Chainplate Location and Jib Sheeting

Nick Suhr from New Jersey is currently building Windmill #5426 (and doing a really beautiful job)! Nick and I got to e-mailing about such things as where to drill holes in the wood, and the subject of shroud location came up. What follows has been condensed/edited from a series of exchanges which involved Nick, Don Malpas, Frank Larimer and myself. These exchanges through cyberspace occupied several of us for some time, keeping us out of mischief during the bad part of winter, when parts of the south lay under several feet of snow, taking all the white stuff away from the north so that up here we could not go skiing! The issues raised and thoughts exchanged seem to be of sufficient interest to make them available to other Windmiller's - so here they are.

It all started when Nick asked an e-mail question about where to put the shrouds - at the inner edge of the deck, or out at the sheer line. When new to a class, common wisdom dictates against "innovation." Rather, one should copy how the leaders set up their boats - they have years of experience and are probably right. But on the matter of where to place the shrouds and how to sheet the jib, I had rejected that usually good advice. The first exchange of e-mail below gives the reasons why.

But first a little history! In the 1940's and 1950's boats with an overlapping jib invariably sheeted the jib out at the sheer line. In the days before Dacron, cotton sails were the norm. They were of necessity cut so that they had to be trimmed to a wide point. I have two publicity brochures from the early 50's. On the cover of one brochure is 'Mill #24. Thumbing through the Windmill history/handbook for another purpose, I discovered this was Winton McMillin's first Windmill! The picture shows it being sailed by two young women. The other shows #66 on the first page. In several pictures in these publications one can see that Windmills of that time located their shrouds out at the sheerline; and so also was the jib sheeting position! As in other classes with overlapping jibs, to free up the jib from the shrouds, smart Windmiller's moved their shrouds inboard. This got them nicely away from the jib, and became standard. But the introduction of Dacron allowed more efficient designs for jibs, and caused the jib leads to be moved inboard in virtually every class I know of. A copy of the 1969 Windmill news letter (now called the Jouster) shows Windmills with inboard shrouds and also jibs sheeted to the inner deck edge. But this brought the Windmill jib back into conflict with the shrouds! Since there are other classes with rigs very similar to that of the Windmill, and since I had recently been connected to the internet, I decided to see what others were doing. The result was my decision to move my shrouds to the outer edge of the deck and sheet the jib inside the shrouds.

I e-mailed Nick: "PLEASE! Before you finalize the location of your chainplates, spend some time on the Snipe home page ( Go to the photo gallery section, where careful examination will reveal that this currently most competitive of one design classes now sheet INSIDE the shrouds! The smart thing to me seems to be what the Snipes, Jets and others have done. Put the shrouds as far outboard as possible (where they were before being moved in to get them away from the jib) and sheet inside. Caution!! If you decide to sheet outside the shrouds, do not EVER let your crew try sheeting inside them! Once they find out how much more easily the jib tacks, ... well, you could always get a new crew I guess. At present there are a few of us sheeting inside the shrouds. Don Malpas is one, and I am another. This is my second year in Windmills (if you count one local race in September of '96 - if not, then it is my first), and sheeting inside the shrouds I did not embarrass myself either at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship or at Nationals.

We had been sending copies of our e-mail to Don Malpas, who responded with the following information. "While we were the only Windmiller's to have our boat rigged that way for over 10-years, we did not make the decision to sheet inside. That was handled for us by Mike McLaughlin. [Mike is a first-class sailor, he and his brother sailed with those big names of the Southern Cal group, also college teams, an Olympic contender, etc. You have to know Mike a long while before all this comes out.] Anyway, Mike had been sailing and building Snipes for some years when he built our boat, the third McLaughlin Windmill. I went up to his shop to rig it, since I was transferring some hardware from my older FG. The decision on the chainplates was made in a flash. He asked if I wanted to "...sheet inside or outside?" I paused to answer, the drill cut on and we have enjoyed sheeting inside ever since (that was 1983)." (RIW comment - I love that sentence: "I paused to answer, the drill cut on..."). Don continued with: "A small, but overlooked benefit of sheeting inside, is that the sheet does not bind on the stay nor does the knot or splice on the sheet hang-up on the stay."

My responding e-mail was to emphasize that: "Sheets not binding on the shrouds is neither small nor overlooked! In my opinion, it is the number one reason for sheeting inside!" (Clearly I had not made that point very well!) "Concerning ease of tacking, the difference is huge! Sheets inside the stays don't bind! But a very important factor is "which way is faster sailing between tacks?" The answer to this is hard to determine. Best way would be to take two really matched boats, one then would sheet outside, the other inside, and have them sail against each other. Next best is to look very carefully at the set of some one's jib set with sheets inside, and another's jib sheeted outside - jibs really should be from the same sailmaker, AND THE INSIDE SHEETER'S STAYS MUST BE OUTBOARD!! If you can get Don to send you one of the class publicity brochures, on the front page there is a great pic of he and Dorothy (I keep arguing that it should be in the home page photo gallery - those readers who agree with me, please bug Don about it!). You can see his side stay and the jib, showing that they do not interfere with each other. Finally, go to the snipe home page, visit their photo section, and note by careful examination that they all sheet inside the shrouds. The Snipe class is probably the largest and most competitive world-wide two man class sailing today, and their rig is so very similar to ours. With so much really hot talent, it seems that they would get it right!

At this point, (Chief Measurer) Frank Larimer joined in with the following, which offered another advantage to chainplates out at the sheer - better mast control! "Inboard or outboard, there are tradeoffs either way. Sheeting outboard, the sheeting angle on a beat is limited by the position of the chainplate, hence many boats have the chainplate at the max. inboard position. The best chainplate location for mast support is max. outboard, however. Sheeting inboard, chainplate location is (perhaps) not relevant. The downside of inboard sheeting is that the sheets run foul on the shrouds when reaching and running." Frank went on to comment that this could be a problem for the crew, but that he had not heard either Don or Dorothy complain about it. Concerning binding on the shrouds, Frank raises a serious issue. When reaching and running, the sheet does bear on the shroud, but the thrust is outward, serving to pull the shroud back from the mast. With OUTBOARD sheeting (inboard chainplates), on a pole reach the sheet may bind on the shroud, but it then presses it inward, reducing the support angle. But to me, the main point between the two is that, with inside sheeting, on reaches and runs one sheet occasionally contacts the shroud (but the sheet still runs rather easily), while with outside sheeting BOTH sheets simultaneously encounter HIGH friction from BOTH shrouds EVERY SINGLE TACK! When I first was considering inside sheeting, Don confided in my that he and Dorothy rarely encountered any problem, nor have I. Before I moved my shroud position from max inboard to max outboard, my son Bill and I did some practice sailing each way. Bill's response was to tell me that, if for some reason I insisted on sheeting outside, he "...would surely be busy on the dates of Regionals and Nationals!"

Frank offered some good advise to Nick Suhr, and others would do well to heed it. He said that: "Outboard chainplates will commit you to inboard sheeting, I think." This is absolutely true. It is equally true that locating chainplates at the extreme inboard position commits you to outboard sheeting.

Perhaps the most important caution Frank mentioned concerned care not to exceed class rules. He e-mailed Nick that he had checked the class plans for the correct wording (although I have only know Frank for a short time, I'm rather sure he already knew the correct measurements by heart). "Specification 39 says 'Side stays must be attached to either the aft side of middle thwart brace or to deck; in either case stay location may not be placed aft of a line parallel, or forward of a line parallel, to the aft side of the above mentioned Thwart Brace, drawn athwartships.' This specification is modified by the bylaws (X.6.D) to allow anchoring to the hull, but the fore-and-aft limitations of spec 39 still apply."

"X.6.D. says that 'The shrouds must be attached to either (1) the aft side of the middle thwart brace and pass through the deck, (2) the deck or (3) the hull except that the attachment must be inside the sheer line and pass through the deck.' In short, however you choose to attach the chainplates, the stay intersection with the deck has to be on the aft face line of C-C."

If you would care to see more such discussions, drop me an e-mail (just click on my name below) 'cause when you get to me my age you often have to replace doing with thinking!

Dick Woodruff