These suggestions were taken from the 320 and Catalina mailing lists. Those that are from the Catalina list may be of a more general nature (not 320 specific), but should also be helpful. I have tried to get permissions from authors of items I took from the Catalina list. If you have more information you would like to have included feel free to comment.

Contributed by: Linda Loux


Sailing downwind

I’ll put in my two bits on what I know about downwind sailing on a C320 and other boats I race on. (I happen to be Linda Loux’s boat boy in C320 #137, Fleet 5)

The key is VMG (Velocity Made Good) to the mark (or arrive at the place you wish to get to as fast as you can, with the minimal distance you need to get there and the maximum boat speed you can get out of the boat). I’ve never seen a polar chart on a C320, that basically shows you what’s the boat’s performance on all angles of the wind. Polar charts show boat speed on all angles of wind with a specific sail plan. Most boat polar charts do not account for spinnakers.


Let’s assume you have a 135 or 150% jib sailing off the wind.
For Light air conditions (In conditions up to 8 knots):If your VMG goal is not DDW to the mark then I suggest you sail off the wind at 160-170 degrees apparent and have the crew sit to leeward. Stack 1 or 2 bodies (crew) forward of the shrouds and pack the rest of the crew aft on the leeward rail. The reason for this is to get more wetted surface (hopefully the bottom is clean). Therefore, the boat can track better and get more lift (instead of drag). Having the crew forward keeps the bow down to help plow through the waves.


Also in light air, you want to bag the main by total release of the main cunningham (if your boat has one), slack the main outhaul and have your pit guy drop several inches of the main halyard. The headsail can be made fuller by releasing the backstay tension so the mast is projected forward as much as possible. Drop several inches off the headsail halyard and also use the vang to keep the boom parallel to the boat deck. Move the jib cars forward. Moving the jib cars forward will put tension on the leach downwards so the jib leach doesn’t bleed wind of the top so you can keep the jib full. The number one rule is sail loose and fat when offwind and keep the sails projecting forward and full as much as possible. Of course, if your not in hurry to get where you want, then DDW (wing-on-wing) sailing is fun but again, if you’re racing, getting to the leeward mark is the mission and it may not be a DDW course.


I do not recommend toying with the shrouds. No reason to do this when you sail all points of wind and you could lose a mast (which is a no-no). Have a knowledgeable sail loft guy (or a 90’s gal) or the people that commissioned you boat tune your rig –then they are liable for their screw-ups. In all of the boats I’ve raced, we never toyed with the shrouds for different points of sail. Done other things– like rake the mast, remove ballast, take off unessential equipment below, (seat cushions, anchors, etc) used freeze dried food, very little water, no showers for long distance racing, and just enough fuel to dock with–just depends on the rules enforced in the race. But again, we’re talking about C320s so I don’t think we’re going to do these things. Linda (the C320 boat owner I happen to have as a partner) would keel haul me if I so much as take the blender on the boat.


Wind conditions to 8-30 knots:You still don’t need to adjust outhauls, backstay adjusters (unless you want to stop the mast from pumping in large waves then you apply a little backstay) but you do want to bear off during the puffs then sail up in the lulls to get maximum boat speed. Of course, if the wind is consistent then bearing off is not totally necessary and you may oversteer to where you are sailing by the lee–or beyond, then shit happens like leeward broaches. It’s a good thing that C320s don’t have running backs for this problem or you may have a mast in the water. Also, Linda’s blender would be rolling on the cabin sole and I would be in big trouble. I’d never step on her boat again, let alone get another blended margarita. In these wind conditions you want to move people aft.


When the wind gets over 15kn move some people to the center line of the boat and a few hiking off the windward rail, aft of the shrouds. You’re the skipper, and you should know the boat’s balance, at least by the rudder tension, so adjust the crew around the boat accordingly. More rudder angle causes water vortex or drag on the rudder and drag slows the boat down. Always try to keep some weather helm at least 5 degree off center as best as possible. You can oversteer the boat but recover fairly easily with some weather helm while sailing offwind.

Other indicators of wind speed:You may see yourself getting lifted, most likely your getting more true wind speed. Bear down until you see boat speed drop, then come up to get back your boat speed. I’ve also seen these conditions on racing ultra-lights because the boat causes it’s own apparent wind but I can’t see this happening on a C320. So if you can, get a wind instrument to help in the decision making — unless you have Dennis Conner type of sailing ability, which I don’t.

Wind over 30 knots:Find the nearest marina, put the boat to bed, and find the first bar that serves hot totties.

Enough said.

George Fogg
“Jazz” C320 #137

Sailing upwind

I do think that the 320 is a fairly fast boat especially as it relates to its phrf. Upwind performance will never be its’ strength, but it can be made to perform well. We try to sail the boat relatively flat upwind. It seems to like about 12 degrees as a max for good speed. When the wind increases we flatten the main with a cunningham and ease the traveler. The jib cars are moved aft and the backstay is tensioned to flatten the jib and twist the top of the main as much as possible.


To increase pointing ability we have removed the stock roller furling and use a tuff luff. We also have UK tape drive technora headsails that I feel hold great shape over a wide wind range and can be trimmed very flat for excellent pointing in heavy air. Lastly, we take advantage of our boats’ speed upwind by being anti-pinch. We almost never are in pinch mode unless tactics dictate it or the wind is howling. We find that most boats with ratings similar to ours can not match our boat speed and we will give up a degree or two for the ability to out foot the competition. This has routinely paid off by allowing us to sail in clean air and thus open up lanes for us to play wind shifts.


I use a cunnignham often and to great advantage- especially when changing from upwind legs to downwind legs, or vice-versa.


I have a backstay adjuster but find that in anything under 15 knots the boat goes faster and points as well with it loose. I use it for depowering when wind gets up to around 18 knots. Results will vary depending upon how tight you have the other shrouds and the forestay, as well as with the cuts of your sails. Experiment!


I wonder if you have installed a flattening reef in the leech just above the clew. I’ve heard that this will help relieve “boom droop” and fullness in the bottom quarter of the sail when in a blow and more flattening is required. Maybe with a cunningham and outhaul adjusted properly this is not required. In my reading, it says that the two most important guides for trimming the main are to keep the boom on the centerline of the boat and the top batten parallel to the boom. At this point (it says), the leech telltale should flow and if it doesn’t, you should twist the sail off more by easing the sheet and pulling the traveler further to windward. Does this make sense in the 320?


In any event, I have gone from using only the traveler to depower to flattening both main and jib and using the car adjuster and have seen a remarkable change in pointing ability and speed. As Ross says, tactics and psychology are fun and important in racing but sail trim is EVERYTHING. See you next week!


We used a UK gold tape drive 155 which worked great. Used the Cataline furling 135 for our #2 and also did great with it. We had no problems winning with the stock Catalina Main- but its shape isn’t great- the loose footed UK is recommended by most.

I use the Martec folding two blade- works fine.


I have installed a cunningham and a backstay adjuster and recommend both.


Generally, we got the most speed by leaving things pretty loose- even up to 15 knots. We targeted 7.0 knots as our desired speed, and played with trim until we got it. With the fin keel, we pointed well, even when holding the 7.0 knot target speed. We won consistently, ocean racing with a 150 PHRF. We didn’t do drastic things like remove weight, etc.


Contributor unknown
Equipment and crew weight

I sail my 320 on Lake Ontario which during the summer months usually has fairly light winds. We struggled with our down wind performance for two years making marginal improvements over those. This year has seen a tremendous improvement. We put a two blade GORI on this spring and saw a huge difference in speed. We not only stayed with the fleet but in many instances pulled away. We also purchased a 2oz. mylar for those light days which has won us many a race, up and down wind.


Some other things you should consider is crew weight. In light air off the wind have the crew forward, about amidships. This get the stern out of the water a little and reduces the wetted surface since there is a lot of it aft. Putting the bow down a little does not hurt as much as the stern down. In the heavy air it’s certainly better to have the weight back. Run the rig a little looser. You want about a two to three inch deflection in the shrouds. Add a two inch tang to the fore stay to move some of the effort back. This improves your upwind performance and with the back stay off puts a nice sag in the fore stay. Don’t broad reach deeper than 120 deg. Beyond this your just covering the fore sail. If you have to go further down, fly the head sail by the lee with you pole forward.


These are just a few things we have found to be affective and we have seen a remarkable improvement in boat speed. In the last year she’s gone from a light air slug to a light air demon.


I can’t stress enough the improvement from the prop. If that’s all you do it will be the best money you’ve spent.


Simon Beacock
“Thumper 2” C320 #342

Backstay adjuster

I Installed two pad eyes near the backstay tangs and attached my backstay adjuster to the pad eyes. I don’t have a Bimini.


When racing, we have been continuously amazed that we almost always increase speed by loosening the backstay adjuster. We use it only for depowering by flattenning sails in over 20 knots. Yes, our forestay has a big curve in it when the adjuster is loose, but with the fin keel, we point very well anyway.

Amante” C320 #392


From Alec Blanc (UK): FIGMENT ll #212
Ocean Village, Southampton

“The backstay adjuster came about after we entered FIGMENT in the 1997 Fastnet Race. We had just spent £3000 odd on a new suit of sails from UKSails and were looking at everything possible to speed up the boat before the race. When we race we strip off the roller reefing drum and it was very obvious that we needed to do something to tension up the forestay.


My first idea was merely to put a pulley system on one of the legs of the backstay but after I had discussed it with the Hamble riggers they pointed out that if something went wrong I would loose the backstay and probably the mast so it was back to the drawing board! We eventually found the solution in the 1996 Harken catalogue on page 202 – I assume you can get a copy – they have branches all over North America.


The narration says ” System 3 . This is the typical backstay adjuster. Two 304 or 308 wire blocks ride on the legs of the backstay and secure to a 321 or 322 split backstay tang plate. A 4:1 tackle using a 028 and 038 pulls the wire blocks down the backstay, pinching the legs together. The pinching provides mechanical advantage, but it decreases as the tackle is lowered on the legs.” The numbers are the Harken part numbers – I used the larger bits ie 308 and 322 as I wasn’t too sure about breaking strain calculations. You will also need about 30 feet of line for the pulley and a bail to attach to the transom. I offset the installation to fit beside the port backstay to clear the boarding ladder. The total cost was less than £200.


The interesting part is fitting it. I am very fortunate to have a brilliant crewman Ralph. Ralph is doing a Masters in Ship Sciences at Southampton University and checked out my breaking strain sums. Ralph is also a brilliant sailor – he was once Britain’s youngest YachtMaster – he passed his practical three days after his eighteenth birthday. Anyway Ralph thinks he is related to a monkey and shoots up and down the mast and rigging and swings from halyards which a way which absolutely terrifies me. By slackening off all the stays and with Ralph dangling at the back stay split we were able to fit it all together without too much hassle. Lesser mortals might fit it when the mast is down for the winter.

It certainly made a difference going up wind and if I get another 320 – which is just about on the cards – I would definitely fit it again.”

Clean bottom and adjust the mainsail

I think most people on this list will agree that the C320 is an excellent performing and handling boat in a wide variety of conditions. However, you have discovered two important characteristics.


First, the C320 design, specifically the hull shape, is quite fast for a medium weight boat. But it is important to keep the bottom clean to get the full performance. I noticed on a couple of occasions that I had lost more than a half knot of motoring performance when the bottom had a bit too much slime on it. The sailing also became more sluggish, with lower speed, slower acceleration in a puff, and more heel. We are not talking major deposits here, just a thin layer of green. The solution is simple; just scrub the reachable parts of the hull once a month or so. Or some folks hire a diver to scrub the bottom on a regular basis.


Second, the C320 carries a good size mainsail. When the wind picks up it is important to flatten the main with tension on the luff and foot. It is also typical to need to drop the traveler a bit. This both reduces heel and increases speed. Don’t worry if the mainsail starts to look “s-shaped”. As long as the sail is not flogging it is OK to drop the traveler to ease heel and weather helm.


On the wide hulled boats like the Cxxx (270, 320, 400, 470) the weather helm comes largely from the heeled hull shape, not directly from pressure on the mainsail. I have encountered significant weather helm in high wind conditions with just a jib and no main at all. (I don’t recommend this sort of unbalanced sailing in general.)


A quarter of a turn on the wheel is on the high side, but not grossly excessive. It is typically stated that any boat handles best with 3 to 5 degrees of rudder when close hauled. This is probably more like one sixth of a turn on the wheel (one spoke), but not really that far from a quarter turn.


I always recommend a deep fin keel when sailing location permits, but the wing keel is very nearly as good. Certainly the issues of a clean hull and correct sail trim *far* outweigh any difference in the keel.


Gene Fuller
“Yorkshire Rose” C400 #124
(Owned C320 #106 for 4 years)


More on mainsail trim

I’m no expert but I’ll toss in my two-bits worth of what I know and observed about C320s.

Mainly, a Cunningham is used to move the draft forward in a sail but on the Catalina mainsail? Well, I found that it’s a different story.

To start out with, I noticed that all the C320 I have seen cannot get a full hoist on the main and the foot is short. This is obvious when you max hoist the main and outhaul. The headboard is short of the black band on the mast and the clew is short of the black band on the boom. In other words, the main was not fully cut for the C320 mast–but what’s a couple of inches here and there. I would make sure the person measuring or rating your boat for PHRF is aware of this. Maybe you’ll get a better rating. Another obvious drawback on the C320 main is that it’s made of heavy material and hard to tweek the outhaul, but what the hay, we’re not dealing with a Bruce Farr racing machine here.


A Cunningham on a C320 luff-slug’ed main would help flatten it, get out the crow’s feet look at the slugs, and move the draft forward. Of course, you would only want to do this to de-power the sail plan because in light air, you need all the power out of the main you can by sailing fat and loose. In heavy air, you want to flatten sails and max out head and mainsail halyards.


One time, (before we got a backstay adjuster) I got desperate and flatted the main by using the first reef line as a Cunningham but you have to be careful. Using the reef line will help flatten the entry at the luff but it will also hook the leech to weather (because of the reef line going through the cringle in the lower half of the main’s leech) and will induce drag which is a no-no. You always want more lift going to weather–not more drag.


Another useful tool at your disposal is the vang. Let’s say you’re in a big blow, and after you have traveled down, have max out the main sheet and outhaul, and have the maximum halyard tension on for both sails then you can also vang-sheet the main. By this method, you bring the boom down thus help flatten and de-power the main. Beyond this point is tuck-in-a-reef time unless you happen to have a backstay adjuster which you would use before you travel down and vang-sheet the main (in most cases.)


I would do anything I can to de-power the main before shorting the headsail with the roller-reef. Just think what’s happening when you do this. As you furl in the headsail, headsail cloth is being wrapped around the headstay and the fatter this gets the less fine entry point you have at the luff.

You lose your pointing ability and find you have to foot off to keep decent sail shape and boat speed. So if you can, invest in a back stay adjuster.


All mains have a bag in them when they are cut, even racing sails have this. Sailmakers don’t lay a piece of cloth on the floor and cut a triangle but build in a little bag to it so the sail is full, not flat when hoisted. Sometimes this bag is in the upper half or lower half of the main, or what I see in the C320 main is that there’s fullness from foot to the top of the main. You take out the bag (flattening or also known as blading out) by backstay adjusters, runners, and checkstays— depending on the rig of your boat. Since the C320s don’t have running backs, (you would definitely need a back stay adjuster with runners) I would add a backstay adjuster to your boat to help flatten the main and de-power the headsail.


A backstay adjuster will bend the mast and by bending the mast the main will flatten. Also, since the C320 is a mast-head rig, bending the mast will tension the headstay. Draft will move forward on both sails and you will have the ability to point higher and sail faster.


Other “more-speed” things to consider is a folding prop and if you have the money, fair the keel. I did think about fairing the keel once and the cost was around $4,500. I mentioned this to Linda and if I went to all this expense then all can goods, blenders, TVs, booze, and cushions would have to come off the boat. While I’m at it, no water in the tanks and a few gallons of fuel for docking is another requirement. Why? If I spend $4,500 on the keel for additional boat speed then the proper thing to do is get rid of extra weight too. Linda promptly found an extra use for the topping lift–around my neck to be dangled off the port yardarm–so keel fairing is out.


George Fogg
“Jazz” C320 #137


Furling the headsail

I have the optional 155% genny and recently had the North rope luff added. It doesn’t compress and furls without pockets. I also had furling stripes added for 135% and 100%. Even with it furled to less than 100%, the shape is good. Downside is that it disturbs the air enough that the telltales are useless.

Walt Wojtalak
Winsome C320 #344


Sail trim tips

I first got introduced to the Cunningham when I took out a friend that owns a C34 that did allot of racing in Hawaii (including 15 round Oahu races). He could see I needed to flatten the main even though the halyard was quite tight. He just took a piece of line–put in a bowline ran the line through the cunningham cringle and with several loops to a shackle on deck tightened it down. It made a huge difference. I immediately lost the heavy weather helm I had been experienced. Since then I put a reef hook on the end of a block and ran a small braided line from the becket on the block down through a spare block at the mast base and back through the block to the cleat on the mast. I could use a little more purchase but this , with a strong pull ,will take the luff down and flatten the main.

I found I had to actually cut the luff shorter on my genoa as I needed to move the draft forward and with the furling two-blocked I still had some wrinkles. I took about 6 inches out and it also has made a huge difference. No more spilling air out of the top of the jib. Also, can now adjust the 3 sets of telltales so they all break simultaneously by simply moving the adjustable (Garhauer) car. I also tighten the out haul when going to windward, but that is not nearly as significant as the cunningham and jib luff tension.

The very best book I’ve ever seen on sail trim is “Sail Power” by Wallace Ross. It’s about 500 pages but is fascinating reading. I think it is out of print but should be available in the library. Publisher is Alfred Knopf 1984.

The other thing that would be nice to do is to be able to move the clew outboard when on a reach or broad reach. I’ve seen ways to do this but with our solid glass toe rail I haven’t figured out how. Maybe some of the experienced racers have some suggestions.

Roy Kraft
“Sea Wings” C320 #187


And for the “real racer”

A few tips for what they are worth:

  • Clean your bottom for every race especially those in light air. I found a great product at West called a Dry Diver which makes this possible standing on the dock.
  • Assuming you have a 2 blade prop lock it in a vertical position to minimize drag. It will produce more drag spinning free than any other way.
  • Remove all unnecessary gear from the boat unless rating rules require it. Empty all water tanks.
  • Secure heavy gear as low as possible on the centerline and as close to the mast step as possible (get the anchor off the bow).
  • Remember that a handicapped race is basically a race against the clock. Avoid getting involved in tactics games with other boats. They generally are not the boats you need to beat unless they are rated very close to you. Generally you are better off getting out in clean air where you can sail your own race.
  • Get both a whisker pole and boom vang they will significantly improve your down wind performance.
  • Avoid making mistakes. Someone told me that a sailboat race is like climbing down a ladder. At the start everyone is in first place at the top of the ladder. Each time you make a mistake you climb down another rung. The boat that makes the least mistakes wins.
  • You might want to recruit some additional crew. I find we need at least 4 people aboard. One to drive (their only job is to keep the boat moving fast), Two to tail and grind the Jib sheets, set the pole, etc., One to trim the main and play the traveler.
  • Recruit as many large bodies as local rules will allow to use as rail meat on heavy air nights. I have had as many as 9 people aboard when I expected to need some live ballast.
  • Don’t try to point too high. Most of the boats I race against can out point me by at least 5 degrees. If I try to point with them I always loose.
  • Try to keep the boat level. More than about 15 degrees of heel and you actually start to slow down. In heavy air or a gust it is OK to feather up (pinch) a little to keep the boat level as long as you are not slowing down.
  • Pay careful attention to the effects of tides, currents, and land masses.
  • One last tip is a book I bought titled “Performance Racing Tactics” by Bill Gladstone. You can buy it on line at It is written so even I can understand it.Good Luck

    George Shoemaker
    “Sea Star” C30 #5013