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Soft Shackle Untra-Lite Sheet

sails I wasn't sure which title would best suit this article. Options ranged from "Splicing Samson Ultra-lite," "Integrated Soft Shackle Light Air Sheet," "Soft Light Air Sheet," to "The Ultimate Sheet for Light Air Sailing." Perhaps, even "How I Went From Doing Pirouettes in Light Air to Nirvana" could work.

The truth is, it embodies all these titles. Most of the time I've owned Papoose, the boat would just sit there, usually turning and backing to the wind if the breeze fell below 5 knots. Now, equipped with a free flying light air jib, a spinnaker and light weight sheets that don't weigh down the clew, sailing in 5 knots of wind has become my favorite condition.

A significant part of this improvement is due to the sails. The jib, made of 155 rip-stop polyester, excels in winds below 10 knots. I launch it from a spinnaker bag and simply stuff it back in after use. It's light and easy to handle, but it's not much use if the clew is weighed down by a heavy sheet. Initially, I started with 1/4 inch Warpspeed sheets, but even they proved too heavy. Now, I'm using 3/16" Ultra-lite spliced to an integrated soft shackle. I typically use a single sheet, adding a second only if we have to tack or gybe.

Ultra-lite cannot be spliced, and I found that using knots not only reduces the strength by half but also prevents the knot from passing through the jib block if I use an Amsteel integrated line shackle on the end. That's when I got the idea to double the Ultra-lite over and sew it along the length of the overlap, leaving an eye at the end to splice the Amsteel through. This technique has been tested on my Spinnaker in 15 knots of wind. "Leave it up and let's see if it breaks," I said. It didn't. Now, I use this method exclusively with the spinnaker, as 15 knots is the take-down wind. I've used my spinnaker in up to 30 knots with heavy sheets but my sailmaker advises taking it down in high winds, suggesting there's no need for it then.

I used a SailRite zig-zag sering machine but you could do it by hand or have your sailmaker sew them. I did a couple of passes of tightly spaced zig-zags at maximum width. The walking feet on the SailRite grabs the cover perfectly making it an easy task. The overlap is about 9 inches with the first inch the eye and 8 inches of stitches. The Amsteel has a line shackle at the end. These attach to stopper knows that are permanently attached to the clew ring. You can find instructions on making both the line shackle and the stopper knot HERE. sails
In this picture you can see a close up of the line shackle attached to the stopper knot that is luggage tagged to the clew ring. The second small stopper knot is used for the second sheet if we are going to tack or gybe. I find that not only does just using a single sheet provide superior performance in light wind, it is easier to rig a spinnaker sheet correctly when the spinnaker is flying then when it is in the bag. sails
Here Bill is attaching the second sheet to prepare for a gybe as the wind shifts during our slip sailing. Line shackles and stopper knots can be secured easily unlike traditional soft shackles. As I like to say, you can attach a line shackle with just two hands. With soft shackles, it takes three. sails
Here is the clew with both sheets attached. The third stopper knot is for use with the Y-Sheet covered in last months article. It is larger as it is intended for heaver sheets and higher winds. sails
Bill is pulling on the small line that helps to open the line shackle. sails
With the loop open, it is a simple matter of passing the stopper knot through the loop. sails
Then snug up the line shackle and that is it. sails

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