by Carol Cronin
The next time your pole shockcord lets go, here’s how to jury-rig a replacement and keep using your pole.
On day three of the 2019 Snipe Worlds, we lost our pole retrieval shockcord at the last turning mark of the first race. Though we only gave up one point on that short final reach leg, there were two more races scheduled that day—and it’s just not something you can fix on the water. (Picture trying to pull against tight shockcord while simultaneously trying to lead it through a block at the end of a flailing boom… impossible.)
After several futile efforts at a jury-rig (which probably wouldn’t have made it through even one race), we gave up and sailed the second race without a pole. Though Kim used all her college sailing jib-winging skills, you can predict how successful that was… we logged almost twice as many points as our first race of the day. An hour later, we dropped out of the final race (from an even worse position) to sail in early and fix the damn thing.
If only I’d already learned what I now call the Augie Workaround, we could’ve used our pole for both of those races—potentially saving our drop race for later in the regatta. I haven’t tried it yet, but here are the steps Augie recommends to rig your tow line as a pole retrieval line (beginning with a suggestion based on our recent experience).
1. In more than five knots of wind, drop the mainsail at least halfway before attempting to rig anything at the end of the boom.
2. Tie one end of your towline around the pole at the outboard end, just forward of the launch line block (yellow arrow). I would also recommend taping over the knot so it doesn’t slip or come untied.
3. Lead the other end of the towline under the outhaul between the sail and the boom (indicated by the red arrow), and then forward along the starboard side of the boom.
4. Test launch the pole and tie off the towline at max extension.
5. Retract the pole and tie the towline off tight (so the pole is held against the boom in its “normal” unlaunched position).
When you get to the weather mark, you’ll have to untie the second knot before launching. To retract, you’ll have to pull the pole back with the towline, so I’d recommend limiting your jibes with this rig. But at least you’ll be sailing downwind with a pole, even if your shockcord lets you down on the race course. And believe me, that’s a big step up from sailing downwind college-style.
PS The action photo was taken by Matias Capizzano. He took lots more great shots at the 2019 Snipe Worlds.
Update from Luis Soubie: “What I do is very similar, but not with the towline. I take the shock cord out of the boom and do all the same but with the shock cord. It has a lot of friction but it works if you help the pole launch, and you don’t need to make any knots. Try it!”