The Mainsheet Traveler Demystified

Rigging the Traveler

In most sailing classes, even the Bareboat Charter class, there is very little emphasis put on the Traveler. The traveler is one of my favorite parts of the rigging. When cruising you can use it to make life comfortable for everyone on board. When racing, it is crucial to understand your set up and how the traveler plays into the sail plan. For most boats, here are some tips to using your traveler and your mainsheet for upwind sailing.

  • With the traveler set to center, adjust the mainsheet so that the top batten of your sail is pointed straight back, not hooked to windward.
  • Move the traveler up to center the boom in the cockpit. In lighter air, this will likely be above centerline.
  • As breeze builds, the twist will increase, so to maintain power and keep the same sail shape, you may have to tighten the mainsheet.
  • When the wind is puffy, you can play the traveler down in the puffs and back up to maintain the same sail shape but temporarily depower the sail.
  • If the wind is building steadily, you can drop the mainsheet down to increase twist and then travel up to maintain power down low on the sail.
  • If you’re cruising, you can find a nice average setting with good sail shape that keeps your crew happy but the boat moving well.

For your given rig and sail plan, you may find that you play the mainsheet more than the traveler or vice versa. It’s always good to talk to your sail maker about what they recommend, but these tips should get you started.

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