by Ken Seider
Mainsheet, Spring 1983 issue
The Capri 25 is the first keelboat from a line of fast one-designs built by Capri Sailboats. The idea of a high-performance boat that is bigger than a dinghy, yet is still trailerable and can be lifted out on most yacht club hoists, became a reality in early 1980. I began sailing one in July of that year, with the plan to race in the M.O.R.C. International Regatta in August.
My crew and I barely had enough time to get the boat checked out before the regatta, but as luck would have it we were able to make it to Milwaukee for the big one. Since then, we’ve been doing a lot of Southern California racing, and learning a lot about the boat.
Here are a few tips on tuning and sailing that I am happy to share with other owners.
Hull preparation is the first place to start when preparing the boat to race. If the boat is kept on a trailer and "dry sailed," the task of working on the bottom is easier. I believe a bare hull (no bottom paint) must be wet sanded with a very fine (600) wet-dry sand-paper, below the waterline. A waxed hull is shiny and pretty, but not very fast. If the boat is kept in the water, then a good bottom paint, carefully applied, will be needed. It will also be necessary to wet-sand the bottom paint with a very fine (600) sandpaper, again, to have a proper racing finish. The next important surfaces are the keel and rudder. These must be smooth and fair (using a fairing batten or straight edge to check for hollows or bumps), filling with "bondo" or "micro-balloons" as needed. Remember, the extra work under the boat now will pay off in the trophy room later.
Single spreader, masthead rigs are easy to tune. The mast extrusion used on the Capri 25 is flexible enough to allow for a variety of adjustments. The first step in tuning the mast is insuring that it has between 12" – 15" of aft mast rake. This measurement is taken by using the main halyard with a weight attached to the end of it (a winch handle will do). Then measure from the aft side of the mast, at boom level, to the main halyard. Twelve inches should be fine if the boat is being raced with good winds (12 – 18 knots true) and fairly smooth water. In light winds, a greater mast rake is needed. About 15" seems to work best.
Once the rake is set, the next step is to make sure the mast is centered from side to side using the main halyard to reach the base of a stanchion on one side of the boat. Cleat it off so it doesn’t move or slip, then check the other side to see if it matches. If so, your mast is centered. If it isn’t, then make the necessary adjustments until both sides are even.
Shrouds should now be tightened to keep the top of the mast from bending from side to side. One key item when adjusting shroud tension is to increase the tension on each side a little at a time so that the mast is kept in "column." You should be able to sight up the mast (aft side) from boom level and see a straight line. A little aft bend is all there should be.
The next step is to set up how much the middle of the mast bends. This is controlled by the forward and aft lowers along with the backstay. If you were to tighten the backstay without any tension on the aft lower shrouds, the first part of the tension would be transmitted to the forestay and straighten it. But as a point, the tension no longer goes into keeping the forestay tight; instead, it starts to press the masthead down towards the deck. This is "compression loading," which happens to all rigs to some extent. Because the mast section is "bendy", it will bow forward in the middle, as much as 8" – 10". This is fine if you have a really full sail and need to flatten it, but I like a medium-full sail with lots of power to get the boat moving and pointing. Therefore, I tighten my aft lower shrouds as tight as I can, and then put just enough tension on the forward lowers to keep them snug so the mast doesn’t "pump" in a seaway. The tension on the aft lowers keeps the middle of the mast from bending too far. Three to five inches of bend when the backstay is applied is good. Also, by preventing the mast from bending too much in the middle, the rig tension is transferred back into the forestay, where the tighter it is, the better pointing you will obtain.
Now, with the mast and rigging tuned, let’s look at the deck layout and cockpit area. One of the great things about the Capri 25 is that all of the control lines are lead aft to the cockpit in an orderly fashion. I like my control lines in the following order: On the starboard side going from outside to inside, the foreguy is led along the side of the deck coming aft. Then, on the top of the cabin, is the topping lift, then the starboard jib halyard, then the main halyard. On the port side of the cabin top (outside to inside), spinnaker halyard, port jib halyard, and cunningham. This way6, my foredeck crew can set the spinnaker pole on the mast and come back to raise the pole with topping lift and foreguy right together and keep on the high side of the boat (assuming a port mark rounding). The one crew that works the jib sheet can be on the low side to keep trimming as needed until the spinnaker is set. On the set, he can cleat the jib off, hoist the spinnaker halyard quickly, and trim the chute. Meanwhile, the foredeck crew uncleats the starboard jib halyard (the one I use 90% of the time) and gathers in the jib on the foredeck. This set-up has always worked well for us. Make sure all the control lines are marked to avoid mistakes. In the cockpit the only change I made was to raise the main traveler onto a piece of teak (about 2"). This keeps the traveler control lines from jamming in between the traveler and the ridges on the cockpit seat hatches.
In 12 knots or more I sail with a total crew of five people (helmsman included). Four in lighter air is fine. I have found that in about 12 knots a flat reef in the main is necessary to flatten the main and a lot of backstay tension is required to keep the big 155% genoa up. Any more wind and I change to a number two genoa (130%). With a crew of five, you can generally use this sail and a flattened main up to 18 knots true. Above that, you’ll want a smaller jib or put a reef in the main.
In smooth water, the boat points very high and will perform in a 8 – 12 knot range better than most of the competition. When the water gets choppy and the winds pick up, it is important to keep the boat "driving" and not pinch too much, or she will stall and go very slow.
Downwind sailing is a real blast on this boat. In light air the masthead spinnaker will keep the boat moving when other boats usually aren’t. If the wind really picks up, the boat surfs well in waves or will practically get onto a "plane" in smooth water. The fastest speed I have experienced on my boat was 13 knots, according to a relatively accurate knotmeter, in a 25 –30 knot spinnaker run with four to six foot seas!
The Capri 25 is an exciting boat and can outperform a lot of boats it’s size or larger in light wind. In medium to strong winds, it’s a lot of fun, but the other boats are moving wee, too, so it’s a real battle to stay in front. When you do, it’s a great thrill!