UK/Mc William Sails to produce an entirely new set of sails. These comprised a standard racing main sail suitable for a 7/8th rig, and 110% and 90% genoa's. These, with the backstay, certainly improved performance, but then I observed that most racing boats had larger genoa's in use in wind conditions up to the top end of moderate. Apollo's converted J24 sail was not a good enough substitute.

Then there was the problem of weight. Apollo is a light boat, with a displacement of only 3,000 lbs. As a result, the greater the weight of her sails, the more her heeling moment and the more difficult she was to control when under the converted J24 sail, except in the wind ranges of light to low moderate. So one had to waste time changing sails down to maintain control, as the wind increased.

So, after more discussion with Coates and UK/Mc William, a new plan was implemented.The idea was to design and build a new 130% genoa, which would be sheeted to a new track to be fitted on the gunwhale flange, so that the sheets were taken outside the stays. The gunwhale flange turned out to be just wide enough. The sheets had to be led aft to new blocks which were fitted on wooden cheeks half way along the cockpit. From there the sheets could be taken forward to the winches on the coachroof. These modifications were duly made, and UK/Mc William built a Tape DriveŽ kevlar sail.

The kevlar sail is at least 25% lighter than Apollo's other sails. This reduced weight seems to have helped reduce Apollo's heeling moment, so that now, with a kevlar Tape DriveŽ main as well, it is possible to sail at the top end of moderate with the 130% sail, under perfect control..


These changes were completed when I ordered a 150% genoa for very light airs. A second track had to be fitted to the gunwhale flange for the sheets.


The result of all these changes is that Apollo is now reasonably competitive with yachts of similar size, However she is light and has high topsides and, if sailed close-hauled directly against the current, she can develope more leeway than might be expected of her size of sailing yacht.


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