Beneteau First 210
First 210

Tech Notes

Beneteau First 210 Tech Notes

Title: Light Air Sailing Tips For F210
Author: Terry F. Ellis 

Here I will answer your questions as I too (even with experienced crew) was baffled in light air until just this past summer. Now, I have concluded the 210 is remarkably fast in light air...very competitive in PHRF racing. The following are your questions and my answers inserted:

Question: You may remember we corresponded some while ago on the subject of racing the
210. My baby blue is in the Arabian Gulf (Bahrain).

Answer: Yes, I remember you well and recall telling you that once I visited the Arabian Gulf. With the internet we Baby Ben 210 owners no longer have to "sail blind and alone"!

Question: Since we last spoke I have acquired a new Pentex 110% Genoa from Niel Pride
in Scotland. So far so good. It has improved our windward performance but we still lag behind in light winds. I have a very experienced crew of good sailors but we are yet to find the secret of sailing in light airs with the 210. Downwind is our weakest point of sail, particularly on a dead run.

Answer: I replaced the factory 210 sails with North dacron "club race" main and jib. The combined sail area of the two is approximately 270 square feet. The better/deeper shape is a vast improvement. The "IMS Roach", full top batten plus loose foot on the new mainsail have greatly improved boat speed for me. I also added a new Schurr Spinnaker (tri-radial ¾ oz nylon) with luff about 28 feet and mid girth around 14 feet. It offers up about 440 square feet to go with the 160 square feet in the main, for around 600 square feet pushing the 2,200 lb boat. That's plenty of power. But the new sails themselves were not the total answer to my light air sailing woes. Here are other things I found really made a big difference.

1) Rig tuning...mast near plumb in up to 10 knot winds...loosen forestay to let jib luff sag too. 4-6" mast bend under backstay compression but plumb (straight) in light air (maybe 1" max). Tensions measurements for stays are stated in Part III and as a separate posting on this site too.

2) Most of the 210's power is in the Mainsail! Trim the main outhaul way out for downwind sailing...create a huge pocket in your main and loosen the luff as well...let it have wrinkles...make it big deep and powerful. Play with the boom vang tension ....just firm but not over tight down wind.

3) Spinnaker will make the 210 take off like a shot in light air. It will go fastest on a beam to broad reach in light air but will also go faster than other spin boats even "dead down" in light air. Set the pole perpendicular to the apparent wind...don't over tension the pole downhaul in light air..let the spinnaker luff "breathe". Dip the pole down a few degrees and you can sail up to 40 degrees apparent in light air...almost like a big genoa...and it's fast!

4) Going to windward in light air, I found I had the jib fairleads set too far aft. I now set them six (6) holes from the aft end of the track. That gives the jib more draft and power. DO NOT OVERTRIM...jib and main. You'll find the boat will go much much faster at 28-32 degrees apparent in light air. Gaining more power and speed, you will pass by boats then climb to windward of them. The boat will point higher, but by overtrimming the jib/main you will depower it!

5) Keep the main leech twisted and "breathing" easy in light air. Ease the mainsheet, let the forward section of it luff a little bit...put tell tales on each batten and make sure all four stream fully. If they do not, ease the main sheet until they do. If that's not working, your vang is too tight...loosen it to ease the leech. Ease backstay tension too! "LET THE BOAT GO" will!

6) In light air, ease the main halyard (I use a cunningham) to have a few wrinkles in the main luff up to about 4 knot winds. After 4 knots, gently tension the luff just until the wrinkles disappear. Same for the jib luff, let it be loose and even scalloped in light air (mine is a brass hanked on jib). Again only tension the jib luff enough to make scallops disappear as the wind increases. (I have a jib cunningham line led to cockpit for quick jib luff adjustments). Readjust jib luff when you change backstay tension...don't forget to do that!

7) In light air to windward, loosen the main outhaul quite a bit. I have at least 8-10 inches depth at the foot (distance from boom to foot of main at deepest draft point). But again, for it to draw right with this draft, you must sail the boat at 28-32 degrees apparent wind. DO NOT PINCH TO WINDWARD...except momentarily to gain position on a competitor.

8) Now, having fun, you see what you can do with this boat. You sail it like a day sailor. It's moving along briskly in just wee puffs of wind, gaining speed on the competition. Aha, there's a little puff...let the boat gather speed, steer it head to wind, power off to gain start zig zagging your way to the front of the fleet!   You can use this tactic to "shoot a windward mark"...but don't stall the boat. Better to tack.

9) Tacking is very important in light air! ROLL TACK the boat like it was a big Laser! Carefully and smoothly move crew weight to opposite/lee side in rythmn with the crossing boom and main. Trim the main first, then the jib. DO NOT OVERTRIM! Let the boat get moving then make final trim.

10) Now you can start playing the wave action. NEVER sail directly into a big power boat wake in light air. FALL OFF to let the waves "surf you" forward! Once past the wave, head back up on course. Use following boat wakes to PUSH you forward, to your advantage.

11) Put crew weight mid ships in cockpit, keeping out of the stern section of the cockpit. This will avoid stern drag. I sit to lee and steer with tiller extension while crew is at companionway with weight to lee. Lee heel keeps shape in your sails and gives the hull a better cut through the water.

12) HAVE A SLICK BOTTOM. I have VC-17 bottom painted each season and clean it every 3 months. I keep the boat in a wet slip. If you dry sail yours on trailer, bottom/keel should be fine. Otherwise, clean and repaint bottom and fair the possibly rusted iron keel! Your boat needs a slippery smooth bottom/keel/rudder to go in light air! Not as noticeable, it helps in strong wind too.

Question: We are debating gybing the spinnaker downwind to improve overall speed and see how that works out in a race with the next outing on the 5th Feb.

Answer: In light air I sail a bit higher angle to the wind and gybe more often to catch wind shifts. The polars posted on this web site tell the optimum angle to sail in various wind conditions. But still the boat will go fast near dead down even in light wind. Don't gybe too much as the maneuver will slow you down and likely take you over a longer course to the mark.

Question: I have also been experimenting with different keel settings (Swing keel version) No conclusions as yet.

Answer: LEAVE THE KEEL DOWN ALL THE TIME! Quit messing with the keel...let it be. I have a 3 foot fixed bulb keel on my 21.0 "Classic". It's faired slick. It's technically not as fast as the swing keel...but I still do quite well. My buddy here has a swing keel 210. We leave the keel down and find on all points of sail, it's just as fast as my boat. Think of this: When you crank the keel up, you transfer its weight astern causing stern drag and bow "slap". That will slow the boat down! And cranking the keel up and down, crew will be rocking the boat when you should simply concentrate on sailing it and race tactics...OKAY?

Question: The twin rudders are another area of exploration. I noticed that they were cavitating inboard and adjusted them to prevent this. Some cavitation is present but think this is inevitable due to the shape of the transom and resulting flows around the stern.

Answer: There should little or no NO CAVITATION from your twin rudders. My buddy's boat never does that. You can hardly hear the boat move through the water even at 4-6 knots. I notice a slight "humming sound" from my rudder in strong winds when the boat starts surfing (planing). That is normal. You may need to replace the nylon bushings on the gudgeons. Also, tighten the bolts holding the rudder in place as they may have vibrated loose. The deeper single rudder on my Classic seems to provide similar performance as my buddy's double ruddered 210, wind over 15 knots where the twin angled rudders and deep 6' swing keel keep his boat from sliding to lee as much as mine.

Question: I recently replaced the rigging. Just before Xmas we had a bit of a blow out here, 20 kts+, which is unusual for us and I broke the port side lower shroud. I was lucky not to loose the mast. Setting the new rig has been a hit and miss affair. I contacted Beneteau in France for advice on tensions and technique. Their reply was: "We have no information on this subject.". However we have set the mast up straight with a little pre-bend as before. Performance appears to be the same. I will try different tensions as we go and note the results.

Answer: Rig tuning and tension are very important on your boat. I experimented a great deal and believe I found the right settings. LoosTens measurements for my boat are in Part III of this posting. After much testing, I found the proper settings occur if you simply do EXACTLY as the Beneteau Owners Commissioning Manual suggests. It is posted on this web site too. The manual does not say how tight to set the forestay. Mine's 320 lbs without backstay tension and 700 with tension. That gives the jib depth in light air and flatness in heavy wind. Make sure the mast is straight with no bends to port or starboard, by sighting up bolt rope slot and measuring.


Title: Light Air Sailing Tips For F210
Model(s): First 210 
System(s): Racing & Handicap Rating 
Author: Terry F. Ellis 

updated May 12, 2004