Keys to J70 Speed with the New XCS Mainsail

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Tips 4 Sailing contributor, Bill Wiggins points out some key points of making the J70 go fast with the XCS/J2 Combination.

Key West Race Week 2017 turned out to be a spectacular event this year for all classes. The weather was as close to perfect as you can get in January, and all classes seemed to reach their maximum allowed races.

Team Gonzo - Photo Credit Chris Howell
J70 – Gonzo – 2017 Key West Race Week

This year, I raced on a J70 owned by Ken Ganch from Chicago. Ken is new to the J70 and decided to hand the helm over to Geoff Becker, a J70 owner from Annapolis. Chris Morgan and I ran the middle of the boat while Ken took over the forward duties. The team worked really well together with an “all up” weight of about 745.

This was the first time that I sailed with the J2 Jib / XCS1 Mainsail combo. Passed results and reports from the design team had already proven this to be a quick setup. And I am pleased to confirm that to be true. The XCS’s crosscut panel layout really makes for a more forgiving sail in a wide range of conditions.

Right away, I noticed how full and ‘twisty’ the sail was. During the practice day, we set the rig up at base (or maybe a ½ turn above to compensate for new shrouds) and sailed in 8-10 knots of breeze. Geoff seemed to keep the traveler about 1 car length above center most times, and used backstay and mainsheet tension to keep the boat on its feet in puffs. Jib trim was pretty much as described in the guide with 5 holes behind the bolt and a touch of in-haul. I rarely eased the leeward sheet unless we hit a bad set of waves in down pressure.

The first two race days brought big pressure and waves. We stepped the rig up 3 and 2 for Monday and 4.5 and 3 on Tuesday to. The an extra ½ turn on the lowers was to keep the mast from overbending. We also pulled as much gross backstay on as our setup allowed. This setup gave us a tight headstay, a full lower section of the main, a twisty upper section of the main and a flat jib. I typically trimmed the leeward jib sheet to just inside the 20” mark and play it from there. I also pulled the slack out of the in-hauler (or just a touch more) to allow the bottom of the jib to stay in if I eased in a puff. The jib car was at 5 holes showing behind the bolt.

In these conditions, Geoff was very busy with the mainsheet keeping the mainsail as powered up as possible while keeping the boat as flat as possible. We pulled a touch of vang on to keep the boom from raising if he had to ease sheet. This mainsail likes to have the traveler higher than you might think to allow the top to twist and keep the bottom high and full. We never really felt like we had a super-high groove. However, if we had the room to get our bow down, we were lightning fast!

Days three and four brought much lighter breeze with some chop to contend with. We dropped our rig back to base for Wednesday and took 1 and 1 off on Thursday. We kept the backstay set so the flicker was just tight, no slack. We did move our jib car back a ½ hole and eventually moved it forward again to the 5-holes position.

With this setup, it’s key to maintain headstay tension. There are times (in flat water) we were in a travel-down, mainsheet-tight mode to achieve a tight headstay. However, when we felt slow or were sailing through some chop, we changed to a travel-up, loose mainsheet mode and pulled a touch of backstay on to achieve the same headstay tension.

One key thing that I took away from these transitions was that if the headstay went loose, the jib hooked and stalled very easily. I found myself watching and listening for Geoff to ease the mainsheet and would immediately ease the jib sheet a touch to keep a twisty, powered-up jib. Yes, we used 1-2” of in-hauler. It’s safe to say that the jib was adjusted a good bit throughout each beat.

Day 5 brought even lighter conditions forcing us to drop down from base; 2 turns on the uppers and 2 on the lowers. This setting made the headstay tension go away even sooner making each change of the mainsheet/traveler/backstay that much more dramatic. The good news was that I spent most of that race in the cockpit, making the numerous sheet adjustments that much easier.

We all know that keeping a constant angle of heel is key in the J70. In the lighter conditions, we tried to keep Ken on the rail as he weighed the most, and Chris pivoting from legs out to legs in. I made the most movement from the lower rail to the high rail as needed to keep the boat from rocking.

In summary, I am a big fan of the XCS Mainsail and have always liked the J2 Jib. They work well together in a very wide range of conditions. There is some work to it. However, there are huge gains to be made if you stay on it.

Here is a recap of our daily settings:
Day 1…base +3 and +2
Day 2…base +4 1/2 and +3
Day 3…base (16 uppers – 10(-1) lowers)
Day 4…base -1 and -1
Day 5…base -2 and -2

Please feel free to reach out to me, or any of the Tips 4 Sailing Team if you have any questions about the Tuning Guide or anything I have mentioned here.

XCS Tuning Matrix

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