Snipe Rigging 101

By Carol Cronin

A recent question from the fleet forming in Costa Rica made me realize: we don’t have any stories that explain how to get started rigging a Snipe. So I offered to write one, and because I keep my promises… well, here we are.
Most of SnipeToday’s stories speak to the folks who already know the basics and want to learn the tweaking secrets of those whose transom they are eyeing around the race course. This article is not for those people. The point is to begin at the beginning, with a bare deck, and try to cover the most important aspects of rigging a Snipe.

By Carol Cronin

A recent question from the fleet forming in Costa Rica made me realize: we don’t have any stories that explain how to get started rigging a Snipe. So I offered to write one, and because I keep my promises… well, here we are.
Most of SnipeToday’s stories speak to the folks who already know the basics and want to learn the tweaking secrets of those whose transom they are eyeing around the race course. This article is not for those people. The point is to begin at the beginning, with a bare deck, and try to cover the most important aspects of rigging a Snipe.

 

Deck layout

First of all, words and photos will never be as helpful as an already rigged boat. Placement of hardware can make or break a sailor’s enjoyment; there are so many variables that will be completely obvious once you go sailing that are quite easy to miss when drilling holes and mounting hardware. So rule number one is, there’s a reason Snipes are rigged this way; copy an existing boat when possible.

We’ll start at the bow and work aft, leaving the skipper and crew control lines for last.

Bow chainplate

This is the attachment point for (in order, moving aft): forestay, jib luff wire/tack, and jib cloth (otherwise known as the jib cunningham). The jib tack location is specified by class rules.

Attachment point to pull the mast forward at the deck (see “mast controls”)

headstayrigging

Shroud Chainplates (port and starboard); location is specified by class rules.

Though many boats have multiple points of attachment (depending on wind strength), only one is required for beginners. This is also where a lifting bridle would hook up for launching with a crane; for beach launching, that’s not needed.

chainplateexamples

The main halyard should have a loop and “stop” on the starboard side of the mast web; it gets pulled up and locked in place for sailing.

Mast step

The mast step should provide a solid base for the mast, as well as attachment points for several lead blocks that direct lines up and out to the side decks. The height of the step is specified in the class rules so that masts can be swapped from one boat to another.

The simplest option for the step hardware is aluminum channel; the mast butt sits on top of the channel (over a bolt that locks it in fore and aft), and holes can be drilled to hang shackled control line blocks.

Jibsheets should be easily cleated/uncleated as the jib is quite powerful (and crews are usually smaller than skippers). They are led through a block on the inboard face of the side decks, and then through a turning block (preferably a ratchet) so they can be held/adjusted from the opposite side of the boat. A good starting location for jib leads is 90″ back from the jib tack. The location/angle of the cleat/turning block arrangement is very important, as it will determine whether the crew can cleat/uncleat the sail from a hiking position.

The jib halyard is eased off about 12-14″ to sail downwind and then played almost as much as a spinnaker guy, so most boats have a fine tune mounted on the aft face of the centerboard trunk. The purchase runs forward (ideally, inside the centerboard trunk to reduce clutter on the floor), around a block mounted on the mast step, and up through the mast partners. The easiest set up is to have a wire attached to the purchase that ends in a hook just above the deck; that attaches to a loop in the halyard, which puts everything needed for hoisting/dousing above deck.

Note: the jib halyard attaches to both the jib luff wire (which runs through the luff of the sail) and to the head of the sail itself. This is somewhat counter-intuitive but very important, since the jib luff wire/halyard combination takes over as the headstay while sailing.

The mainsheet block should be mounted on top of the centerboard trunk, aft of the slot. Cleats are optional; usually they are mounted on the side decks. The split mainsheet controls boom placement relative to centerline. Traveler adjustments can grow quite complicated, so for beginners, don’t bother rigging a traveler but do set up the split mainsheet. That will require blocks as far outboard as they can go on the aft deck, lined up with the end of the boom, and an dead end attachment point on centerline.

mainsheetblock

Control lines

Snipes have two groups of cleated control lines, one forward of the skipper and the other forward of the crew. Each control leads to both port and starboard side decks, so they can be adjusted while hiking out on either tack. The more experienced the crew, the more control lines move to the front of the boat. Personal preference also plays into which lines lead where, but regardless of the details getting the cleat locations right is crucial (so that lines can be adjusted while hiking with minumum distraction).

Each control line leads up through a hole from beneath the side deck, passes through a small cam cleat, and then disappears through a hole so it stays out of sight. That last part is optional, but it will make the deck much neater and keep lines from trailing overboard.

Once all the lines are in place and running smoothly they only need to be checked for chafe, but getting them set up correctly will take some time and experimentation.

Here are the controls in approximate order of importance (which reflects some personal preference):

Vang

Crucial to control in medium and strong winds. Needs a lot of purchase, so set up a cascade system that runs from a sturdy bail on the boom to the mast web. This is the hardest control to get right and will require some tweaking to achieve the ideal combination of purchase and throw. Location (crew or skipper) varies by personal preference.

vangcascade

Hiking strap adjustments

Mount a cleat on the inboard face of the side deck that make it possible to adjust the height of the crew hiking straps’ forward ends. Since this is a major factor in crew comfort, it is a very important addition—especially if there are a lot of different people sailing each boat. Skippers will appreciate being able to easily adjust their own straps too; the adjustment should be on the aft end of the strap and can be one line (so port and starboard straps are adjusted at the same time).

Jib cloth

This ties/shackles into the bottom of the jib. The biggest rigging challenge is passing it through the watertight bow compartment without creating a major leak; it might be easiest to rig this above deck. Location: crew controls

Mast controls

The Snipe mast is adjustable at the deck as a way to depower and tweak sail shape. While this is very important at the top end of the fleet, the only thing that’s important for beginners is to have the mast locked far enough forward so that it will not invert downwind and damage the mast. When learning to sail the Snipe, lock the mast at “Neutral” (described in the tuning guides), or even a little farther forward.

Mast forward (a line that pulls the mast forward at the deck) needs more purchase than you might think and should pull from a point about halfway from mast to bow chainplate. (Farther aft and there’s not enough angle for good purchase; farther forward and it interferes with the jib foot.) Tie the tail around the mast so it can’t drop down, either just above the web or through one of the web’s holes. Lower is better. Location varies with personal preference; Jibetechs have it on the top of the centerboard trunk (aft of the slot, forward of the mainsheet block).

Mast aft (a line that pulls the mast aft at the deck) keeps the mast locked in a fore and aft location. More advanced sailors also use it to pull the mast aft downwind for better sail shape. Dead end the tail aft of the mast step opening, run it through a block attached the mast web (usually below the vang), and pass it back through a block aft of the mast step and then out to the side decks. This is usually a skipper control.

Jib lead fine tune

The jib leads should be adjustable fore and aft (gross tune, on a track) and up and down (fine tune, with a block attached to an adjustable line). The fine tune should lead to the crew’s side deck cleats so it’s adjustable from the weather rail. Location: crew controls.

Main cunningham

Most systems dead end at the gooseneck and hang a block on the cunningham cringle on the sail. 2:1 underneath. IMHO beginners could get away without this control. Location varies with personal preference.

Other hardware:

Mast shims

Make sure mast does not float more than a little side to side in the partners; shim if necessary.

Attachment points for hiking straps. Because these are usually eyestraps into the floor, they need to be very waterproof and also very secure. Builders add backing plates where the straps will be attached. Location (fore/aft, as well as inboard/outboard) is VERY important to crew hiking comfort, and she who hikes hardest goes the fastest.

Bailer
An Elvstrom bailer set into a centerline well just forward of the stern bulkhead will allow water to drain out while sailing. Close it for launching and retrieval (and try to keep it free of sand).

Gudgeons

Location is specified in the class rules (to make rudders interchangeable). These need to be through-bolted (and bedded so they don’t leak). Install a rudder lock, or tie the rudder into the top gudgeon.

gudgeonseuro

Shockcord

This is the first thing to wear out (especially when stored under load or in the sun) but does several important jobs:
1. Whisker pole retrieval
2. Holding up hiking straps so they are easy to kick under
3. Tightening headstay (to keep it out of the way while sailing, especially important for jibes)
3. Optional: Tensioning line tails under the side decks

Whisker pole

Of all the Snipe rigging challenges, this is probably the hardest to get right because there are so many variables. And rigging it so it works easily is crucial—for every level of sailor.

poleforwardend

There are several helpful pictures on the APS page: http://www.apsltd.com/one-design-sailboat-parts/snipe/snipe-pole-launcher.html

Poles are rigged on the port side of the boom. This diagram is helpful, though it incorrectly shows the pole on the starboard side of the mast: http://www.apsltd.com/sidewinder-whisker-pole-launch-system.html

There are two important (and interactive) pieces of rigging: the launch line and the shockcord retrieval.

The launch line should be tapered, with the skinny end attached to the jib clew (tie it in above the sheets). It disappears inside the forward end of the pole, ties or splices into the fatter line, and exits through a block at the aft end before leading forward again through a block mounted on the port side of the mast (about 3 inches above the gooseneck). (Hanging this block is what the APS Snipe GRP Mast Fitting for Whiskerpole Block is for, but you could also hang it from an eyestrap. Getting the height and fore/aft location right is an incredbily important variable.)

The launch line then turns aft through a block mounted on the deck (about even with the mast neutral setting) to a cam cleat.

The shockcord retrieval pulls the pole back for jibes and douses. The right amount of pull makes all the difference in reducing boathandling variables. Shockcord should be minimum 3/16″ and maximum 1/2″ in diameter. Thinner shockcord provides better range and less resistance but may need extra purchase inside the boom. Thicker shockcord makes it possible to go 2:1 on purchase but also gives less throw.

The shockcord dead ends at the aft end of the pole (usually with a knot through a plastic end cap), exits through the side of the pole (close to the aft end) and into the port aft end of the boom, runs forward around a block hanging off the inside of the gooseneck, and either dead ends at the aft end of the boom (2:1) or runs through another block and forward again (3:1).

Another key piece is a collar that supports/guides the forward end of the pole. There are as many ways to rig this as there are Snipes, but it’s important to have just the right amount of play in this part of the system. Too much and the pole will not launch/retract parallel to the boom; too little and the collar won’t align well for minimum friction/aggravation.

To test the pole: Once the mast is stepped, place the boom (without sails) on the gooseneck and hang it by attaching the main halyard to the aft end. The boom should be approximately level. MAKE SURE THERE IS A SECURE STOPPER KNOT IN THE FORWARD END OF THE POLE LAUNCHER LINE and then launch the pole. You will need someone to spot the forward end once it’s launched all the way to keep it level, but make sure this person stays out of the way as the pole comes out. The pole should extend as far as possible and retrieve smoothly. (Class rules specify that the aft end of the pole should not be able to go forward of the mast.)

Usual problems:

Pole doesn’t launch all the way

Is launcher line run correctly? Is it hanging up somewhere (tapered line may bottom out inside the pole)?
Does shockcord have enough throw?

Tip: A small adjustment in location of the hanging block (on the port side of the mast) can make a HUGE difference to smooth pole operation.

Pole doesn’t retract as it should (smoothly and parallel to the boom)

Is shockcord tight enough?

Is collar staying aligned with pole, but with enough give to adjust as needed?

Last but not least… Is there a knot in the pole line tail?

Pole line lost inside pole

Place pole in the water to help retrieve line

Remove forward end cap

Remember to ALWAYS tie off the forward and aft ends!

Other Resources
Sailmaker tuning guides
SnipeToday Articles from the Experts
apsltd.com

Line lengths:
Mainsheet is 23′ of 5/16″ low stretch line and 20′ of 1/8″ vectran for the split section (10 feet each leg).
Jib sheet -33′. Use a single line and attach the middle to the clew. The lower the sheet attachment’s profile, the less that sheet will catch on the leeward shroud coming out of a tack.
Pole- 20 feet of 1/4″ line and 104″ of 1/8″ Vectran.

2 thoughts on “Snipe Rigging 101

  1. Good-day,
    Thanks for the very helpful article and photos.
    I have just purchased a Phoenix Snipe, and the photos and discussion have been helpful for rigging.
    Is there any information about launching a Phoenix Snipe using a crane? The transom on my boat has two large drains, which makes dolly or trailer launching a bit problematic.
    Thanks

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