Nigel Harris, Banshee 65, tells it all.
I bought Banshee in June 1999 on a bit of a whim. The previous owner had only had her a short time, but had made significant improvements, with a new mast, boom and lightweight rudder. She had been repainted and a new cockpit sole had been added, which proved to be illegal as it was too thin. The sails were an old set of Malcolm Blackburns, made in 1995 and which still had number 96 on them.
I was anxious to get her on the water, so launched her in mid June. We sailed her with the Abersoch boys and won all three races! We were so pleased with our first two results that while sailing back to the start line, we decided to celebrate and have some coffee. John and I were chatting away and drinking our coffee, when John started to splutter something incomprehensible. Suddenly there was a loud bang and looking under the boom, I realised we had run into a large bowsprit on a moored boat. The mainsheet had lassooed the end of it and Banshee came to an abrupt halt. I had hoped that no one had seen us commit this act of stupidity, but of course someone had. Robin Delves sailed majestically past and with a wry smile said, "That will teach you to look where you're going!".
We felt it was probably not a good way to ingratiate ourselves at SCYC, beating the opposition on the first weekend, but they did not hold it against us and made us very welcome indeed. They soon got their own back, by showing us their transoms in following races. Beginners' luck!
When we had sailed Banshee for a couple of weekends, we realised that the boat needed to be set up differently and we had no calibrations of any sort. We set about marking the jib and main halyard settings on the bottom of the mast. These can be seen below our very high tech Sainsbury's Supermarket spinnaker bag - no expense spared! It came with the boat and if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
John and I spent a lot of time preparing the boat for 2000. The most important job was to get the bottom, keel and rudder smooth. I think that this is vitally important because you can fiddle with all the strings you like, but it won't make a slow hull go fast, especially in light airs.
In light airs, good starts are essential. (Not that I always get one!) It is important to get clean air off the line and to be going fast just before the starting gun. If you have clear air and good speed, you can choose where you want to go and maintain it. Don't be tempted to tack straight away and don't pull everything in tight. Keep calm, look around and see where the opposition is. We start conservatively, try for the right end, but really aim for clear air.
John and I weigh only approximately 22 stones between us, so this will obviously help our cause in light winds. Our rig has plenty of mast rake, very loose shrouds and, in light conditions, no backstay, kicker or jib cunningham. I centre the main, sit forward of the track and keep the boat heeled to leeward. I try to keep movement of the tiller to a minimum, as the rudder only slows the boat down. Our boat is so well balanced that I can release the tiller and she still sails in a straight line!
When tacking, we try to roll the boat, perhaps going a little too far through the tack and then gradually bring in the sails, as the boat gets up to speed. John plays the barber hauler, creating backwinding of the main, and then lets it out until it stops. He does this in unison with the jib sheet, so that the leech of the jib follows the same shape as the main. Downwind we pull on the jib halyard to bring the mast forward, which also stops the boat rocking.
We make sure that all the gear works smoothly. A couple of things we found that worked well were tapered spinnaker sheets and a Fico spinnaker pole outer end fitting - I think it's Australian - which has a clever jaw arrangement. This allows the pole to slide forward and is easy for John to push the guy into. Oh! It also helps to have new sails!