Topic : Hints please for newcomer to Merlins

My daughter recently decided she wants to get into racing rather than just mucking about in Toppers so I am crewing for her in a recently acquired 1983 Bob Hoare built Summer Wine. 
Can anyone help with the following:
1. Newest sails are 12 years old so I am looking for newish 'cast-offs' going cheap and have seen the 'equipment for sale' link on the web-site. I believe there are trade-off's between main and jib sizes but is it feasable to buy main/jib seperate or should I stick with sets? Also do I need to worry about spars because lengths have changed? I read modern spars are deck mounted and carbon these days but does that mean sails cut since 2000 will not work well on my hog mounted Proctor mast?
2. To my surprise there is no inspection hatch in the front bouyancy tank. Is there any rule against putting one in?
3. The boat used to be sailed on the sea and there is an arrangement for cleating the centreboard down. As we sail inland I don't use this and the board continually floats up. In the past in other classes I have either screwed rubber tube onto the front of the board to compress it and wedge it in the case. Are there any other cunning arrangements used in Merlins to solve this?

Thanks in advance


Posted: 05/07/2005 21:55:34
By: Tom Collins

1) Luff and foot lengths do vary, particularly between hog and deck stepped rigs. Suggest you take a tape measure to your luff and foot before parting with cash. Carbon and ali masts have very different bend characteristics so a sail cut for carbon won't work as it was intended to. I wouldn't be surprised if nobody offers you sails as a result of this post but do post again asking for sails, also on the wanted list. Also, all the Merlin sailmakers offer second hand sails - phone them and ask about the second hand sails they have on offer.

2) To my knowledge (I'm sure the class chairman will correct me if I'm wrong) you can have as many inspection hatches as you like in the bow tank (there's one in my boat) but if it leaked enough then it would technically fail the required buoyancy test and therefore be ineligible to race.

3) Your rubber tube solution is very commonly used on Merlins and is normally the one recommended on this forum.

Where will you be racing?


Posted: 05/07/2005 22:54:01
By: Jon
Morning Tom,

The certificate for your boat will tell you what main and jib dimensions your boat is geared up for - unless of course it has been re-rigged by a previous owner who hasn't renewed the certificate (flogging is too good for some people!). In 1983 there was still a degree of variation in the rig dimensions - they didn't really standardise until 1988-ish with the re-introduction of the deck stepped rig.

So step one is to look at the certificate and see whether it matches the band measurement on the mast and boom. If so you know where you are, if not you can renew the certificate with the new dimensions and see what sails you can get.

Should you not have a certificate for the boat, contact the RYA technical department and they should have a copy of the last certificate issued for your boat.

Good luck,


Posted: 06/07/2005 08:35:34
By: Chairman GGGGGG
ps Delighted to welcome another lady helm to the fleet, wife has been getting it all her own way for far too long....


Posted: 06/07/2005 08:36:26
By: Chairman GGGGGG
Graham,  I take it I was correct about the tank covers?


Posted: 06/07/2005 09:30:16
By: Jon
Why would you not just cleat the centreboard?  We are new to merlin sailing too, but so far, we have just cleated the centreboard where we want it to be as this is what the previous owners did?

Posted: 06/07/2005 10:01:12
By: Catherine
Its fine cleating if in deep water, but should you be coming ashore in a blow and for some reason or other the board is still down when you hit bottom - somethings going to crack.

Posted: 06/07/2005 10:09:15
By: Miles
Absolutely right - the cleat pulls out (fortunately) - it could have broken something more serious!!!  I then fitted a new centreboard brake made out of a piece of old tyre and it works a treat.  Leave room for a further adjustment by screwing the brake flatter later as it wears!!  Adjust the friction until it holds down but not so tight that you can't shift it.  You really need to be on the water to get it tuned just right.

Posted: 06/07/2005 10:23:50
By: Garry R
I have a Summer Wine - good choice to start with as they are well behaved and reasonably fast of their age. Most of the mains were loose footed in original form- that might cause some problem. Is yours still like that?

Posted: 06/07/2005 11:38:00
By: NeilAncientG
OH and the c-plate cleat- use a slightly thin cord and a roller cleat and it slips if you hit something hard enough!

Posted: 06/07/2005 11:39:38
By: NeilAncientG
or you could fit a cleat which releases on impact(adjustable) but not normal sailing. its also handy for semisubmerged logs moorings, piers you think you will just miss etc available from most boat bit places. I use them on centerboard and rudder and have it set to release if I catch a poorly set up mark line. Does what it says on the tin

Posted: 06/07/2005 11:41:41
By: Calum
But the biggest problem with all of these is if you capsize and turtle, and the cleat releases, then the centreboard dissapears, not good.
my board is fairly loose, pressure keeps it down on beats and reaches but it comes up on automaticaly on the run, but my lenght of connected shockcord stops it in the correct place, but allows it to go right up if the bottom is hit, or i forget to unhookit when putting it on the trolly.

Posted: 06/07/2005 12:16:49
By: DaveF
I've not had any problems using the 4in of rubber tubing friction pad.  If you use string it's yet another bit of it in the boat and another cleat to site, chances are you will forget to cleat it on a run at some point, the board will come up and you will roll in.  KISS.

Posted: 06/07/2005 12:38:05
By: Andrew M
Jon - absolutely correct about the hatches - the tank must be capable of being emptied, and must be capable of sustaining a pressure of 1.25kPa, other than that away you go with the jigsaw!


Posted: 06/07/2005 12:45:40
By: Chairman GGGGGG
why have so few designs been designed in recent years, are new summer wines made?

Posted: 06/07/2005 13:45:45
By: Peter Rhodes
Were we sail, the centreboard hitting the bottom isn't much of a worry, is pretty much deep enough right up to the edge.  As long as we take it up before putting on the trolley, is fine.  I think we will stick to cleating it for now.

Does anybody have any tips for getting the best out of the merlin in light winds. I think we have done ok so far, but I'm sure we could do better.

Posted: 06/07/2005 15:14:01
By: Catherine
In light winds keep the weight in the right place - well forward, stop the transom dragging, keep the boat dead upright until the wind drops to virtually nothing when a touch of heel allows the sails to belly out properly, keep still.  The winning solution at Hampton is to ditch your normal crew and enlist a 10-year old, or even have a 10-year-old as your normal crew - in light winds in a Wine having less than 18st on board would be good!

Posted: 06/07/2005 16:11:13
By: Andrew M
No new Summer Wines, Peter!  The problem with new designs is that the CT has been so dominant, no other design is definitely quicker and trying something different is an expensive risk.  Main variants available at present are the Make it So and Let It Ride, both built to order in wood by Laurie Smart and Kevin Driver respectively, the Easy Roller is built in plastic by Full Force boats.  There are very few of these around relatively and they are all probably a little more difficult to sail well than the CT.  Their advocates will tell you they are better in certain conditions but the results do not suggest the difference is that great, certainly less than one poor tack over a course!  Alan Jackson at Chipstow Boats would build you a wooden one in any shape you want, but has had no takers for a while I think

Posted: 06/07/2005 16:19:10
By: Andrew M
Anything other than fully close hauled, use as little centreboard as you can get away with.  The key in light winds is to be able to sail a proper course with no weather helm at all.

Learn to roll tack

If there is virtually no wind at all, have really lightweight tell-tales on the shrouds - and trust them. (I once used a cobweb to great effect for all of ten minutes).

Posted: 06/07/2005 16:28:08
By: Bill (3076)
We have been trying roll tacks in light winds, but we are not very good at it yet. And we are having to fit in a beat to try and get the top batten of the sail to pop.

Thanks for the advice.

Posted: 06/07/2005 17:54:37
By: Catherine
Light winds are an art. I wrote an angry letter once about a championship race being abandoned in light winds - probably the only chance I'd have had of winning a championship race!
Practise, practise! Roll tacking needs practice! If the top batten is difficult, slacken it a little bit and give the sail a good wobble after your new course is gained.
Beating- don't sail too tight. Off wind- if the wind is variable too, don't bother with the spinny unless it definitely fills.
Some sailors think light airs are boring- well they are if you can't do it! Watch some of the fleets in tidal waters in very light wind, a bit of current soon sorts them out! Then copy the good ones.

Posted: 07/07/2005 10:08:44
By: NeilAncientG
OH yes, try the finger trick in extremely light winds. Lick it, stick it high in the air and turn it round a few times. You'll look a total prat and someone might evebn take offence, but one direction will become cooler - that's where the wind is coming from. Keep doing it and altering trim to suit. That trick got me through an entire fleet of boats in a Norwegian fjord some years ago. First foreigner to win that particular cup. (Okay I admit it wasn't Merlins.)

Posted: 07/07/2005 10:15:26
By: NeilAncientG
back in the days when I crewed for my father, and he used to smoke he used to hold his fag up for the same reason.
But because i don't smoke i find a large feather attached to the burgee addd a lot more sensitivity to it.

Posted: 07/07/2005 12:04:49
By: DaveF
didn't his fag get wet and go out?

Posted: 08/07/2005 09:21:32
By: Peter Rhodes
My father used to smoke his pipe with the tobacco well tamnped down and the pipe upside down!

Posted: 08/07/2005 12:14:22
I think Popeye did this too!!!   Did you Dad show a fondness for spinach?

Posted: 08/07/2005 12:22:17
By: Olive Oil
funnily enough yes!

Posted: 08/07/2005 13:45:15
We had the same problems with our centreboard constantly risng until we nicked the system from our other boat. The cleat holds the board in the up position and a long elastic bungee goes around the back of the centreboard case, under the thwart each side and joins at the centreboard handle (or slips over it for easier release) and holds the board in the down position but allows it to raise when obstructions are reached.

Posted: 08/07/2005 17:12:11
By: Another lady newcomer
Yes, but it will rise again when going over about 7 or 8 knots. Swimming time!

Posted: 08/07/2005 20:43:53
By: NeilAncientG
It doesn't if the elastic is strong enough, tight enough and long enough - length IS vital.

Posted: 15/07/2005 08:16:54
By: Another lady newcomer
and a ldy should know.

Posted: 15/07/2005 10:02:22
Good shroud tell tale material is old cassette tape. Super light, strong, waterproof, costs nowt.

Posted: 15/07/2005 10:42:54
By: BmaxRog
Thanks for all the advice. If you guys are as active on the water as in cyberspace there is some pretty exciting racing going on somewhere.
Status to date:
- centreboard sorted with 'compressed tube screwed to front of board
- inspection hatch in front bouyancy tank
- I checked main luff length and foot(from black bands) against measurement certificate (boat re-measured in 1995) and I have 5720mm luff, 2470mm foot which matches the certificate. Mainsail area is 7.06 and headsail area 2.90

To follow up my interest in searching out better sails
1. How common is my sail area combination. Normal, extreme - and what are the trade-offs? If I bought sails with a different combination do I need to have the boat re-measured?
2. From various posts is it correct to conclude that sails cut for carbon spars and/or for deck stepped masts are just not suitable?
3. Someone suggested talking to sailmakers about second hand sails. Which ones? I'd guess Pinnall and Bax or Speed sails because I have a set of each. But anyone else?

New question:
We have been experimenting with mast rake, etc. I see no evidence of the mast foot position being moved about much during the long life of the boat. Given that it was raced quite hard until the early nineties (on Oulton Broad) I am assuming the position is OK. With the mast as far forward as current settings allow helm is neutral. Raked back as far as it will go the boom is about two inches off the aft decks, slot opens but there is a huge amount of weather helm. We sail inland where it is fairly sheltered and normally mast is straight with rake kept forward- so neutral helm and no problem currently. But what should I do if we did sail on the sea with more wind and want to move the rake back? Do you guys sail upwind on 3/4 centreboard in strong winds? -or should I move the mast foot forward? Alternatively do you use a heavy weather set of sails with a bigger jib/smaller main?

Last question:
Unfortunately as we use the boat regularly now, each week something breaks and needs replacing. Most are not serious. Unfortunately I missed the state of the foredeck when I bought the boat. After five weeks of being sailed twice/week the top ply layer looks more like a plate of crisps than the smart newly varnished surface we bought. Water obviously got under it and the top layer is de-laminating in multiple places. The aft decks had been re-decked so I should have guessed. The best solution would be to replace the foredeck this winter - but for me that is a major project. Someone at the club suggested the deck could be saved using epoxy dispensed under the top layer where it has lifted and injected into the ply where it looks soft using a hyperdermic needle. Comments?

[email protected]

Posted: 17/07/2005 16:07:00
By: tom collins
In answer to the last part as you've probably guessed whilst drying & syringing in epoxy will fix the delamed section (with vacumm pump etc)you will be always waiting for the remaining deck to go the same way. It actually is'nt that bad a task if your any good with tools, in a heated garage a week of evenings should see the old deck off & replaced. The revarnishing a couple of weeks max during the autumm. So by allmeans glue it down for now but be prepared for the inevertable.   Robins timber near bristol do mail order epoxy & Tiger striped sepele. good luck Barry.

Posted: 17/07/2005 17:05:22
By: Barry Watkin
Just had a look at the website ( and I think you are recommending the robbins super elite FL (sapele mahogany faced 3-ply). Sheets are 2500*1220. My boat is in the dinghy park so I can't pop out to measure it - but I don't think that is enough to do the foredeck with one sheet. Am I wrong? I do think my foredeck was built with one sheet.
- is one sheet big enough?
- do you recommend doing it in one sheet or two(I assume with the join down the centreline)
Also if I take the old deck off am I likely to break the network of strengthening beams under the foredeck. Actually I think I know the answer to that! I should ask -when I break one what is the wood you would recommend to replace them?

Posted: 17/07/2005 20:50:12
By: tom collins

You should be able to carry out a complete redeck with 2 sheets, but you will either have to scarf the joints or be very accurate with butt joints.

When I removed my old deck, I used a hot air gun to soften the epoxy and slid a fine wall paper scraper between the deck and supports to cut through the glue. If you take your time it may come off in 1 piece.


Posted: 18/07/2005 08:49:58
By: Steve
(back to work after Salcombe :-( )  The mast thing.  The heel is probably in the right place so you need to sort out the rake.  Use the dangle method on a calm day.  Put a weight on your main halyard, set the boat up on the trolley dead level (use a spirit level to set the stem vertical).  You should be aiming for the weight to dangle about 9" or 20ish cm behind the mast at deck level.  This is your light-weather setting.  Mark it.  Next rake mast back to 12" on the dangleometer.  This is your powered-up setting upwind.  Rake back to about 18" - more if your system allows.  This is your fully-depowered setting.

It sounds as though your fully-raked setting gives you a LOT of rake - wonder if your "upright" setting really is. If you have not got a deck-stepped rig you cannot use as much rake as this because the spreaders will not control the mast properly across the range of rake settings, the bend will get out of hand and you will lose any ability to point. I suggest less rake coupled with lots of cunningham and kicker. Yes, the C/B does need to be lifted to go with the rake, in strong winds I sail with a bit over 1/2 board all round the course as advised by John Bell.

Cardon masts are softer and bend more in a breeze, the sails are cut with more luff curve and softer leeches and designed for close sheeting. You could feasibly get a sail recut for a hog-stepped rig, but for a fee. HTH

Posted: 18/07/2005 10:03:36
By: Andrew M
Surely these sheets are in old money 8'X 4' if one cuts the sheet in two on the diagonal one should assuming matching grain on both sides get it out of one.With the grain all running front to rear as it were. Remember you'll have the gunwales to fit into might be quicker to remove back to the mid section or appropriate point and rescarfe in new gunwales fwd. Odd that the ply is delaminating though.Who built the boat? Do they know who's ply and was it to BS kitemarked? If so you could try a claim worth a 2nd class stamp but I wouldn't hold my breath!

Posted: 18/07/2005 10:03:41


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