We thought we would put some flesh and bones onto our Firefly Pre-Event Checklist and provide more details about how to best prepare your fleet of Fireflies for your Team Racing event.

There is no substitute for a well planned maintenance routine –  checks shouldn’t be left so late that spare parts can’t be ordered in time. Here at kSail, we carry enough parts in stock to cover nearly all eventualities and can usually dispatch for next day delivery if required.

The intention with your preparations is to make sure that your boats and their equipment are able to withstand the increase in usage and likely pressure that will come from event use; and also to identify and prevent any issues that may cause problems going forward. We have also published a list of Event Spares which you may find useful.

At events, it is recognisable that competitors are likely to treat boats in the same way that the boats appear. A boat that appears well cared for and maintained will be better looked after by a competitor than one which is held together by bodged gaffa tape and frayed lines. It may seem like a waste of time but often the best preparation that you can give a boat before an event is a wash and clean!

The Firefly hull is usually source of few problems, however there are a couple of good things to check pre event.

Tanks and Hatches
Drying tanks is obviously important every time you sail, however making sure that every tank is dry at the start of the event will help you should any damage occur during the event. Make sure all hatch covers have seals and that the hatch frames are well sealed.
Gunwales and Protectors
If you have gunwale protectors, make sure they are secure and if wooden, any splinters/cracks are sanded back or covered. Check along the Hull/Deck moulding join; any cracks are easily repaired however if knocked hard during an event will spread very quickly.
Bailers
Check bailers are either working or disabled and not leaking.
Shroud Bases
Check under the gunwale at the shroud bases. Some boats have been known to fail in this area can lead to a very expensive repair of the deck and the hull/deck join.

At an event your sails are going to get more use than during a significant amount of regular training time.
General checks will include:

  • Repairing any holes or tears
  • Check seam stitching.
  • Check each corner and its fittings

Mainsails

Sail Numbers
Make sure sail numbers are clear and match the hull numbers. Temporary event/championship numbers need to be removed to help your umpires.
Battens
Are all there and in one piece. If not done so already, adding a couple of stitches at the back of the batten pocket will make sure battens can’t be lost when sails are flogging.
Luff Rope
Is it OK? They often chafe around the mast slot which can quickly spread if not dealt with
Sail Window
Make sure there are no holes. Rips or tears will get worse. Use proper sail window repair tape; do not use Gaffa it will ruin the window which will need to be replaced.

Jibs

Luff Wire
Feel the length of the luff wire. It will be twisted; however if there are any hard kinks or bends it should be replaced before it breaks. Check the eyes at each end for any frayed strands too.
Sail Window
As with the main, make sure there are no holes and repair with window repair tape if required.
Leech Seam
With the amount of flogging that a Team Racing Jib does, the area around the leach seam is often the first point of material failure. Where possible a proper repair should be made but lengths of sail repair tape can prevent things getting worse during an event.

Cutdowns/Storm Sails/Reefing

Sail Numbers
If they don’t match hull numbers, make a plan for which boat each should be used on. Check them as per your mainsail checks. Particularly battens and batten pockets.
Reefable Sails
Don’t wait for the event to have started to find that you need lengths of string for reef points or tack/clew lines. Make sure you have everything you may need ready to go as well as enough spares – sods law dictates that you will end up needing to reef twice during an event if you are not prepared for it! Don’t forget, everyone rigs a reef in a Firefly slightly differently, make sure there are enough of your own sailors who are able to explain to other teams what to do!
Checking the rig is really important. Few venues and events have access to spare boats or spare masts which means a rig failure can cause real problems with your event. We will be writing an article about the importance of monitoring your rig and rigging.

Tape, Tape, Tape!
Please make sure every split ring and clevis pin is taped properly. A few seconds will prevent all sorts of problems.
Rope
There are a couple of ropes onboard which will fail more regularly than others:
– Mainsheets and Jibsheet sheathing failures. End for end them before the outer fails which will give longer life. If outer is failing; replace it.
– Jib Halyard Tension and Kicker – primarily where tied to tangs or beckets – check the knots!
– Halyards – Check the main halyard where it goes over the top sheave for chafe. Similarly, broken strands on a jib halyard where it goes over the sheave should not be ignored. Make sure jib halyard tails will not break!
Shrouds
Check the terminals of shrouds for lose strands. Pay particular attention to the shroud where it passes the spreader, strands will often break in this area. Any broken strands = replace shrouds.
Spreaders
Check the spreader bracket on the mast and also read through our article about spreader end protection.
Forestay
Make sure it is not tight. It should be just tight enough that the mast cannot fall out of the back of the mast gate.
Boom, Gooseneck and Tack Fitting
Boom End Protectors
Check the webbing strop for the mainsheet
Check the split ring in the gooseneck pin. Make sure the tack pin for the main fits the boom end properly (and is tied on!).
Hardware failures during an event are annoying and waste time. Worse is if you don’t have a spare of the broken part available. Often if something is going to fail you can usually see that it is worn before the racing starts. Much better to replace something before it breaks if possible; most items are not that expensive and if replaced before they fail, the old part can often be OK as a backup spare for later.

Tiller Extensions and UJ’s
You should work towards making sure that all the UJ’s in your fleet are the same. Therefore you can have a couple of spare tiller extensions which can be swapped in when UJ’s fail. Any small split in a UJ will accelerate it’s failure. UJ’s also fail more quickly in colder weather and when they are left bent over.
Rudder and steering gear
Several things to check on the rudder & stock:
– Downhaul/Shear Pin – spare pins tied on or downhaul working and cleating properly
– Rudder Drop Pin/Pintle – if hooked top type, make sure split ring is in the bottom. Much better to upgrade to threaded end type when you can.
– Cracks or damage to rudder stock – particularly if standard wishbone type stock. Again, much better to upgrade to the kSail version over time. Regardless, make sure you have some spare available for the event.
– Rudder Stops – under the transom bar; these will prevent further damage to the tiller arm and help prevent failure.
Toe Straps
Toe Straps will always get harder use at an event than in training. Check the loops in the webbing to make sure they are not wearing through. You should pay particular attention to the amount of fraying of the rope strops where they go through the thwarts.
Jib Halyard Cleat
Particularly if used with either the wrong size or type of rope, these can often wear too quickly. It is not an expensive change however is time consuming at an event.
Double Kicker Block
The tang on the rear of the double block which attaches to the mast can shear. Check where the tang meets the body of the block; if the tang is misshapen, replace the block.
Jib Sheet and Kicker Cleats
A little maintenance will make a lot of difference. Lubricate with teflon or dry spray (Not silicon or oil). For both cleats, often if they are not gripping rope properly it is the springs inside that need replacing not the whole cleat.
Centreboard
Check the rubber stops are in place at the head of the board and that the block, uphaul and downhaul (bungee) are all in good order.
Trollies
If you are borrowing boats, make sure you have identified who’s trolley is who’s. Coloured bands of electrical tape are an easy and cheap indicator.
Hull Numbers
Bow and sail numbers are great for start and finish boats; they are not perfect for the umpires. Numbers on the stern quarter and/or transom are a helpful addition.

We hope you found the above helpful. If you think we have missed something that you regularly check or have problems with, please drop us a line.