Highlander Rigging Roundup

Wrap Up Those Wrinkles, Crank Up the Cunningham

By: Mike Perakis

"That thing's got more wrinkles in it than a prune." Once you realize your crew is talking about the mainsail, you, too notice the abundance of wrinkles up the luff (front edge) of the sail. You're imagination drifts back to the winter tuning guide reading by the fire sessions. You remember something about controlling the shape of the main with the cunningham. This system will allow you to tweak the extent and severity of your wrinkles.

The location of the cleats is optional. The ideal location would be on the side decks, next to the controls for the jib cloth adjustment and the topping lift. The stock Customflex and Allen boats have the controls exiting the coaming in the forward corners of the cockpit. Place the cleats where they will get used. A new rigging system is kind of a waste if you can't adjust it from a hiked-out position. Review the earlier Rigging Roundup topping lift and jib cloth articles for more detail on the cleat locations.


Using the cunningham is really just noticing how far up the mast the small wrinkles in the mainsail extend. These wrinkles are horizontal, about a foot long and result from the tension in the rope along the luff of the sail. It's kind of like an elastic waistband, pull it tight and the wrinkles go away, loosen up on it and the wrinkles show up.

You want to have wrinkles along the bottom half of the main at all times. As the wind builds, the sail stretches and gets more wrinkles. Pulling the cunningham stretches the front of the sail and removes wrinkles from the top. If the wind lightens, The wrinkles go away. You have to loosen the cunningham to get the wrinkles back. It's actually very simple. The shape of the main will change as you adjust the cunningham and as the windspeed changes. The wrinkles are an easy way to always be pretty close to the ideal shape.

Sail fast and iron those wrinkles out with the cunningham.

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