Ken Adams was Class Captain circa 1985 and his ability to squeeze every last fraction of a knot from his SCOD was legendary. His boat, SC73, Macaroon was uncatchable and when Ken was racing in the class, competition was generally confined to a battle for second place. In Round the Island and other races, Ken’s SCOD was frequently able to show a clean pair of heels to many boats twenty years younger. The following are notes he wrote for circulation to those of us who fumed at the perpetual sight of Macaroon’s stern disappearing over the horizon. They are true gold. Richard Johnson, April 2004.

Ken Adams

The little yacht that sails like a big yacht. A good description for few yachts can outsail a well maintained and handled SCOD. As well as promoting the Class there is a considerable safety factor in shortening passage times and the added advantage of extending cruising ranges and spending more time in exciting places. The following may help you to enjoy your yacht that little bit more.

Keep overall weight within reasonable limits. Avoid overweight in stern which seriously reduces sailing performance.

Avoid three bladed propellers – fixed two bladed props can be locked in vertical position with clamp or gear lever and the shaft flange marked in two places to show when this is so. Self feathering types are good but should still be fixed vertically when sailing.

This should be clean and smooth. Time scrubs to suit major SCOD events. The rule requires a minimum of 28 days between scrubs and four to six weeks is about average for fast boats. Slime is not easily seen but reduces performance considerably.

Rubbing down during winter refit should be done wet with a block and pad and after several years a very fair finish will result. Dry rubbing down is not advised, as the antifouling dust is toxic. Use a hard type of antifouling suitable for scrubbing. (At the time KA was writing, choice of antifouling was rather wider than today) Remember the underside of the iron keel as this surface is inclined and needs to be smooth.

The main benefit of a good clean bottom will be noticed in light airs.


Take care of sails. Fold them carefully – keep stitching in good order – keep your best sails for special occasions, which includes heavy weather. Do not have sails heavily laundered. It makes them porous and unable to retain shape.

Very important to get this right – adjust frequently from slack in light airs to fairly tight in a good blow. Remember that sails can be permanently and badly damaged by excessive halyard tensions so take care whom you pass a winch handle to. A competent hand can cope without a handle in all but hard winds.

Many people never learn to sail a yacht in these conditions. On goes the engine and overboard goes the peace and tranquillity of a perfect day.

Sharpen the wits to the ever-changing conditions. Be aware of every wind shift. Feel it on your face, neck and back of hands. Essential to this is a really good sensitive burgee of very light spinnaker cloth.

In certain areas – like off Norris Point – very large and sudden wind shifts will be noticed especially in light airs – in such cases it is often better to adjust sheets rather than course as it is not possible to alter course in time to take full advantage of the wind shift and anyway it will probably shift straight back again and leave you badly headed.

Keep the boat free from jarring and rolling movement by having everyone move carefully. Move yourself and crew to heel the boat away from the wind – gravity alone will help the sails shape correctly - the wind almost always approaches inclined downwards as can readily be observed and it is better for the sails and rig to be inclined at right angles to the airflow.

If running or reaching in almost zero wind conditions have a crewmember steady the main boom and push it out for you when required. Also to help take the weight of wet sheets off the clew of spinnaker or genoa. Remember that in very light conditions there will not be enough wind to inflate a spinnaker and that a genoa can sometimes be a better sail.

Sail freer in light airs – the only advantage of sailing high might be if there is a tidal stream to lee bow and thus enable you to cross the Solent, for instance.

When going to windward longer-term wind shifts can be taken advantage of by tacking on headers. One must judge if it is better to tack soon or later after sailing well into the heading air stream. The wind will often spend ten minutes or so backing and then the same period veering.

A SCOD sails best in smooth water and there may be times when this overrides the advantage of a better offshore tidal stream. The blunt ends of a SCOD will stop her almost instantly if confronted by wash or waves which cause heavy pitching. The wash from quite small craft can very easily stop the boat particularly in light airs. Sail freer, change course to avoid wave approach from ahead. If stopped free sheets and get her going again

Very few helmsmen are good enough to do without these. They are reliable indicators of good or bad airflow over the sails. They record well from close hauled and gradually less well up to a reach, above which they are not reliable. For upwind work the genoa tapes/wools are the most important. The mainsail and steered course are adjusted to suit the genoa tapes/wools. Have about three sets of tapes/wools set 12 to 18 inches back from the luff and equispaced up the height. They should be about 6 inches long from point of attachment with its partner exactly opposite on the other side of the sail. In wet weather or if hairy they will stick to the sail and be useless.

The genoa is correctly set when all the tapes on both sides of the sail fly horizontally together. In certain daylight conditions it is very difficult to see the farside tapes.

Some adjustment to halyard tension, bow strop length and genoa sheet fairlead position will probably be necessary. It is best to set this up in about force 2 to 3 on a tack in calm water. When sheeted in to the point when the leech just touches the cap shroud the foot should be making a nice curve roughly to the line of the hull and just touching the rigging at the foot also. Tapes should then all fly accurately from tack to reach becoming less sensitive the broader you sail. This is pretty much a once and for all exercise (like cleaning the car!) mainly to establish correct fairlead position which is likely to be well aft especially if there is a bow strop on the headsail which is usual for improved forward visibility.

When outside tapes/wools go up or flap about either point up or ease the sheet until they fly level again.

When inside tapes/wools go up or flap about bear away or harden sheet (if not already fully hardened).

Mainsail tapes are easily fitted to the outer ends of the sail battens – use either light fabric or cassette tape about 12”-15” long and plastic taped to the battens.

The mainsail is correctly set when all tapes fly aft away from the leech. If they go behind the sail ease the sheet or point up. The upper tape or tapes may go behind the sail while the lower ones fly correctly. This indicates that more twist to the sail is required and easing the kicking strap may help.


This should be strong enough and have enough purchase power through a system of blocks to enable the outhaul end of the main boom to be brought down and held down in hard winds when between reach and run. This will prevent the sail from being badly pressed against the crosstrees and rigging as well as greatly to improve its shape. Most anchorage points are poorly designed. The usual eyebolt rotates and lets in water – redesign and strengthen it.

Most SCODS have a nicely balanced helm and if sails are correctly trimmed will steer themselves on anything from reach to tack. As wind strengths increase this fine tune produces a tendency to deviate from the steered course and will require alternate lee and weather helm corrections. It is very important to make these corrections early with small rudder movements and this requires concentration and anticipation. If these small course deviations are allowed to become large then much greater rudder movements will be needed to steer the required course and large rudder movements will slow the boat considerably.

Wind forces from 5 to gusting 7 will produce the above tendencies and in particular a powerful lee helm while carrying full main and genoa and to a lesser extent with full main and working jib. Under worsening conditions you must reduce sail but provided you are happy on this score a special SCOD sailing technique is employed. It is best described as keeping the boat “on the hill” and involves partly luffing or backwinding the leading part (perhaps as much as 1/3rd of the sail area) of the mainsail. Too much luff will slow her (you may stop and inadvertently go about upsetting mother and the coffee pot all at once) and too little will let the lee helm take control. “On the hill” is somewhere in between and the boat will go fast to windward.

Once mastered this is a lovely sail to use and will get you home smartly ahead of the “Bonkers” who are rounding off their weekend with a good lungful of carbon monoxide.

Pack it how you like, provided the peak and clews are readily identified out the top and the sail is not twisted it will most probably come out of the bag ok.

The whole process is as follows:-

Fit the bag to pulpit – top of bag, peak and clews should be corded to prevent premature exit out and probably under the boat.

Connect sheets and halyard – which are kept on a corded loop tied to the front of this pulpit.

Decide which side the spinnaker pole is going to be – if genoa is on the opposite side and no tack is expected, rig the pole to mast ring with books pointing up and strop down. Connect the downhaul and the uphaul. Pass the free genoa sheet over the outer end of the pole and pass the guy through the outboard end of the pole. Have skipper slightly top the pole up and let the guy clew come partly out of the bag.

Skipper or other crew must now transfer the genoa sheet (in use) onto a cleat clear of the winch. Both sheet and guy are now put on the winches and made up on cleats. Skipper asks foredeck hand to undo cord securing top of bag and release peak and clews. Skipper decides when to hoist and this must not be until the wind is on or aft of the beam. Skipper or cockpit crew hoists quickly (to prevent sail going under boat) and while hoisting the foredeck hand allows the windward spinnaker tape (the luff) to pass through his hands. Skipper or cockpit crew completes hoist and makes fast halyard with peak slightly kited (i.e. on cord marker on halyard). Skipper and/or cockpit crew adjust guy and sheet and top up pole (see other notes and sketch). Foredeck hand now rolls or lowers the genoa, removes the spinnaker bag from pulpit and returns to inside boat unless required to call “folding” (see other notes).

Foredeck hand unclips pole from mast, passes other genoa sheet over outboard end of pole and flips former spinnaker sheet, about to become guy through the outboard end of the pole. He then removes the former spinnaker guy – about to become the sheet, takes the other genoa sheet off and connects that end of the pole to the mast ring. At the same time skipper and cockpit crew gybe the mainsail and re-adjust spinnaker sheet and guy and pole.

Unroll or hoist the genoa and set upon a cleat. Let guy out until pole reaches forestay. Foredeck hand releases clew at the pole end or if wind is too strong to effect release skipper lets fly the guy having first got hold of the sheet abeam the cockpit.

The trick is to bring the spinnaker down behind and in the shelter of the genoa and mainsail before course is altered upwind.

As soon as the guy clew is released skipper or cockpit crew pull in on the sheet (from abeam the cockpit not through the block) and begin controlled release of the halyard. The sheet clew of the sail is passed straight down below and quickly followed by the rest of the sail and the halyard is unclipped and either passed to crew or, for as short a time as possible, clipped to the lifeline. Spinnaker sheets are removed from the winches and genoa sheet put back on the winch. Main and genoa are immediately set for new course, usually upwind, while crew return all spinnaker gear to proper place and repack the sail. If it is necessary to change tack immediately after spinnaker drop the foredeck hand must be instructed to remove the pole from the mast as soon as he has released the clew and at latest before you tack. The reason for keeping the genoa sheet over the outer span of the pole now becomes clear as the sheet will not be fouled by any of the spinnaker gear. Note that genoa sheets must be long enough to pass over the outer span of the pole with the pole fully raised and the genoa rolled or dropped. Never roll the genoa in anything much above force 3 as it will hunt on the forestay and come undone.

Very extensive rolling can be encountered in strong winds on or near a dead run and when by the lee. The boat may roll the main boom end under water one way and the raised end of the spinnaker pole on the other. The SCOD maintains longitudinal stability and survives this but mother may come out of the loo mighty quick. Gybing in winds of about force 6 is tricky especially for foredeck crew and you may need both of them on the foredeck to refasten the pole to the mast and untangle two or three turns of spinnaker round the forestay. Foredeck crew should wear harness and/or lifejacket and be exceedingly careful not to become entangled in rigging which may suddenly go bar tight. Remember never to put stopper knots in spinnaker sheets and never leave a spinnaker sheet uncleated unless it is in your hand and on the winch.

Jamming cleats to halyard, uphaul and downhaul should all have backup cleats, even for a strong crew. The spinnaker should be dropped in wind strengths above Force 6. On a reach it is sometimes advantageous and nice to carry spinnaker and genoa.

Practice makes perfect – get out and try it all and do your best not to run out of long suffering mothers.