Number 203 / October 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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the reduced pressure on the topside is more important than the increased pressure on the bottom side.) As you will normally be sitting on the windward side of the boat, this means that it is the one you cannot see that is most important. Actually, you usually can see it (just), as the sail is slightly transparent. When there is no airflow across the sail, the telltale will droop listlessly but when the airflow is attached as it should be the telltale will fly out horizontally. When the sail is oversheeted, the telltale will indicate the erratic and turbulent movement of air across the sail by blowing vertically.

Telltales will work on every point of sail except a run. I try to watch them all the time and they are my principal means of telling if the wind has shifted. Sometimes, if the sail is wet, they stick and sometimes the light is such that I can only see them on one tack, but most of the time they work. In the heat of the moment you might not be able to remember or apply the theoretical stuff in which case you can fall back on the mnemonic, TASTES, which signifies:


Away from or





An 'erratic' streamer is one that is blowing vertically upwards.

It is nice to get the telltales going on both sides of the sail but not always possible. Remember that it is the one that is harder to see that is much more important. Of course the flow might be attached in one part of the sail and not in another, for which reason some people put so many telltales on their sail it looks like a part made rag rug. It is difficult to argue against this as such people also tend to sail better than me, but to begin with, a pair of telltales a few feet up and about a quarter of the way back should suffice.

You may come across experts or literature that suggests that telltales should be attached to the leech but I have not found this to be useful. I have also been told, by an eminent sailmaker, that there is no point putting them where we do because the flow has not reattached to the sail at this point, after having been disrupted by the mast. This is evidently untrue but I am unwilling to discount such opinions and I wonder if we enjoy some advantage with our size or type of rig, which is denied to larger sails.

Telltales can be bought in a little packet at an inflated price from the chandler. Alternatively you can make your own, which might be just as good. Telltales are so important that I would always improvise rather than do without. (They are much more important than a burgee.) The easiest way to make them is with darning wool. Middle six or eight inches, knot it, sew it through the sail with a big needle, put a knot on the other side and that is it.

If, in these degenerate and thriftless times, you have no darning wool, coloured polythene strips cut from printed carrier bags, or cassette tape work perfectly well. Either may be stuck with duct tape or, if you have left even that at home, there is usually something in the first aid kit. Make sure the bottom end of your telltale cannot snag on a seam as this may stop it working. I cannot think of anything else you can make for a boat that is so cheap and that will make it go so much faster.


Sri Lankan Sailing Canoe (DaveP)

This photo (near right) was in the Oxfam calendar. The board in the stern is the rudder, which has been taken off. The whole canoe looks amazingly similar to the boats in "Outrigger Canoes of Bali & Madura, Indonesia" by Adrian Horridge (which I highly recommend), though it is a long way from Bali to Sri Lanka.

The sketch (far right) shows a one-piece, instantly removable, kick up rudder that uses no hardware. It is pivoted in the angle behind the aft outrigger beam, which neatly avoids the problems of hanging a rudder on a pointy stern, raising and lowering it from a distance and needing a very long tiller. Notice that spacing for the rudder bearings is obtained by putting the top one above the gunwale on the "tunguan", which is also used to support the lowered rig.


OCSG Logo Competition (JeffB)

Many of you may agree with me that the OCSG has had for some time a very elegant logo, if that is what it can be called. It sometimes appears in the Gossip and various other places, but not on any of our boats, for good reason (more of which later). There is an unofficial burgee that Keith

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