How to Win in a Lightning
This tuning guide was written to help you get the most performance out of your Lightning. Shore Sails has been involved with the Lightning class for over 25 years. Our sails have claimed 4 World Championships and 10 North American Championships. Shore's commitment to the class and to its sailors sets us apart from our competition. By following this guide, we believe that your Lightning sailing will be simpler, you'll be more successful, and most of all, you will have more fun.
The measurements and the settings included in this guide are ones that we have found to be the fastest for the Lightning. We would like to remind you that this is just a guide, not the law. Since crew, wind and sailing conditions vary, you may find that slightly different settings are best for you. We suggest you try our recommendations and modify them to settings that you feel work for your boat and crew.
After Stepping the Mast
Mast Butt Placement
Mast butt placement for some of the other Lightning builders.
Now your rig is set up in the neutral position.
Some Allen boats may vary. Therefore, a rake measurement is needed to determine the proper headstay length. The rake is determined by running a tape up the main halyard to the top and measuring to the top center of the transom. Moderate tension should be put on the tape in order to take the slack out of the headstay. This measurement should be 26'3".
Fine Tuning the Rig
First, block the mast to 7/8" and measure the shroud tensions. The tension of the uppers should have dropped slightly and the tension of the lowers should have increased to about 250 lbs. No adjustment is needed for this setting.
Next, block the mast to 1 1/4". The tension of the uppers should have dropped slightly from the last setting and the tension of the lowers should have increased substantially. Count the number of turns that it takes to get the tension of the lowers back to 250 lbs. Record this number in the chart below so that you can duplicate it out on the water.
Finally, block the mast to 1 1/2". The tension of the uppers should continue to drop. The tension of the lowers will again increase substantially. Count the number of turns it takes to get the tension of the lowers back to 200 lbs. Record this number below.
Mast Pre-Bend and Lower Shroud Tension
In light air, the jib is trimmed so the leech telltale is streaming 90-100% of the time and curling behind the sail less than 10% of the time.
Note: our A.P. Jib is generally easy to trim but in light and spotty conditions, as with all jibs, it requires constant trimming to keep the leech telltale streaming. In this condition, the top batten should be anywhere between the tip of the spreader and 4" outboard. You'll find the lighter it gets the further outboard you will need to go to keep the leech telltale streaming. This will keep you powered up and going fast!
In medium air, the leech telltale should be streaming 85% of the time and the top batten should be a maximum of 4" inboard of the spreader tip.
In heavy air, the top batten should be outside the spreader tip except for the lulls. As the wind increases over 20 mph, the top batten should get further and further from the spreader-up to 4"-and the leech telltale should be streaming 90-100% of the time.
Jib Lead Position
Note: We have found it fast to have the top telltale break just before the other telltales.
Jib Cloth/Jib Cunningham
Note: The more the boom is off center, the easier the boat will be to steer but your pointing ability will suffer.
Bridle height (from the deck) should be set for the desired main leech tension. The objective is to get the mainsheet between 1" and 1/2" from being two blocked, at a desired sail trim. This extra sheeting capability will allow the main to be over trimmed at critical times.
Another sail trim indicator is the top telltale located at the end of the top batten. In light air the top telltale should stall about 40% of the time, and in medium air it should stall a maximum of 60%. In breeze above 16 mph, the top telltale should be streaming most of the time because the backstay has most likely been pulled on to depower the main.
The backstay tensions the headstay/jibwire when it is pulled on. In heavy winds, a tight headstay is desirable because it will flatten the jib making a faster heavy air shape.
Outhaul The Shore A.P. Mainsail is designed vertically-straight so the outhaul has more effect over the shape of the entire sail. In most conditions, the outhaul is adjusted so that the shelf foot is just taken out while going upwind. In light air, the bottom half of the sail should be flat (which is why we put in so much prebend). This keeps the jib slot open and reduces backwind. In medium breeze, ease the outhaul slightly if you are looking for more power. As the wind increases, pull the outhaul towards the end of the boom but be aware. Because of the design of the sail, it is possible to over-tighten the outhaul.
To make the most of your down wind legs, remember to power-up your sails. To remind yourself, practice this phrase-"centerboard, cunningham, backstay, outhaul, boomvang." Change or ease these adjust these adjustments appropriately.
By reminding yourself of these settings, you will be conscious of them. As a general rule of thumb, the vang setting should allow the top batten to be parallel to the boom when sailing downwind in most conditions.
The Shore Sails Lightning Team is confident that with your new set of Shore sails and these tuning suggestions, you will find new speed! If you have questions, please contact us by phone or e-mail. We are happy to talk about Lightning sailing any time.
Good Luck and Happy Sailing!
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