By Jim Champ

There seem to be quite a few folk restoring old Cherubs these days, so I thought this would be useful.

Rudyard Kipling wrote

“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,

And every single one of them is right!”

Much the same applies to Cherub Spinnaker systems. What you're going to get offered here is substantially what I have on my vintage boat Queenie SJB, somewhat crossed with what I used on Halo, my Bistro, which was the very last Cherub to be built in the UK with a pole kite system.

This needs to be nine feet long and very substantial. Superspars used to do one that was basically two two/thirds of 505 poles sleeved together to make the extra length. I'm sure they could make one for you if you need one. There were also some really bullet proof ones made from two Needlepar topmasts sleeved together. I imagine either company could make one to order in the same manner. Even so the sleeving was sometimes prone to bend, as indeed it has on my Superspar.

I prefer, and writing this now advise a double ended system. I still think single ended systems are easier for beginners at Cherubs, but I'm finding that without other people to learn the tips and wrinkles folk who are just getting into sailing a pole kite Cherub have a lot of trouble setting it up. You tend to need a stronger pole for double ended systems though, but almost everyone used to break at least one until they got one of the good ones as noted above.

End fittings on the pole need to be very good. Ideally you should be able to just push the pole on from both top and front. I like the Ronstan RF2569, but I have broken them too. You need a reasonably substantial trip line between the two end fittings to release them remotely, not just thin twine. In the middle I use a keyhole system, with just a bullseye fairlead. A solid fitting for the keyhole is best, something similar to a RWO R4282, but just a rope loop works OK for me for casual sailing. Whether you have a rope loop or a keyhole fitting it needs to go inside the trip line, because the trip line also serves to keep the uphaul/downhaul on the pole and indeed the pole attached to the boat.

The mast fitting must be stainless steel and strong. Plastic ones will bend and break. Locate it exactly opposite the gooseneck fitting, not higher up like most boats. If you put the fitting high up on the mast the compression loads from the pole will put an S-bend in the mast, which not only turns the mainsail a horrible shape but also trebles the risk of losing the mast in a pitchpole! Down at the gooseneck its stabilised by the lower shrouds (you must have lower shrouds!) and the rig works much better.

The spinnaker halyard is the only one you really need in a Cherub. It needs to be as low friction as possible, which really means a thin rope. Sorry! With no other halyards in the mast you know it won't get tangled up. The hoist height depends on the shape of your sail, but I think we used to set them too high. With asymmettrics we've learned that there isn't that much difference in having the sail closer to the water, especially as you get less heeling moment with the sail lower. Basically the halyard needs to be high enough that the sail doesn't drag in the water when the wind drops - about luff length above the deck is probably about right.

This is where you get most variation. I now prefer the downhaul to come back to as close to the mast as possible, and use vectran or something similarly low stretch. It needs to have a two to one purchase to a cleat on the back of the daggerboard case where the helm can lean down and adjust it. The uphaul should go well up the mast - about the spreaders is good. A height adjustment on the mast is useful, but not essential. I don't bother now. It doesn't need a purchase because you won't often adjust it sailing. People used to use all sorts of arrangements with shockcord and so on to pull the pole forward, but with a bit of practice you really don't need to bother. I've even stopped using some elastic to take up the slack on the downhaul when the pole is stored, although its not a bad idea.

The sheet must be very low stretch. Buy good ones. If the guy stretches on a tight reach and the pole goes round the forestay it will break. With four feet or so of pole beyond the forestay it has lots of leverage.

The sheets should go round a turning block about halfway down the cockpit. Usually opposite the mainsheet between helm and crew. From there I always found the best layout was to run them forward along the topsides, through a block in the topside face and with a cleat inside. This is impossible unless you have either short sidetanks or else a special cut out in the sidetank for the sheet - a feature you'll see on a lot of 1980s boats. If you can't run it forward through the topsides it needs to be run to somewhere where you can put another turning block and a cleat. The cleat is a pretty much essential on a pole kite system because you have to adjust the guy as well, and because the sheets are more likely to be washed over the side - or worse still down the bow and under the stem.

You need a reaching hook (Ronstan RF91, accept no weaker substitute!) as far forward as you can readily reach - probably level with the mast. You also need a cleat there, positioned so that you can cleat the guy on or off the trapeze. These are the highest loaded fittings on the entire boat and need to be spectacularly strong. Plastic will disintegrate. You will probably want a sheet catcher on the stem, because its even easier to lose the sheets without a bowsprit to catch them. Rubber hose in a loop screwed each side works nicely.

The pole is always stored on the boom. To make a bracket to support it get a piece of sailbatten or something similar about a foot long. Drill a hole in each end, aand then screw it to the boom in the middle so it sticks out each side. Tie a piece of line from the hole in each end up to the special eye on the mainsail you always wondered about (if the sail was cut by a Cherub sailmaker) or failing that to the bottom batten pocket. When you stow the pole you slide it along the sail through the rope loop and it rests on the sail batten.

At the front end you can have a couple of stainless eyes like the one on the mast, or else a little loop of rope. Either way you put the pole end fitting in this to keep the pole stowed neatly.

Get the boat on a very broad reach, but not quite a run. Put the pole out first. Hook the guy on the pole and push it out, taking the sheet with you. Have the guy in the reaching hook and cleated at the “not quite touching the forestay” mark that you absolutely must have on the guy. Once you have the pole well on the way to clipped on the helm can start pulling up the halyard, but you must get the pole on before the sail is halfway up. If it fills before you get the pole on then you won't get the pole on! You'll find that if you push the pole right out to the tack when you hoist it will stay there, there's no need to hook it up to the sail or anything like that. Hook on the trapeze as soon as you've got the kite up ready to fill, and point up very gently - the power and apparent wind will come rushing in and if you aren't careful you'll get blown over.

Once the sail is up handling isn't that different from the crews point of view, but this is a Cherub. You will have loads of apparent wind and inb a breeze you will normally sail all reaches with the pole two inches from the jib luff. The helm should sail the boat as they would for an asymmetric class, the techniques are all the same. All the books will tell you that its a good idea to keep the luff and leech the same height. This isn't true in a Cherub - the pole is so long compared to the foot that when set on a reach the clew will be appreciably lower than the tack, so forget about that!

In a serious breeze you will probably want to gybe downwind like an asymmetric boat. Pull the pole back a moderate amount from the forestay - say about 30 degrees and pick your point for the gybe. Running dead downwind in a breeze, even with the kite, is not a great experience. Light winds are the only time when you sail the boat like any other conventional kite boat, except that with the long pole you can get an incredible amount of kite out from behind the jib.

Frankly this is why we changed to bowsprit kites. See this picture! Get off the trapeze onto the fastest reach you can still keep the boat flat on, cleat the current guy with the sheet cleat and the pole fairly well aft, and unclip it from the reaching hook. Go into the gybe fast with as much speed as possible, get the boom across as soon as possible, but gybe onto a very broad reach. Clip the new guy in the reaching hook and cleat at the mark, get forward, take the pole off the mast, trip the old guy with the line, switch the rope loop/keyhole fitting on the downhaul to the other side of the fairlead, put the new guy into the end fitting and push the pole out again. Avoid pitchpoling while doing this (the helm may have to be hanging off the transom). Power the boat up gently (apparent wind will come rushing in) get out on the wire, and congratulate yourself on completing what was probably the most difficult manouver in dinghy sailing prior to the introduction of the Axeman narrow Moths!

You may do a bit of swimming while you get used to this. We all did! There is more on this in the downwind section of the heavy weather sailing article. Basically it comes down to picking your moment for the gybe, getting into the gybe with enough speed on, and not coming out of it too fast or too high.

Power down as for a gybe and its usually easier if the helm pulls the retrieve in. When its about half way down the crew gets the pole off the mast and stows. Leave the sheet in the pole fitting until the pole is on the boom, it reduces the risk of dropping it over the bow. Tidy up the sheets as quickly as possible and head upwind again.

  • history/pole_kites.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/12/09 19:21
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