16/03/2006 19:38:19
My 7 year old is desperate to go out in the merlin with me. However, we have yet to have a day where the wind is light enough for me to control the boat and where Mum is happy to let him out.

I was thinking of two options to try and reduce the sail area and give me more control when its breezier.

1 - Try and get hold of a smaller main ie firefly etc
2- Take a pair of sissors to a very old set of sails.

Has anybody done option 2 and if so what's a good set of measurements?


16/03/2006 20:06:08
if you have an old main, why not stick in a row of reefing eyelets about a quarter of the way up and lace to the boom?

16/03/2006 20:09:41
Alan F
You can reef in a traditional way, but when the kid were young on the GP14 I cut off the bottom to the lower batten, about 25% off, worked well. If you have an old sail give it a go, easier to do on a MR as you can go lose footed. If you cut it out carefully you can sew back on the whole clew eye and slider (if you have one).

16/03/2006 20:22:02
Steve, do you have a local sailmaker who doesn't charge VAT and takes cash?

If so why don't you take him a sail and get him to bash a couple of cringles and reefing points in it for you?

17/03/2006 07:40:37
Chairman GGGGGG

I am only aware of a couple of people who have 'short sailed' a Merlin. Robbie & Barbie Sampson had a mainsail cut without the full length top batten - but I seem to recall they discarded it pretty quickly.

I would suggest a call to Dick Batt on this to ask about keeping the correct ratio of Luff to Leech length in order to keep the foot more or less level.


17/03/2006 08:44:14
Garry R
I have a really old main - not good nick at all as all crispiness has gone which you could have for cutting about as a trial.  In fact I may have two come to think of it.  If interested drop me an email.  Where are you?  It might be possible to use Merlin Rocket Express network and get them to you via the Scottish Easter event.  Cross border transport eh?

17/03/2006 08:44:21
Garry R
I have a really old main - not good nick at all as all crispiness has gone which you could have for cutting about as a trial.  In fact I may have two come to think of it.  If interested drop me an email.  Where are you?  It might be possible to use Merlin Rocket Express network and get them to you via the Scottish Easter event.  Cross border transport eh?

17/03/2006 08:46:22
Dave Croft

A couple of years ago I watched a guy single-handed sailing a Merlin in Christchurch using a N12 mainsail. There must be loads of old 12 mains up for grabs (sorry, gave all mine away). Why not put a post on their web site.


17/03/2006 09:06:36
Didnt someone mention using a Cadet mainsail on a Merlin recently - Robert Harris?

17/03/2006 10:27:15
Ancient Geek
No matter what the racing class (ORC excepted.) no matter how hard the wind it never seems to pay to shorten sail or use a jib raather than a genoa up to about 1962 Int 14's used to reef see Bruce Banks Reefing Gear (very complex used to jam!)but once they discovered real sitting out they abandoned it!

17/03/2006 19:26:39
If you look on Pin & Bax websit they have in their used sail section a set of merlin sails slightly to small which were used as display items well worth a look at

17/03/2006 20:29:05
Thanks for all the advice. I will definately give Dick Batt a call.

I also like the idea of putting reef points in. I hadn't thought of that.

The reason I want to reduce the sail area is that sailing on the Thames Estuary, you can sometimes get a sudden squall or gust that I couldn't manage on my own with the full rig.

It can be a very long way back to the beach and I don't want to try getting the boat upright while trying to keep an eye on what my son is doing on the other side. Especially with a non sailing mom watching every move.

17/03/2006 20:45:54
Alan F
Ok. Having experience with small kids in big winds. Upwind, no problems, big gust,  no kicker, luff up head to wind as required. If you are going home down wind, drop the main and go home on the jib. Practice this a few times until you are happy with your seamanship and then tak ethe kids out confident you are in control. Have fun.

18/03/2006 22:31:43
scott 3072
I agree with AlanF try single handing first poss without the jib, boat ballance is crap but you will get the feel. Big point to note though My son started when he was 5 and did great but 1 near capsize and he isnt as keen now, he only wants to go out in my dart now(excitemnt overcomes fear) it takes pocket money bribes to get him on the Merlin

19/03/2006 10:51:50
Hi Steve

Be patient - one day the wind will drop and the temperature will rise - and your lad will keep growing! But watch out for the "putting them off bit" as described in the previous post. Whats good fun for you may not be for the kids.


19/03/2006 10:58:23
Ancient Geek
Far too many of my generation of talenyed yotters were put off by "Pony Club Parents" indeed it is still happening I wonder how many of todays "Yoof Squads" will still be sailing in even 10 years time? There was  a very good correspondence in Yachts and Yachting on the cusp of this century on just this!

20/03/2006 08:56:29
Getting older and grumpier by the day
Once they are allowed to take their mobile phones with TV screen and hand held PCs then the attraction of sailing will increase for the youth of today (oh yes and soft seats)!!!!!

20/03/2006 10:13:55
Ancient Geek
One can only hope they drop their mobiles in the oggin! It's got so bad that I carry a spare phone the SIM -so-far- has not been shorted out! Not that we are allowed to have them on during racing.

20/03/2006 10:19:28
Ancient Geek
Grey Goose might remember a Merlin ad-hoc single handed race in quite a lot of wind at Minima in early 1964 when he opted to race "sans jib", it was not one of his more glorious occasions boat speed wise. Better to learn to de-power properly from day one.

20/03/2006 10:38:38
> No matter what the racing class...
> it never seems to pay to shorten sail

How about the multiple rig skiff classes?

Having played with a multiple rig size singlehander myself I now believe the issue is that most boats are hideously undercanvassed downwind, and so what you lose upwind by having too much rag you gain downwind. Certainly with my single sail boat it was always worth trying to hang on to ridiculous amounts of rag uphill in order not to be dogged out on the run. Its only on the skiffs where the kites are in the order of three times the white sail area that it doesn't pay to hold on uphill.

Another factor is that small sails means you end up with no gust response because the mast bend is wrong, so you really need a short mast as well as a short luff main, or else just go really tiny and put up with being underpowered and survive.

15/08/2012 10:48:58
After a day's cruising this weekend, taking three 7yr olds out in the Merlin, I feel the need to resurrect this old forum topic regarding small mainsails. I wish I'd used one on Sunday!

Which class shall I look at for a super-cheap secondhand mainsail to fit on my hog-stepped Merlin? The Graduate, N12, Miracle or Firefly might be suitable? A Lark main would be only a tad smaller.

Putting reef points into a full size Merlin mainsail would cost more in postage than finding a clapped-out sail locally, I reckon.

15/08/2012 23:47:43
JB 3045
Many years ago, Club race on the Thames, 11 Merlins and very windy. I used a National 12 main on mine and finished 2nd all the others bar one capsized! Q.E.D. ! (Reminds me of the well known hare and tortoise) I found it very useful teaching my daughter to sail in windy weather.

16/08/2012 14:08:39
Ben 3634
When I was 9 dad reefed an old main so's I could take the boat out singlehanded when we couldn't sail together. Just put some reef points in and tied it to the boom. Worked fine.

16/08/2012 19:07:05
I took my 5 year old grandson out in my merlin with a very old firefly main and it worked fine for a gentle potter that didn't scare him off sailing for ever. I also left the jib wrapped round twice to reef that. The boat handled fine and much less wobbly!
I quess a firefly and N12 main are very similar.

17/08/2012 07:58:18
Robert Harris
All this chatter about smaller sails reminds me of when I crewed Brian Appleton in his 4'6" wide Merlin 'Gail' no.28 at an open meeting at Cookham Reach S.C. in 1952. We'd been invited by Guy Pearce who we met at the Championships. We were Cadet sailors, Brian had won Cadet Week that year, we probably weighed a total of 13 or 14 stone.  It blew a gale and we failed to survive the first two races sailing with Nat 12ft sails. In desperation we changed to a suit of Cadet sails for the last race and failed again. 'Gail's' heavy wooden plank of a mast cut down from it's original height of 25 ft virtually guaranteed a capsize once we heeled to an angle of perhaps 30 degs. Other competitors reefed or set smaller sails so we watched in awe as the previous year's Champion Ken Mollart crewed by Ian Curtis easily won all three races under full sail.

18/08/2012 15:35:55
Bob Deacon
When in my teens, 6o years ago now,  I took my then merlin No. 441 to Falmouth Week.

There was a good wind blowing and two young teenagers would be overpowered so we put some rolls round the boom.

At the start of the race, to windward we held the fleet but then lost out down wind.

No problem though, the rest of the fleet capsizes and we won the race.

18/08/2012 15:48:15
JB 3045
I remember Bob the refurb that you did on 441 'Lightly'(about 1963?). The varnish was great but what really stood out were all the shiny rivets, being an early ribbed Merlin. Shiny rivets are bit of a rare sight nowadays!


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