Highlander Rigging Roundup

Are You Bored With Your Centerboard?

By: Mike Perakis

You're zipping along on Lake Not-so-Deep, sailing in the local charity regatta, battling for room at the gybe mark, spinnaker up, both hands on the tiller extension trying to keep the boat going straight when you start dragging the centerboard over stumps and what sounds like a '68 Dodge Dart. Your always on-the-ball crew grabs the pull-up line for the centerboard and starts to grunt, groan, struggle and wail, then finally gets it to move. The boat settles down, the pull on the tiller vanishes and you speed up dramatically. What just happened?

You have just experienced "playing the centerboard". The object is to "balance the helm" (reduce the pull or push on the tiller). To do this, adjust the board. Up - to reduce a PULL on the tiller, down - to reduce a PUSH on the tiller. Only you can determine how much, based on how much the tiller is pulling or pushing. To adjust the board easily, we need to make sure the system is easy to adjust and has little friction.

Placing the adjustment in a convenient place is the first step. Under the thwart is not the best spot. On a 360° swivel cleat on the side of the trunk is ideal. This allows anyone on the boat to grab the line from anywhere on the boat.

Center board

Ease of adjustment is achieved with a high enough mechanical advantage (ratio) and low friction. I would suggest between 6 to 1 and 8 to 1 using either a pulley system or the standard drum. The low friction part comes from small line and big blocks. The smallest line you can grab is best. 3/16" is my choice, but 1/4" is good too. Use the Harken Big Bullet blocks for all of the purchase. The drum system can be tuned up by making sure the drum doesn't rub on the stanchions (the vertical wood pieces) or anything else in the bilge, and adding bushings to the shaft where it rubs on the stanchions. Teflon or other low friction plastic bushings can free-up a drum that won't turn. Even a small square of plastic between the shaft and the wood can make a difference.

The diagram shows the two common systems. Use the one that suits your tastes and budget. Easy adjustment makes cruising easier too!! Less work means more fun!!! See 'ya on the water.

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