Tuning to Win by Ian Pinnell

You'll be sorry to hear that this last month has been rather difficult for me. The reason for this difficulty is that, until this month, I had been sure of three things in my life. And one by one, these certainties have been stripped away.

The first certainty was death. I was certain that everyone has to die. And then my wife's young, up-to-date cousin came to stay and introduced us to this documentary that shows that my belief was incorrect.

I was shaken, but I still had two certainties to hold onto.

And then my second sure-thing was rocked. Thanks to the Irish government and Apple I now know that we no longer need to think of taxes as inevitable.

Neither death nor taxes was inevitable? I was rocked to my very foundations.

But surely, surely, my final certainty couldn't be questioned.

The final thing I was absolutely certain of was this:

That I would never understand rig tuning.

I get most of the stuff about vang and outhaul and cunningham as it relates to a Laser. (Or, at least, I don't struggle with it too much, and I know what the experts say I should do and I stick to that.)

But whenever people would start talking about "chocks", or "rig tension", or "the angle of the spreaders" I would find my mind drifting, and I'd begin wondering things like "Now my spray top is faded, does it still match my watch strap?" or "Is it too soon for me to have another biscuit?".

And just as I was edging in next to the plate of biscuits someone would say "Ohhhh. I get it now. That explains it. I'll have to try that the next time I'm out." and I'd realise that I had just missed another important lesson in how to "open the slot" or what to do about "the gasket".

Tuning to Win

So when Tuning to Win arrived through my letterbox I was reluctant to open it. Firstly, I was worried about my self-esteem: I'd fail to understand a single thing that Ian Pinnell was banging on about and it would make me feel bad.

Secondly, I was worried about my weight. As my mind drifted off from tuning it would almost certainly start thinking about biscuits again, and frankly I can't afford to eat too many more.

And finally, I had one more concern. What if I did understand it? It was the last certainty in my life - that I would never, ever have a clue what to do with jib fairleads, or why the shroud base setting mattered.

If you've been reading this blog for a while then your immediate thought is probably that I really shouldn't worry about understanding any of Tuning to Win. As I clearly don't know my arse from my elbow, there is little chance that, no matter how good Ian Pinnell is, I will grasp any of the concepts he explores.

That was certainly my way of thinking.

But it is with great sadness that I have to inform you we were wrong.

Somehow, through some alchemy, Ian Pinnell did actually manage to impart some rig tuning knowledge even into a brain as reluctant as mine.

Maybe it is because I am older and more boring now - and technical things have become more interesting to me.

Or perhaps all these years of being with other people as the discussed tuning matters has led, almost by osmosis, to me finally vaguely understanding these things, and Tuning to Win is just honing and clarifying these insights.


But it is probably a bit more to do with how Tuning to Win is structured, presented and written.

Ian Pinnell starts with a very useful guide on how to buy a boat, either new or second-hand. This section has lots of good tips, and lays the foundations for future sections. The book then progresses through what each of the controls on the boat does and how to use them, and includes lots of illustrations and tables to help make sense of what had previously seemed like a gordian knot of unfathomable possibilities.

As a Laser sailor, the book isn't that useful - and nor does it pretend to be. Unstayed rig boats like the Laser are mentioned where relevant, and sound advice is given, but you're better off getting a class-specific book for these boats.

But if you sail a stayed-rig boat, even occasionally as I do, this book is invaluable. The whole book will help you really understand how a rig works and the effect that various adjustments will have, but it isn't just for those who are looking to understand rig tuning in depth. The Troubleshooting section, for example, is incredibly useful, as it has clear illustrations of lots of common tuning problems, their causes and how to fix them.

So many of us don't bother to take the time to figure out how well tuned our boats are, but when you consider that (as Pinnell points out in his Introduction) a 2% increase in boatspeed is the equivalent to a 30 second improvement in a 30-minute race, taking a little time to improve the tuning could make a huge difference to your results.

Of course, it could also shatter the last certainty in your life, leaving you reeling uncontrollably in this ever-changing whirlpool of life.

But maybe that's just me.

Tuning to Win by Ian Pinnell

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4 thoughts on “Tuning to Win by Ian Pinnell

  1. Sorry to shatter what you present as a certainty, but a 2% increase in boatspeed is NOT the equivalent to a 30 second improvement in a 30-minute race. It’s a 36 second improvement.

    Can I have the biscuits now please.

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