Tony Saltonstall has been sailing Squibs since 1971 and has been the Class Measurer and Technical Advisor since 1986. Championship winning crew in 1982, 1983. Here he sets out his views and ideas of Squib set-up and tuning.
The National Squib was conceived in 1967 by Oliver Lee in Burnham-on-Crouch and in 1967 prototypes were built, seeing the birth of the Class through the early numbers in 1969 and the adoption of the Class by the RYA in 1972. There has been a longstanding agreement between Class members that some of the older boats can be very quick, but the new National Squib is built by Parkers of Boston who, to say the least, have shown a considerable amount of enthusiasm in their quality of workmanship and build and are producing some extremely fast boats, numbered 783 and upwards.
In early October 2002, the National Squib Inland Championships was won by Dave Best and Pete Richards sailing 797, with Peter Marchant and Andy Biddle in second place, sailing 801. Gerard Dyson and I came sixth in 800 (all new Parker boats), but third, fourth and fifth places were taken by very old boats (136, 43 and 65 respectively) which just shows that there can be very little difference in boat speed between old and new when sailed by the right people!
The National Squib is a very easy boat to sail, but an extremely difficult boat to win races in, particularly to the initiated! Primarily the object is to find an unspoiled boat that is down to weight – the minimum sailing weight being 680 kg – in my opinion if you want to remain competitive, you need to keep the weight down to below 700 kg if you can. However, one fat body on board can get rid of all that theory!
The other way to look at it is that if you do one bad tack or go just that too far out into the tide, then you may as well have the heaviest boat in the fleet!
I believe that primarily thereafter the set-up of the rig is of paramount importance and my guidelines to those who are experiencing difficulty in getting some decent results will take a lot of practice because the Five P’s here are very relevant.
However, setting the aforementioned aside, the first this to do is take the mast rake and get it right. You can do this by measuring the position of the aft side of the mast face on the floor or the top buoyancy tank and when projected down to the surface of the tank the mast should be 11’ 6.5” from the centre of the top of the transom, measured over the top of the mainsheet track, over the top of the stern deck and combing to the centre of the transom top. The tape measure is, therefore, bent but gives you a measurement for fixing. Next, if you take the mast and lay it on the floor, or on some benches, and pull the forestay tight along the mast and mark where the pin is near the bottom, then that pencil line should be approximately 90 mm from the heel of the mast. This will set your forestay length and position of the mast foot accordingly and the mast rake should be somewhere near right.
With the mast in the boat and the heel set to the measurements, if you push the mast forward, the stays will become tight all together in even tension when the mast is up against the front of the mast hole..... Now this can be interesting and debateable, as the mast hole in boats 11 to 381 are shorter in length.
Notably, however, there are five different types of mast to put in a Squib! The most popular is the Holt Canopus and this seems to be the lightest, medium bend option that you can find. The Holt Mark II section has four flat sides and four flat corners in a diamond shape. The original Holt is a glued section and these are quite desirable but hard to find. There are also a Proctor and Holt Delta spar. My advice is, if you have a Delta spar you should find a way to get rid of it! The Proctor is a little heavier but is quite stiff and popular with quite a few of the top sailors.
The mast must have swinging spreaders which makes setting the rig somewhat of an art, but it is my theory that Squibs like to be sailed with very slack rigging. If you take a point about 5’ above the deck then the outer shrouds should both move side to side about 9” and be loose and sloppy. The inner shrouds should hold what is left of the mast above the deck once the top has broken off or fallen over!
Once the boat is set up for sailing, I think the main criteria to look for in upwind performance are jib halyard tension and jib barber hauler settings, coupled with main sheet tension and traveller position.
In lighter airs, it is important to have wrinkles in the front of the sails, without overdoing it, and I think this theory runs right through the wind range, apart from the fact that the wrinkles should disappear out of the jib altogether when it becomes quite windy. Using the jib forestay setting as mentioned before in this article we always try to sail with the jib luff and the forestay at equal tensions without the forestay wire becoming wriggly behind the sail or, indeed, the sail hanging off the luff wire. Over tightening the jib halyard, in my opinion, is the first way to stop a Squib going to windward in any conditions.
The barber haulers are very much dependent on the type of sail you use. It is my opinion that Hyde jibs react differently to Batt jibs, but taking the average settings I believe that the barber haulers must be set with the take off points on the deck about 8” from the centre line and 4” – 5” forward of the roll-over edge of the cockpit cuddy. Thereafter, the rope and block should be set as follows: Little or very light winds up to Force 1, 15” of line showing but pull in quickly until Force 3 when 4” of line should be showing. Force 4-5 and upwards, ease out and at Force 6 there will be 6”-8” of line showing. When things become uncontrollable above that, let out to 12”-15 of line, so you can flatten the jib by hardening in the jib sheet.
Thereafter, depending on how hard you pull the jib sheet, this will give the sail the curvature and drive in the bottom sections that it requires but looking up the slot you should always try to get the middle leach of the jib parallel to the centre line of the boat in different conditions.
The mainsheet setting always depends on wind strength. Primarily, going upwind you should try and centre the main boom by dragging the traveller right to the top in lighter airs and applying enough mainsheet tension to keep the boom nearly upon the centre line – certainly not above it. We never use the kicker upwind, but other people have other theories about this. As the wind strengthens to, say, force 3, the traveller will be coming down the track towards the middle and at this point it becomes somewhat difficult to put the boom on the centre line. Therefore, the traveller starts to come down towards and beyond the middle in winds of force 3 and 4, then when it is pushing force 5 or 6, it will be down towards the bottom of the traveller. To compensate this you find you will be pulling the mainsheet as hard as you can but keep the telltales flowing at the top of the sail. We don’t often play with the backstay – unless it’s howling!
For reaching, and particularly when the spinnaker goes up, we have tapered Dyneema sheets, which are two separate pieces 15 metres long. I am not a fan of one-piece spinnaker sheets because when everything starts to go wrong, the damn thing always seems to short to bring anything under control!. We have twinning lines which are located about 6” aft of the jib sheet turning blocks to keep the windward sheet down and to control the leeward sheet when we are gybing on a pole launching system. Primarily, on reaching you must keep the pole off the forestay, particularly when it starts to blow. We have our cunningham, kicker, backstay and traveller systems leading to bother sides of the boat, where both helm and crew can grab them if necessary. Spinnaker reach broaching always starts with the helmsman coming out with some explicit term, to the effect that he is losing control of the backend. The first thing the crew does is to dump the kicker and pull on the backstay to de-power the mainsail. If this does not do the trick, then he will have to dump the spinnaker sheet and this will not do the sail or anything else any good at all! Move to the back of the boat, as far as you can without sitting in the helmsman’s lap – and all should improve, but ensure the pole-end is at the right height – too high encourages broaching.
Dead running sees the slack rig enabling the mast top to move forward so let the backstay off and, if necessary, tighten the jib halyard – remembering to let if off for the beats. Get the weight forward in the boat and the transom out of the water and, if necessary, sit mainly on the windward side to get the boom off the surface of the water and high in the air. This is a technique that can work wonderfully well in anything of a breeze of around force 2. Move back in the boat for windier running.
Body positions are quite important, particularly in lighter airs when beating. The helm and crew must get as far forward in the boat as they can and ensure that the boat leans over 5 to 10 degrees. As the wind increases, the helmsman moves onto the windward seat – then onto the deck with the crew still on the leeward seat. Thereafter, the crew moves to the middle of the boat and kneels on the floor, then sits on the windward seat – remember, both bodies must be forward of the main sheet track area. The next stage is for the helmsman to move back towards the mainsheet track area and the crew to join him on the deck. If the boat is burying its nose in big seas, then both of you should move towards the stern of the boat to keep the nose out of the water, sitting around the mainsheet track position.
Briefly, going back to the matter of sail numbers, I believe it does not matter what sail number you have, for if you are prepared to put the time and effort into the boat preparation, then you have the ability to make a Squib go fast.
I have seen mid-number boats – for example 306, 328, 479, 510 and other supposedly non-descript numbers do very well in events. If you are prepared to work on keel shape, floor replacement (if water logged) and spend time, effort and a little money, then you can certainly make one of these boats go quickly. However, if you want to be guaranteed some success – setting aside your own ability – then spending money on a new Parker Squib or on a very low numbered, well equipped boat, might be the answer. However, bear in mind that money does not necessarily buy results!
Please do not take everything that is mentioned here to be God’s truth although I believe these tips can work for you. Plenty of Squib sailors have their own, different variations on the theme. However, these have for me for the past 31 years and I hope they can do something for you. If you have a real problem please do not hesitate to contact the class secretary or myself for advice. My telephone numbers are 01262 604171 (home) or 401401 (work), but please remember that I have a full time job, a wife to love and will probably be fiddling with a Squib in the evenings! However, leave a message and I will return your call.
1. Jib halyard – wire or dyneema on 10:1 purchase
2. Main halyard – 6mm dyneema
3. Spinnaker halyard – 6mm tapered dyneema
4. Jib sheets – 8mm poly
5. Main sheet – 8mm poly
6. Spinnaker sheets – 15 metre x 6mm tapered dyneema or 22.5 metre one piece
7. Forestay pin is approximately 125mm from mast tenon end
8. Outer shrouds 9” play at 5 ft above deck
9. Mast to back face is 11 ft 6.5” from centre transom top measured over top stern deck and main track.
10. Jib barbers fix point 8” off centre line and 4.5” forwards of cuddy roll edge.
11. Jib turning blocks fixed 9” behind shroud plates – get rid of the track!!
12. Kicker generally not used upwind.
13. Mainsheet blocks hang on wires or string 14” below the boom (makes mainsheet 56” shorter!)
14. Good pump system required.
15. Anchor warp 20m and 4 kg anchor minimum.
16. 158 kg/litres front buoyancy MANDATORY!
17. Lead kicker, main and jib cunninghams, jib halyard and backstay back to helm/cockpit.
18. A good quality rudder makes a significant difference.
19. Tiller is 50” long – extension 1 metre maximum.
20. Inner shrouds only take tension in force 6 on beat and then only just.
21. Jib barbers set off 8” in light winds (force 1-2), off 2” in force 2-4, off 4” in force 5-6, off 6” in 7 - in force 8 GO HOME!!
22. Centreline boom on beats until blowing hard then let traveller to middle in force 4 – drop to bottom for force 6 and pull mainsheet hard.
23. Chuck all the crap off the boat – messy boat = more knots!
24. PPPPP – know the course – sure as hell you’ll be in the lead when you don’t know where you’re going!!