I have been getting a lot of questions relating to harness line lengths and figured now would be a good time to share this again…… looking forward to some comments and any input you guys have!
Harness Line Lengths- Why go longer?
Are you tired of getting catapulted? Are your arms getting pumped up 15 minutes into your sailing session? Chances are you could be sailing with too short of harness lines making your arms work too hard. The goal in using harness lines is just that- USING THEM! Getting them right is imperative for having a great time on the water!
People always are asking me… What is the correct length? A lot depends on your height and arm length and of course sailing conditions.
When trying to figure out what line length is best for you, a good start is to put your elbow inside of the line and make sure you can put your open hand under the arm of the boom. This gets you close and you can fine tune from there….. Some people have short arms and long legs, some have long arms, short legs- basically we all are different but the main objective is to get comfortable and efficient. I believe that longer lines fit that bill! Here is why….
The best angle of attack for your rig is to be as upright as possible. This is one of the reasons why the bigger and taller you are the faster you are! Your height allows you to be more upright. The shorter you are, the harder it is to keep your rig upright- if you run short lines, you tend to pull the rig over to windward which closes off the power zone in the sail and is not as efficient. What I mean by closing off the power zone is that when the rig is raked too far over to windward, you are hiding the sail from the wind. You are not letting the sail pull you how it wants to. With the rig upright, the wind can hit that power zone and propel you forward efficiently. An efficient heavier sailor can use a smaller sized sail than a lighter person and get planing more quickly and easily with proper technique.
Another reason I am a fan of longer lines is because I am a lazy sailor. I like to be in my harness lines all the time. With my 30” lines, I can sail around in my harness when there is no wind- I couldn’t do that with a 24” line. I can go through the surf when the wind is light in my harness. As soon as I jump on my board, the first thing I do is hook in! When the wind backs off or I run into a lull, I don’t have to unhook to stay balanced on my board!
Boom height also plays a big part in proper harness line length. The shorter you are the lower you may want your boom. I prescribe a boom height that is between shoulder and chin height when you are standing on the board. If your boom is lower than that, you may be compensating for too short of harness lines! Too low of boom also makes you pull the sail away from the rig rather than being able to hang down from the boom- this puts mast foot pressure into the board and gives you more control. Pay attention to that next time you are on the water! The other problem with having your boom set really low is that you can’t control the top part of the sail as easily. Smaller people need to be careful of this as it is a great recipe for the infamous Catapult!!!!!
The other factor involved is sailing stance. A lot of people talk about getting yourself into number 7 position. I totally agree with this position in a perfect world with no chop and no gusts! However, when you run into a big gust, you need to be able to adjust to the wind. Basically you need to be able to keep your rig steady and not allow it to move around. Longer lines allow you to do this. I like to think of the number “6” position, a method for being in control in the high winds with lots of chop and gusts. Be ready for anything with your weight low and always have room to move! You can stick your butt out and bend your knees and still keep the sail upright when you get overpowered and need to adjust for large chop! That is our goal, keeping the sail steady and staying in control.
As a general guideline, I think most people over 5’9 should be using a 28 or longer length line. Bigger dudes over 6’2 should be using a 30” or longer. For the average sailor between 5’4 and 5’8 I suggest either a 24” or 26” line. For those of you 5’3 and down, you should be good with 22” or 20”s…. just be aware of keeping your rig as vertical as possible!
If you are unsure of the perfect line length, it might be time to experiment. I suggest getting an adjustable set of lines and playing with them to dial in your perfect setting. Once you establish your desired length, get a set of fixed lengths as they are much easier to get in and out of!
Benefits to longer lines:
- Keeping your rig more upright improves efficiency. You don’t want your rig pulled over to windward too much.
- Use less energy by relying on your lines, not your arms.
- Less chance of accidentally getting caught in lines during jibes and bottom turns.
- Greater ability to power up and de-power sail in gusty conditions while hooked in
- Better mast foot pressure, longer lines allow you to pull down on the boom which allows you to go upwind on your rail, instead of just the fin.
Drawbacks to short lines:
- Short lines make you pull the rig further over windward, de-powering the sail.
- Short lines make you set your boom too low.
- Short lines don’t allow you to be in your harness as much.
- You’re more likely to to get catapulted because you’re so close to the rig and can’t sheet out.
- Short lines make you work too hard! Your arms cramp up because the muscles are always working.
Hopes this helps you understand the concept and your sailing improves from it!
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