Preparing for Racing an SS34

Recently our resident expert Simon Torvaldsen, now a JPK owner presented some advice to another SS34 owner wanting prepare their yacht for racing. Below is the text of the message. We hope you find it useful.

“In terms of racing S&S 34s, some observations, above and beyond the usual of clean bottom, no excess weight, properly measured sails etc are listed here:

  • Dyform rigging – better than plain wire, nearly as good as rod but lower rating (please check if this is still the case, rod is actually marginally better for S&S 34’s).
  • The tall Mk2 rig is better, as is the Mk2 keel and esp the rudder. SS34 Swagman in WA was converted years ago (before S&S developed the official version) from skeg to spade rudder (& modified keel).
  • The higher performance Mk 2 configuration rates only slightly higher than the old Mk1 but performs a lot better in terms of racing.
  • The main thing is to not have too much overlap on the jib – beyond about 135% you gain very little as it just backwinds the main, if you have the Mk 2 rig with a bigger main this can be better balanced and maybe more towards 130% depending upon the conditions you sail in.  So you reduce IRC rating with little if any effect on performance even in light weather (under about 6 knots the big genoas don’t set well anyway). We used in effect a No2, No3 and No 4 jib with no No1.
  • Get high tech sails, we used Doyle Stratis but upwind North’s 3Di raw is probably better, although I think the difference in a boat the size of a 34 is relatively small. Doyle’s downwind sails are good though.  North is more expensive. Forget Dacron except for storm sails
  • You will need a Code 0, this is vital reaching upwind in under about 15 knots. Doyle’s developed one especially for us.  I think North have quite a good design now too. Cableless is good but hard to furl well (can only be furled bottom up and no cable to furl around).  The 0 needs a short bowsprit –we used the s/s anchor chain guide and roller, although it was a bit short and the Code 0 was painfully close to the forestay (makes it hard to furl and gybe).  A proper little bowsprit would have been better (& begs the issue of an assymetrical reaching spinnaker).  Check with your sailmaker.
  • Other sails will be reaching spinnaker and possibly either a lightweight or a heavy weather “chicken chute” (you can generally carry 4 spinnakers without penalty on bigger races).  A good Code 0 can also be used as a heavy weather reaching or even running kite.  Again check with your sailmaker.
  • Spinnaker stays’l is of benefit, small but significant downwind speed gain mainly around 120-150 degrees. Genoa stays’l is of limited value.
  • Aim to keep weight out of the mast and rig as much as possible.  And use a lightweight anchor and chain.  Overall lower weight is better, your IRC weight should be as close to 5000kg as you can get.  Hard to get most older S&S 34’s much below 5000kg.  And don’t add unnecessary weight especially in the ends.
  • If anything, S&S 34’s like to be slightly stern heavy compared to the designed waterline. They then perform better, upwind and especially downwind.  But still keep weight out of the ends, with the short waterline they also tend to hobby horse in a chop.  Most earlier models tended to be a little bow heavy if anything.

That probably sums up what can realistically be achieved.  If you are really keen you could look at dropping the keel, taking 3-400kg off the top and adding a few cm (about 100kg) onto the bottom with some improvement in righting moment and 250-300kg less boat weight. Just be careful to maintain fore/aft balance.  No loss of age allowance, only IRC penalty would be related to draft/weight measurements.

There is also a new lighter, slimmer spade rudder that was designed for SS34 Azzurro, I think with carbon stock and blade.  This would certainly help performance, it would be worth asking Shane about it and if another could be made, presumably the mould is around somewhere.  There is little if any IRC penalty in doing this.

I have looked at carbon rig etc but if you have a good, lightweight alloy mast you will probably only save about 20kg or so without a full rig redesign.  You might as well buy a new boat!

Hope the above is of help. S&S 34s are starting to be outclassed a bit by designs like my JPK which are good upwind, reaching  and downwind, but they can still get on the podium especially in windward races. Although they are thought of as heavy weather boats, they actually perform relatively better in lighter/moderate conditions, where upwind the speed difference to bigger boats is not great and downwind the more modern boats can’t get up and plane.   There is no way a S&S 34 can compete downwind in 25-30 knots doing 8 -9 knots against my JPK doing 12-15 knots and rating only slightly higher.  But going gently upwind at 5-6 knots compared to my 5.5-6.5, it is in with a fair chance.”

As a side note you might also want to look at your motor! The old Yanmar, Volvo etc diesels are heavy. A new sail drive style motor will save lots of kilos!

Some great advice!! All the best with your yachts upgrades!