Traveler theory

May 25, 2012
3,881
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
My good friends for many years on the SAIL TRIM FORUM - Stu & Joe from San Diego - have given the straight scoop on the traveler. I'll just add a piece I've outlined a million times on the forum and at sail trim seminars. ALL the traveler adjusts is the ANGLE OF ATTACK. It does not change the shape of the sail and has nothing to do with twist, draft depth or draft position.

You have to understand ANGLE OF ATTACK to understand the function of the traveler. Here's the example I use which doesn't describe angle of attack but explains how the traveler functions. Picture a screen door with a pin in the bottom corner that rides in a groove in the floor. Does the shape of the screen door change when you open and close the door? Obviously it doesn't and neither does the shape of the mainsail when you move the traveler. The shape doesn't change and here's how I use it to depower or increase the power of the boat. Say you're hit by a gust and the boat is starting to be over powered. You could use the mainsheet and if you don't have a traveler that's your option or you could use the boom vang to induce twist (spill air out of the top of the sail) but the easiest thing to do is don't touch those controls and merely drop the traveler. The boat will come back on it's feet and as soon as the gust passes you re set the traveler to it's original position and sail on your way.
i enjoyed reading this. all correct for some/most set ups on most vessels today.
with my beautiful, sitka spruce, 60's design, roller reefing boom i do not have a boom vang that attaches to the boom. i have a strap that goes over the boom and down to a pad eye on the deck using a block and tackle. hence i can and do use the different angles of attack by using the traveler to shape the sail when close hauled. with every change of the sheet the boom vang has to be readjusted. when close hauled it is easier the shape the sail with the angle of attack.
also, my dorades would be in the way if i were to convert to a modern boom vang setup. plus the boom is just too pretty to change change to more modern setup.
i never use the roller reefing, ever. if it's blowing that hard i just go jib and jigger :)
 
May 17, 2004
2,040
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Interesting approach to bring the boom to center but what happens if you need to sheet out the main in a BIG hurry? Is there not a strong possibility that the constrictor loop you have around the mainsheet might create a problem?
In a emergency situation just flip the mainsheet out of the cam and let it go. The boat will come back on it's feet. Skippers should think about what to do in emergency situations BEFORE they happen. During the situation is hardly the time to try to figure out what to do.

In the past in So Ca and Tucson/Phoenix I've been invited on boats at the request of the skipper to help them improve their sail trim. As I approach their boat the first thing I look at is the jib cars - most times they're rusted in place. Next, I try the outhaul. On a most C30's the outhaul is stuck in place and not operational. Within 60 seconds of stepping on the boat I have a good idea of why the skipper is not getting 100% efficiency from his boat. He's not only not using these controls but probably he's not using the others either mainly because he doesn't know what they're adjusting in the 1st place. The problem with the controls not being used is, like the broken clock, they are right for one point of sail and wind condition and wrong for all other.
 
Jan 19, 2010
10,232
Hobie 16 & Rhodes 22 Skeeter Charleston
.... While the traveller track may be strong enough, will the attachment points be strong enough? And what modifications to the cockpit structures will be necessary to make them strong enough.
@dlochner
I agree, that is a concern. I have been thinking about this traveler since I got the boat three years ago. @Crazy Dave Condon has warned me not to do it and has cited some epic fails for those who have tried. Dave cited some of the same concerns you mention. Here is what I have worked out in my head to disperse the loads. (see drawing) If you were floating in the water and looking through my transom the picture on the left would represent the main sheet setup I currently have. There is a U-bolt on the floor of the cockpit and the main-sheet attaches there and is led to a bail mid-boom. My idea for the Barton-like traveler would be to secure the traveler between the cockpit benches directly over the U-bolt and then transfer the load from the traveler to the U-bolt using turnbuckles. I'd need to have a quick disconnect snap shackle to make it convenient to remove. The drawing on the right is a crude representation of what I have in mind. I imagine screwing a T-track to a piece of oak made from laminated strips of oak (Lowes already sells the strips). The oak will be the backbone of my traveler. In the first iteration of this traveler, I probably won't worry about being able to adjust it under load. I'll set it during the tack and live with it or take the load off of the traveler if I want to adjust it... a cruiser's model. If it all works out the way I hope, I may then think of spending some more money to make it fancy.
1580917486564.png
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
In a emergency situation just flip the mainsheet out of the cam and let it go. The boat will come back on it's feet. Skippers should think about what to do in emergency situations BEFORE they happen. During the situation is hardly the time to try to figure out what to do.
I absolutely agree this is exactly what should be done if you need to rapidly ease the main My “concern” was with what appeared to be a constrictor knot around the mainsheet purchase. If the “loop” slows or snarls the release in an “emergency” bad stuff could happen. Perhaps a large loop soft shackle that would go around the mainsheet and be attached to the strap in the photo might be a safer alternative.
 
Jan 19, 2010
10,232
Hobie 16 & Rhodes 22 Skeeter Charleston
I absolutely agree this is exactly what should be done if you need to rapidly ease the main My “concern” was with what appeared to be a constrictor knot around the mainsheet purchase. If the “loop” slows or snarls the release in an “emergency” bad stuff could happen. Perhaps a large loop soft shackle that would go around the mainsheet and be attached to the strap in the photo might be a safer alternative.
As I mentioned above, that is my sail tie and it is not a constrictor knot. The loop is sewn so it cannot pull any tighter. I agree with your concern and a slip knot around the mainsheet would be a bad idea.

It is one of these...

1580919623747.png
 

RussC

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Sep 11, 2015
1,531
Merit 22- Oregon lakes
There is a U-bolt on the floor of the cockpit and the main-sheet attaches there and is led to a bail mid-boom. My idea for the Barton-like traveler would be to secure the traveler between the cockpit benches directly over the U-bolt and then transfer the load from the traveler to the U-bolt using turnbuckles.
Good thinking there @rgranger . if the oem u bolt was strong enough to begin with then it's certainly strong enough to hold the new arrangement. :thumbup:
 
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Jun 8, 2004
8,984
-na -NA Anywhere USA
In response to a traveler on either a Hunter 26/260, that is an individual choice as I do not think there is a need but others will disagree. Again I respect other opinions but also respect mine as well. It is the attachment of a traveler. First I am not a fan of a traveler going across the cockpit as Inverialbly a knee or leg will hit it plus could be uncomfortable sitting on it. The place I use to install one was in front of the companionway cockpit seat. Understand there is dead air space between the interior ceiling liner and deck, one would have to drill larger holes in ceiling liner to install washers and locking nuts. You can purchase tan/ beige cover caps that could cover up those holes and when drilling into the ceiling only cut so the cap will fit
 
Oct 26, 2008
5,049
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
@jimshipsky keep in mind that the location of the traveler track also makes a difference in how functional it is. Those towel-bar configurations have a very limited range because they are located on the stern. A track mounted on the coach roof has a much wider range of effectiveness because it is much closer to the gooseneck (the fulcrum). The most valuable purpose of that Cat 25 system is that it is possible to get your boom closest to the centerline even when you have a little twist set with the mainsheet. What you had on your old boat was actually worse than having a fixed point in the center for the mainsheet control. With a fixed point, you could at least get your boom nearer to centerline, even if you did have to draw it tight and eliminate twist. With your old system, without controls, it didn't matter how tight you made your mainsheet, the car was going to slide to leeward no matter what. You should have had a control on it, but lacking that, you would be better-off if you simply removed it, put a padeye on the centerline and used a vang for controlling twist.
 

AaronD

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Aug 10, 2014
546
Catalina 22 9874 Newberg, OR / Olympia, WA
Interesting concept. The concerns with after market installations like this traveller are the loads to which the traveller will be subjected and will it be strong enough to accept the continuous loads (sailing upwind in a good breeze) and the shock loads (an accidental gybe in a stiff breeze). While the traveller track may be strong enough, will the attachment points be strong enough? And what modifications to the cockpit structures will be necessary to make them strong enough.
@rgranger: Regarding shock loads on the traveler - @thinwater recommends using dynamic nylon line for traveler controls - he's mentioned it a couple times here at SBO, and has a fuller write-up at Dynamic Travelers.

The thinnest climbing line you can find is ~8mm / 5/16"; that might be about the right size for your H26 (if so, look for 'double' or 'twin' climbing rope at REI or similar climbing stores, or ask your local ice climbers for some retired line).

For my C-22, 8mm is a little too big, so I use 1/4" nylon double-braid. Not quite as stretchy as climbing line, but the closest I could find in 1/4" (I also carry a length of the same line for a preventer, although we rarely rig that). We haven't put it to the test too often with hard accidental jibes, but I can confirm that the shock-load of a jibe is much softer.

At least when I bought mine, I couldn't find thin nylon double-braid at normal boating sources, so I bought from a rigging supplier - CWC 1/4" Nylon Double Braid Rope - 2080 lbs Breaking Strength - #345015. It's pretty cheap, and the double-braid form has held up much better in UV than the solid-braid nylon you find at hardware stores. Recommended.
 
Mar 29, 2016
75
Cal 21 Sidney, ME
Thanks all, esp.Scott T-Bird. Now I see how the stock traveler on the Cat25 is very limited in what it can do, esp. compared to a coach-roof location. I have sailed aboard a South Coast 22 with a traveler added spanning the cockpit seats, about 16" aft of the companionway. It makes it very awkward for the person sitting forward to cross over. On the other hand, it would allow a solo sailor to operate it. I sailed on a Carter 33 with the traveler on the coach-roof. While this location greatly increases what the traveler can do, it also applies far greater uplift force on the traveler fasteners. The Carter traveler ripped out of the coachroof. We refastened it with 4 lengths of 1/2" threaded rod and big washers on the underside of the roof.
When I find my Cat25, I'll be exploring ways of attaching a traveler to the coachroof. I expect the pop-top feature will complicate this.
 
Feb 26, 2004
22,024
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
When I find my Cat25, I'll be exploring ways of attaching a traveler to the coachroof. I expect the pop-top feature will complicate this.
Jim,

One of the things "we" suggest to folks who buy new-to-them boats is: "Don't make any major changes until you try it for awhile." Most of us still have our "I'm gonna change this..." lists, a list of stuff that didn't happen because there was a perfectly good reason(s) for why things were the way they were.

And I would urge you to seriously discuss your plans on the C25 forum. They've BTDT, and would give you some specific experiences.

Good luck.
 
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Mar 26, 2011
2,968
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
...There is only 4 element that ALL the controls are adjusting and that is draft depth, draft position, twist and angle of attack....
So very nicely put.

There are more tools than we have covered in this thread (mast bend, mast rotation, prebend, forestay tension, outhaul, barber haulers, halyard tension and cuninghams, and more). Some interact in very complex ways, keeping sailing interesting for many years. But they all come back to those 4 factors.
 
Last edited:
May 17, 2004
2,040
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
So very nicely put.

There are more tools than we have covered in this thread (mast bend, mast rotation, prebend, forestay tension, outhaul, barber haulers, halyard tension and cuninghams, and more). Some interact in very complex ways, keeping sailing interesting for many years. But they all come back to those 4 factors.
Thinwater: Thank you for the comment. Yup, you're right you could spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how each sail trim control on the main and jib react with the "four elements of sail trim". Why waste your time doing the research when I've already done it for you. With each SAIL TRIM CHART I provide FREE a QUICK REFERENCE which outlines which sail trim control for the main and jib are used to adjust each of the elements. I also explain which way to push or pull them to get the effect you desire. So, with the time you saved just crack open a TINNEY (Aussie for beer) and before you finish the beer you'll know all you need to know. Additionally, it's not as complex as you might think it is - even though when i first got involve with how to sail a silly sailboat I thought I'd never get it.
 
Jan 1, 2006
6,185
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
I'd like to offer a different prospective on angle of attack - just to keep the conversation lively. I just spend two days on the pin boat of a Laser regatta here in Florida. The Laser doesn't have a traveler or a jib. It has two blocks on the transom and the sheet slides from side to side. The boom is never centered unless the sailor pulls it to windward. They still sail upwind with speed. Why? I think because the hull is easily driven and boatspeed provides a lift to sail in. So I think it's better for them to develop speed, use the foils to lever upwind and kenetics when boat on boat tactics are necessary. My Mark 25 fractionally rigged keel boat had a silly little traveler on the cabin top that didn't get the boom very much to weather and added a lot of friction to the whole main sheet system. I took the lines off - disabled it - and sailed the boat with a mainsheet to the cockpit sole and no traveler. The boat sailed much better. Why? I think the reason is that the large mainsail could push the boat upwind and to haul the main upwind would create heel and stall. Another example: The NonSuch's have a wishbone boom and no jib. The boom is never brought to weather more than the leeward rail. The luff is almost always bubbled for 2 ft' back from the mast yet the boat sails reasonable well to weather. Why?
In these examples the boats sail to weather without the boom being on the midline. Why?
 
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Feb 26, 2004
22,024
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
The NonSuch's have a wishbone boom and no jib. The boom is never brought to weather more than the leeward rail. The luff is almost always bubbled for 2 ft' back from the mast yet the boat sails reasonable well to weather. Why?
Wouldn't that be because it is cat rigged?
 
Apr 26, 2015
660
S2 26 Mid On Trailer
Having owned and raced a Catalina 25 SK for 20 years the towel rack traveler works fine "if" you have an 8:1 vang working against a boomkicker or a rigid vang (spring). It just requires a little finesse between the controls. As far as moving sheet location be very careful as the boom is designed for a certain placement of the sheet. If you want to figure basic bending loads on a boom this requires many calculations. Even though I'm an ME I didn't do this one time, and I have a scar on my forehead to prove it. Breaking a boom is not fun.

Also in response to the various sail controls and what they do, the above thoughts need a qualification on the type of boat and the mast type. A vang on a dinghy or even some larger boats, with a bendy mast, de-powers the sail with greater efficiency than just releasing the mainsheet. If you have ever wondered why some boats have 16:1 or 20:1 vangs on a 150 sq ft mainsail, it's not for leech control so much as to bend the mast and flatten the sail (de-power). I bring this up because even a 4:1 vang on a Macgregor can bend the mast and change the virtual luff length and flatten the sail.
 
May 17, 2004
3,549
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
I'd like to offer a different prospective on angle of attack - just to keep the conversation lively. I just spend two days on the pin boat of a Laser regatta here in Florida. The Laser doesn't have a traveler or a jib. It has two blocks on the transom and the sheet slides from side to side. The boom is never centered unless the sailor pulls it to windward. They still sail upwind with speed. Why? I think because the hull is easily driven and boatspeed provides a lift to sail in. So I think it's better for them to develop speed, use the foils to lever upwind and kenetics when boat on boat tactics are necessary. My Mark 25 fractionally rigged keel boat had a silly little traveler on the cabin top that didn't get the boom very much to weather and added a lot of friction to the whole main sheet system. I took the lines off - disabled it - and sailed the boat with a mainsheet to the cockpit sole and no traveler. The boat sailed much better. Why? I think the reason is that the large mainsail could push the boat upwind and to haul the main upwind would create heel and stall. Another example: The NonSuch's have a wishbone boom and no jib. The boom is never brought to weather more than the leeward rail. The luff is almost always bubbled for 2 ft' back from the mast yet the boat sails reasonable well to weather. Why?
In these examples the boats sail to weather without the boom being on the midline. Why?
The physics of sailing a cat rig like a Laser or Nonsuch aren’t the same as with the interaction of jib and main. The jib tends to put the main in a header, and the main tends to lift the jib. So a boat with a jib will generally need a higher boom position than one without. Boat speed also moves the apparent wind forward, not a lift, so it’s not the case that going faster means you can let the boom down lower. There’s a reason the very quick TP-52’s sometimes bring the boom above centerline - Main to the centerline?. Not doing that without a traveler.
 
Oct 19, 2017
7,028
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
i enjoyed reading this. all correct for some/most set ups on most vessels today.
I learned, as a lot of sailors did, on a dinghy. Sail adjustments are simplified or just not availible. My understanding of traveler function was limited because dinghy travelers are limited.

These simplified rigs take advantage of natural physical function. While the traveler may not help pull the boom to center, they set the sheet angle at what was regarded as an optimum angle for close reaching. With the wind ahead of the beam, cranking in on the sheet flattens the sail naturally, as the wind moves abaft, the new sheeting angle allows more belly to occur naturally.

The traveler on my Opti, was a simple chord across the transom and a pulley at the end of the sheet. As the boom was let outboard more, the sheet pulley moved with it. As you hauled the boom inboard, the shape of the traveler line gets pulled more upward and the sheet naturally moved towards the centerline. Not, of course, all the way to center. The harness style traveler favored by many small boats, like the laser, do this even better.

I usually favor simple over complex, but I also like more control. Lots of boats were originally designed and built with room for improvement, yet they sail like a work of art, never the less. What do you want out of sailing?

-Will (Dragonfly)