Mainsheet Track Horse

As built by the factory the HR 41 was lacking in its ability to control the boom for its mainsail.

The HR41s were built without tracks for the mainsheet off the main boom. Although most current boats have a traveler and track for the mainsheet, boats built in the 1970s often did not have such systems.

Both of our boats have been Swedish built and from the mid-1970s, and both boats were built without a track and traveler for the mainsheet. On the Maxi 95 there was a simple staple on the cockpit table, on the HR 41 there were 2 staples on the coaming behind the cockpit. Neither boat could conotrol the position of the main boom. Although the mainsail is the last sail to be put out on a ketch and the first to be put away we did want to have proper control over it. As it existed it was very susceptible to gybes, so much so that the previous owners had had permanent preventers fitted to the main boom. Solving this shortfall meant providing a mainsheet traveler and the track it would run on. As long as the aft companionway hatch hinged backwards from the cockpit it prevented placing a track across the coaming aft of the cockpit.

We had initially intended to install a horse over the aft end of the cockpit, in front of the mizzen mast and fit the track for the mainsheet traveler to this. Searching around for a welder who could both weld stainless to marine standards and understand the application turned out to be much harder than we anticipated. After some years looking we finally gave up as we were unable to find anyone local and didn’t want to move the boat a great distance to get the work done.

Solution 1

Given we couldn’t find a welder our alternative solution was to shape a piece of teak to the aft coaming and then mount the track to this. We made a profile of the deck (and no the curvature is not symmetrical) and then cut a piece of teak to this profile. The track has countersunk mounting holes drilled through it so all we had to do was drill these holes through the teak and aft cockpit coaming. We kept the track flat so the bolts at the outer ends were quite long, so long that we could not buy them commercially and had to have them fabricated from bolts and matching stainless studding which were welded together.

Solution 2

About the time we finished the teak installation for the mainsheet track we found a welder who worked locally and was both willing and capable to fabricate the horse for us. Even though we had 15 holes drilled through the GRP we decided to switch to the stainless steel horse option. It had been our preferred option from the outset. We had pictures of 2 sister boats that had made this alteration and it looked very clean. Advantages over the track mounted on the aft coaming include:

  • no moving parts are at deck level to trap fingers, hair, clothing, etc.
  • people can move back and forth, in and out of the cockpit without worrying about gybes, booms, etc.
  • installation of canvas for awnings etc. becomes easier

As far as providing a track for a mainsheet traveler there were 3 general approaches:

  • mount the track directly onto the GRP molding (what we had in fact already done)
  • fabricate what we called a “horse” – a structure that is raised above the deck but is not high enough to walk freely underneath
  • fabricate what we called an “arch” – a structure that is raised high enough above the deck to walk under

We had concerns about the first option with respect to fingers etc. being caught in the moving parts, and if we had gone to a arch then we would have had to raise either the aft end of the boom or the whole boom so that the end was high enough above the track to allow for the mainsheet blocks etc. This left us with the middle option – what we called a horse.

We had been looking around various boats of different manufacture and had a collection of pictures of different solutions. We wanted the operating lines lead down to the level of the wheel and found the solutions on the American made Hunter boats (known as Hunter Legend in Europe). Our initial design for the horse was (drawing is from the rear starboard side):

ip41_horse became

The functions for the horse were threefold:

  • provide an elevated support for the mainsheet traveler track
  • provide support for the cockpit cover
  • provide (removable) support for the bimini

Deciding the height for the horse was done using wood prototypes, for one winter we used wooden pieces to form a rough horse and support the cockpit cover from it (our cockpit cover had previously hung off the mizzen mast and the main backstays. The trade off for the horse height was higher meant more clearnace underneath and safety from fingers et. al. getting into the operation bits at the wrong time. On the other side lower meant there was less or no modification in recuting the sail (which left the sail larger rather than smaller), also the lower the horse the more room for the various blocks. We ended up deciding on a height of exactly 1 meter from the underside of the tubes to the cockpit coaming, this gave a height of 107 cm at the outer ends due to curvature of the cockpit coaming.

This height suited supporting the cockpit cover very well, in fact the wooden structure we built for the winter had been exactly that height. The wooden structure had been sized for the sole job of supporting the cockpit cover while the rig was down, the fact that we came to the same height when evaluating functionality for the running rigging gave us more confidence.

The support for the bimni is functionally connected with the sprayhood grabrail fittings (click here for details). Like the 3rd part of the sprayhood grabrail this bar would also be removable and then break into 2 pieces for storage when not in use. The bimini is described on another page (click here for details).

We wanted operating lines to be lead to cockpit level. For moving and securing the traveler we had a block at each end turn the line downwards, then a “mast exit” provided a hinged fitting that would swing side to side and had jammer cleats assembled with a block that turned the line horizontal again. The mainsheet system was made by EasyMatic from Denmark, it could be operated with a single sheeting line, a double sheeting line (giving twice the breaking strength and twice the speed in sheeting) or with a loop of line which could not come out of the system accidentally and allowed the user to reef on side alone or on both lines. These three lines (the mainsheet along with the two traveler sheets) were all reachable in the cockpit from the helming position.

The loads on this structure are quite high in the event of an accidental gybe, consequently the materials had to be sufficiently robust:

  • the feet are made out of 10 mm sheet
  • the tubing is made out of “thick wall” 1 7/8″ tubing
  • the feet are attached with 6 pieces of 10mm studding
  • below the GRP is a backing plates and M10 nuts
  • the plate at the top of the arch which holds the track for the traveler is 4 mm thick plate
  • the track is then fixed with 12 6mm bolts

All materials are in 316 stainless. Teak pads were laminated and then shaped to fill between the flat feet of the arch and the curved coaming surface. These have the added benefit of setting the stainless off against the lovely varnished teak.

And as it turned out, in the end we didn’t need to close out the aft companionway for the mainsheet track. But we are happier with it filled in and the horse above it.

As with the sprayhood grabrail, the arch immediately fit in, people instinctively used it for support when moving in or out of the cockpit. The cockpit cover hangs very well from it, the new cockpit cover can be made slightly larger due to the increased volume enclosed by the arch.

  • ???mainsheet traveler and track
  • EasyMatic EasySheet system
  • Barton roller bearing blocks
  • Harken mast exits

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