Getting the "stick" right

The mast is one of the first steps in rigging your Pacer. How you set it up will have a large bearing on how well your boat performs.

The first thing to set is the position of the mast step.  If you put the mast step forward, to balance the boat you will need more rake than if you have the mast step further back.

The next most important point is to make sure the side stays are exactly the same length. The mast should stand vertical, not lean to one side of the boat!

Finally, ensure there is absolutely no sideways movement in the mast at the deck level.  If the mast is sloppy in the mast gate, then it will bend much more sideways. In a breeze, this will make it difficult to hold the mainsail leech up, robbing you of both power and pointing ability.

Once you have got the above three steps right, your aim should be to set the mast rake so that when sailing upwind the boat has neutral or a small amount of weather helm (ie. If you let the tiller go, the boat will sail in a straight line or slowly turn up into the wind). This will require some experimentation and sailing of the boat until you get it feeling and behaving correctly.

To short cut the amount of experimentation you need to do, the table below shows the measurements for Chaddywagon – winner of the 2010/11 Nationals at Robe, and the 2011/12 Nationals in Canberra.  Also shown are the medium/strong settings for Amen – second at the 2011/12 Nationals.


Mast Step


Forestay Tension

Side-stay Tension

Chaddywagon – 2012





Chaddywagon – Robe 2011





Amen – Strong conditions






The above measurements are taken as follows:

Mast Step – distance from the rear bolt of the mast step to the inside of the transom.

Rake – distance from the bottom edge of the top black band to the corner of the transom at water level (ie. under the bottom rudder gudgeon).

Stay tensions – measured using a Loos gauge.

The rig measurements reflect a difference in the rigging philosophy and setup of the boats.

Chaddywagon is deliberately set up with the mast step further forward, more mast rake than average, and quite tight stay tensions.  The aim is to use the rig tension to pull a little pre-bend into the mast.  To aid this, Chaddywagon’s mast chocks are put in behind the mast instead of in front. Rig tension does not alter much between light and strong winds.  Note how much extra mast rake Chaddywagon was using on the open sea at Robe compared to the flat waters of Canberra.  The tighter forestay tension in 2012 would also give a bit finer entry on the jib allowing higher pointing on the flat waters of Lake Burley Griffin.

In contrast, Amen’s mast has the mast step a little further back, stands more upright and uses less rig tension.  Rig tension varies from barely registering on the Loose gauge in light winds, to about 70 – 80% of Chaddywagon’s rig tension.  Amen’s mast chocks are placed in front of the mast, usually in the “neutral” position.  In stronger winds the chocks are set to prevent the mast from moving forward by more than 5-8mm at the mast gate level. In really light winds and flat water, the boom vang is pulled on tight to induce mast bend, the chocks are put in behind the mast, and the boom vang is then released.  The chocks behind the mast the hold pre-bend in the mast without the need for rig, vang or sheet tension.  See the article on mast chocks for more details.

Which is the better setup?  It’s hard to say. Both boats are very quick. However, perhaps the rig setup of Chaddywagon is probably a little more flexible and forgiving across the wind range.  Amen’s rig relies on varying rig tension, which means if there is a large change in conditions, the rig does not work optimally any more – particularly if the wind freshens when you have very little rig tension on!