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Technical Manual

Control Lines

by Alistair Deaves

This article is not about how to rig up control lines but where to put them. A lot of people seem to rig up excellent control line systems, only to find that they have to contort their bodies to be able to pull the ropes. The correct positioning of the cleats can be far more beneficial than the extra purchase, or making the cockpit look neat. The views expressed here are my own and are open to criticism. Let's analyse each control line separately.


The first thing to think about is when do you want to adjust it. You very rarely see people going up a windy beat with the kicker hard on and the boom way out past the sidedeck. If it's this windy the race is usually cancelled anyway. Therefore the furthest you need the boom out for 95% of the time, is the end of the traveller. Therefore you don't need the kicker on a beat, so let it off. This also means that it is easier to get under the boom and you don't come in with a headache. The moral of this story is then, that you need the kicker downwind so what's the point of putting it through a cleat on the forward cockpit bulkhead. If you're screaming down a wave trying not to bury the nose, there's no way you can reach it. It is therefore obvious that the cleat needs to be facing backwards. I have mine cleated under the traveller, although an overdeck line would do the same job, if you can arrange it so that it doesn't stop the mast rotating.

If you want two lines (especially overdeck) that's OK, but one line down the centre should be sufficient. I put mine on the starboard side, just beside the centreboard case. It works very well, and you don't get the split feedback lines twisting up as you do with the side-by-side sheave boxes. Round the gybe mark it is very easy to reach in and let it off, and then pull it on again after the gybe.


Again you must consider, when do you want to use it? 90% of the time it will be just after the windward mark and just before the leeward mark. The other 10% is when the wind changes up a beat. The majority of the time you use it then is downwind. Therefore the cleat should be facing backwards. As before, one line should be sufficient. Going round the windward mark you should be able to lean in and just push it out of the cleat. There should be a knot in the rope so it goes into normal reaching position. It is much better to put the outhaul on again whilst approaching the leeward mark than it is to round it with a full sail and virtually grind to a halt.

You approach the leeward mark (on an Olympic course anyway) on port tack so the cleat should be on the port side. Mine is under the traveller again next to the kicker. In theory you should be able to just reach in and give it a yank. However, in practice, when it's blowing old boots and you're hanging on for dear life it may not be so easy. However, it may still be better to slow down and yank it on, rather than round the mark and pull on a bulkhead cleated outhaul, as well as sheeting in, sitting out, pulling cunningham etc. The more you can do before the mark, the faster you will be able to sail out of the rounding.

Cunningham and Inhaul

The two control lines discussed so far, are the 'difficult to pull on' ones. The cunningham and the inhaul (if you have one) should be fairly easy to pull on. These lines should only be adjusted on the beat. After rounding the windward mark they should be let off to preset position, and left until the next beat. These two lines can therefore be cleated on the bulkhead.

The main idea that I hope to have put across in this article is that a pretty boat is not necessarily an efficient boat. So if you can't reach your control lines when you want to, then they're in the wrong place. The only solution to this, is to get out your screwdriver and do something about it.



A practical approach to designing your own control line layout.