Melges 32 Tuning Guide

This guide has been written to get the most out of your new Melges 32.

North Sails has been the pioneer in sail development in the class and will strive to give you any new information that arises. Please keep in mind that this information is partial. Sailing venues and conditions vary; you may find slightly different settings that work better for you.

Tuning the Rig

Prior to stepping the mast:

Headstay length

This length is measured from the center of the pins at the hounds and the stem fitting and should equal 42’7” or 12980. The headstays are set at the factory to this length. The other measurement to double check mast rake is to pull a 100’ tape measure up the main halyard, latch the ball at the highest setting and measure 52’10” to the bottom corner of the transom at the hull.

Mast butt placement

The base of the mast should be positioned 7” measuring from the aft shiny molded surface of the main bulkhead to the center of the socket in the mast step plate (Typically this is close to max. forward).

Once the mast butt is in position tighten it down to secure it. Check the hydraulic ram for any dirt, or foreign objects before connecting the hose. Make sure the fluid level is at least ¾ full. You will have to open the valve on the hydraulic pump to connect the hose, and the silver safety valve.

After stepping mast:


With slack lowers and intermediates, tighten the upper shrouds to #6 on the Model PT-3 Loos tension gauge (be sure to place the tension gauge below the chafe guard on the shrouds, slide the chafe guard up out of the way). It is a class rule that the upper shrouds be set up at the light air setting with the mast jack all the way down. That way you can simply go all the way down for light air, or if there is a jack failure, you are closer to the correct settings and can safely continue racing without risk of mast failure. Center the rig. Using a bucket at least ½ full of water with a lanyard tied on the handle, attach the jib halyard to the end of the lanyard and suspend the bucket off the side of the boat at the chainplate area. With a marker, hold the marker flat on the deck just in front of the chainplates and place a mark on the lanyard. Transfer the bucket to the other side of the boat and repeat to see if the mast is centered. If the mast is in centered, the marks will line up, if not adjust the rig until you have matching marks. This method insures even tension on the jib halyard from side to side.


Now that the mast is in centered and the upper shrouds are tensioned to 6, it is time to tune the intermediate shrouds.

Tighten the intermediates so the slack is taken out and they are hand tight plus 1.5 to 2 turns. Site up the aft side of the mast to insure the tunnel is straight side to side. Next, Pump up the jack until you are at 4,000psi, or most importantly #14 on the uppers using the PT-3 Loos tension gauge. Now, tighten the intermediates so they read #17 using a PT-2 tension gauge and tighten the lowers so they read #5 on the PT-3. This is a good set up if you are sailing in predominantly light air venues as it sets the mast up with a bit of sag at base. If you are sailing in venues with a bit more breeze you should set up to these numbers: 4,000psi on the jack, and #12 on the uppers using the PT-3 gauge, 19 on the Intermediates using the PT-2 gauge and 6 on the Lowers using the PT-3 gauge. This set up will produce a straighter rig at base and is better in more breeze. Final tuning of the intermediates and lowers needs to be done on the water going to windward, but this should get you in the ball park.


Check the rig for overall straightness both at the dock and again while sailing by sighting up the mainsail track. Adjust the shrouds appropriately to get the mast straight. Secure the turnbuckles with the Velcro wrap provided. Note: This is a starting point for the Lowers and Intermediates, you must go sailing to fine tune the set up on the lowers and Intermediates. The basic guideline is to set up the mast with approximately ½” of leeward sag from the boom to the uppers with the jack pressure off if you use version #1 above. As you jack up the rig the sag will come out and make the mast stiffer allowing more backstay to be applied. Version #2 above produces a straighter mast side to side and tighter diagonals as soon as you go on the jack which stiffens the mast.

The hydraulic jack can be relied on for tension but it is a good idea to have some secondary reference checks in case of a jack gauge failure. If you attach a batten on the deck tie wire and place marks on the back of the mast with corresponding marks on the batten for given jack pressures and rig tensions this will give you the proper secondary checks to make sure your rig is set correctly in the varying conditions. Another method is to use a caliper and measure the gap between the bottom of the mast and the top of the mast step plate.

On the Water


Tuning is now complete for 0-6 kts. See the Tuning Matrix below for detailed ram tension instructions.

The simplicity of the ram allows you to do most of the tuning with the ram.

Now all you will do is adjust the Jack in increments of 500 PSI on the ram. There are times in heavy air with big waves that it may be beneficial to take up 2 turns on each Lower to help stiffen the bottom of the mast and achieve better headstay tension. Also, we have experienced better speed and headstay tension in a breeze with 5 turns on the headstay when we jack up to 2500psi. Note that the jack will immediately start at 1000 PSI if the upper shrouds are set at 6 on the Loos gauge.

Traveler Notes: : In waves it is better to work with the traveler higher and a softer mainsheet to achieve twist in the mainsail than what the chart says.

Jib Lead Notes: This is a good starting point, in very light air you could experiment with 9 factory holes showing aft of the car and in very windy conditions you could experiment with the car further aft. We have found that in most conditions 8 holes showing is very fast. Bottom line is in flat water you can sometimes get away with the car slightly further aft, and vica versa in waves. Once you find the sweet spot you will find that you rarely move the jib lead. It also will not hurt to drill some additional holes in between the factory holes for fine tuning of the lead position.

Backstay Notes: The Melges 32 likes to have backstay put on early to flatten the mainsail and achieve headstay tension.

As soon as you are hiking, the backstay should be coming on.


Wind Speed







Base, 6 on Loos

Base in flat water to 1500 on Jack in waves

Base in flat water up to 2000 on Jack in waves

2000-2500 in waves, generally more tension

in waves






+5 turns from base

+5 to 10 turns from base


Base to 1/2” sag


Base sight straight

Base sight straight

Base straight


Base to 1/2” sag


Base sight straight

Base sight straight

Sight straight






Try Tight




50% on



Main sheet

5° twist if possible

5º+ twist, top telltale


5º to 15º twist as needed

to boat seed

15º + twist

15-25º twist

Jib sheet

Soft, upper TT flowing

Harder, but always keep top TT flowing



Softer in big stuff, more

twist, try lead aft and hard sheet and lead for soft sheet


100% to weather

50-100% weather

Middle to up50%

Middle to 25% Down

Middle to 25% Down

Jib Lead

Forward, luff break evenly,

Generally 8 factory holes showing aft of car



1 aft of light in flat water, same in lump

1-2 aft depending on

waves, sometimes lead forward soft sheet

Jib Halyard

Slight wrinkle in luff or just

pull out

Slight wrinkle in luff

No wrinkles

No wrinkles

No wrinkles

Main Outhaul

off 1/2”

1/2” eased to max

Pull to max

Pull to max

Pull to max


None to 25% on

25% to 75% on

50% to max on when


Max on

Max on


Sail Trim



Without getting overly detailed, because everybody sails to their own style, the following are basic tips for trimming the 3DL main. “ Twist is fast “. By this we mean that it is necessary to open up the top of the leech and maintain flow over the top of the sail. A good rule of thumb is to trim until the top leech telltale is just stalling and then ease out two to three inches of sheet so that the telltale is flowing again. This is unlike many other one designs that like to have the top batten parallel to the boom in most conditions. In light air the traveler should be pulled to weather.

As the breeze builds we need to maintain a balanced helm. Begin by pulling on the backstay to flatten the top of the main. Adjust the traveler, mainsheet and backstay to find the sweet combination for the given condition. Generally, in flat water the traveler is better in the center with more main sheet tension and in the waves a looser mainsheet with the traveler above center is good. In big breeze, the top of the main is twisted well off and the bottom 1/3 of the main is doing most of the work. If the main is back winding from the jib you can keep the main traveler closer to the center. If the waves are big it tends to work better to keep the traveler centered or above center line and work the main sheet and fine tune the back stay. Be sure to pull the vang on in these conditions to help keep the bottom of the main working.


Three things control the jib shape: sheet tension, car placement, and halyard control. The sheet tension has the most obvious effect, so we’ll talk about that first. The sheet controls the leech twist and how far the sail is pulled in. If you look at the overall sail as it relates to the sheet it does two things. Picture the boat on a close hauled course and the jib luffing, as you pull in the sheet, first the angle of the sail changes, then as the last few inches are tensioned the leech gets tighter. In short, it pulls it in and then down.

It is important to try to match the leech profile of the jib to the profile of the lee side of the main. Try to envision how the sails would look from a motorboat trailing behind you. Place marks on the sheet to duplicate settings if necessary.

Keep an eye on the leech tell tale on the top batten of the jib. The Melges 32 jib is a high aspect sail and likes to have the jib car forward enough to keep the top of the jib working and the jib trimmed fairly tight. To achieve maximum jib trim, trim the jib until the top telltale stalls and then ease it until it starts flowing, this is your maximum in position.

Marks are a good idea for the mainsheet, jib sheet, backstay, jib leads and jib halyard. Make sure you can duplicate fast settings.

Our rule of thumb for jib luff tension is just pull the wrinkles out in all conditions except flat water and 4 to 9 knots where a slightly softer jib entry is OK for better pointing.


The recommended sail wind ranges are as follows:

Light jib 0-8 knots

Medium jib 6-22 knots

Heavy Jib 20-27 knots

Small Reacher 1A Asymmetrical or VMG 0-5 knots, and again over 23 when the waves are big.

AP Runner/Reacher Code 2A Asymmetrical 5-8 and 13-27 knots

Max Runner Code 3A Asymmetrical 7-14 knots


When sailing upwind in light air you need to move the crew forward and out of the transom of the boat. This reduces wetted surface and helps with the boat attitude through the water. As the breeze builds this is less critical and weight outboard and centered around the widest part of the boat is best and aft. A body behind the driver upwind in a breeze seems to be good.


Be sure to power up the mainsail when sailing downwind, except when it is windy! Ease off the cunningham, outhaul, and backstay. Adjust the vang so the top batten is open and the tell tale is flowing. A softer vang is fast, especially when you can reach. Remember to let off the vang while rounding the weather mark, as well as any cunningham. This will allow the helm to get around the mark with more ease.


Have a forward crew sight up the mast to check the mast bend and backstay tension. In light air keep the crew weight low and forward until you are planing downwind. As you begin to plane you need to start moving the weight aft in the boat. The windier it gets the more you need to move the weight aft to get the bow up and free up the rudder. Above 11 we leave the jib up off the wind and trim it to a soft trim as to not effect the trim of the spinnaker. When you can plane keep the backstay on at least to 75%, keep the vang soft, ease the outhaul, let the traveler all the way down and get everyone to the back of the boat except the bow and the trimmer forward of the traveler, everyone else behind the traveler.


When setting up the spinnaker gear, be sure that the tack line goes over the lazy sheet (the sheet going to the opposite side of the boat). This ensures that the spinnaker will gybe to the inside, between the head stay and the luff of the spinnaker as opposed to around the outside of the luff of the spinnaker and in front of the boat. We have found that hoisting out of the forward hatch is the most efficient method. We have also found that a retrieval line can be helpful with the speed of the douse, especially a leeward drop but requires some extra house keeping.


Like all spinnakers, the spinnaker sheet should be eased until the luff carries a slight curl. The real trick to flying the sail and having the best downwind performance is to maintain constant dialogue between the skipper and trimmer to keep pressure in the sail without sailing too high and losing sight of VMG (velocity made good to the mark). As a general rule the boat sails downwind at 125 degrees to the true wind, jibing through 90 degrees. As the breeze builds, it is possible to sail deeper angles while maintaining good speed. In planing conditions, keep the boat powered up. Planing and loosing 10 degrees of depth far exceeds displacement sailing. Remember, when sailing in the deep mode, to heel the boat to windward and ease the sheet out. This rotates the chute out from behind the main’s wind shadow, exposing maximum sail area to clear air. Keep the vang soft generally downwind. Any time you can plane, do so. Be aggressive on crew placement aft. Have any non-essential people aft of the helm. Experiment with this a bit and you will quickly get the “Feel” for how you can steer without having trouble with sight and fouling the rudder.


We have found the safest and fastest method to set the kite is to pull the tack line out to a mark which would represent the position of the tack when the pole is fully extended and flying. Cleat the tack line, bow person puts the tack just over the bow pulpit and goes to feed the kite out of the hole. Then, on the hoist someone pulls out the bow sprit as quickly as possible. Make sure the tack is just over the bow pulpit and not further and make sure the bow person maintains control of the kite to leeward of the jib. Also, make sure the bow sprit does not get pulled out too early. The bowsprit can not legally get pulled out until you are in the process of hoisting the spinnaker.


There are two different styles of gybes that we utilize. The first one and by far the most popular is called the “pre gybe”. This gybe works best in lighter winds, breeze under 14 knots or so. This gybe is performed by bearing away to dead down wind and holding course while the crew pulls the new sheet around and once the clew of the kite reaches the windward shroud the helm turns through the gybe. The kite will fill before the boom goes across, this is a good VMG gybe.

In heavier air, when you are planing and you have the jib up we found it is best to do a “mexican gybe” To do this gybe you have a trimmer on each spinnaker sheet, the helm turns right into the gybe fairly aggressively, the trimmer over trims the kite to strap the foot, the kite loads up on the new windward side of the boat once you turn through the wind, the trimmer blows off the sheet and the new sheet is trimmed rapidly. The helm has to come out of the gybe slightly low of the proper angle and then as soon as the kite fills heads up to accelerate. The jib must be up to perform this gybe and you need to have someone gybing the jib to prevent spinnaker tears. When you do this gybe correctly you go from planing on one gybe to planing on the other gybe much quicker than with the pre gybe.


The three take downs you need to master are the windward, leeward and Mexican take down.

With the windward take down, the helm heads straight down wind, the pit eases the take line off at least 10’ to unload the kite, the trimmer and foredeck pull the kite around to the port side, one person goes down the leech, one person pulls in the foot keeping it inside the bow pulpit, and then the sewer sucks the kite through the hatch.

With the leeward drop the helm bears away, the retrieval line is pull in to gather the foot inside the lifelines, halyard eased off 15’, then tack off when the bow calls for it, and another person controlling the aft section of the sail. It is important for the pit to be aware of the kite at all times so they do not drop the sail in the water. Try to avoid this drop as it is the hardest to do safely.

With a Mexican take down, you set up at least 3 boat lengths above the layline, preferable 4, you come in and when you do your final gybe to round the mark, you over trim the foot of the kite as the back of the boat gybes, do not gybe the kite, blow the halyard off as the kite is backing into the rig and suck the kite through the hatch.

On all take downs it is best to have the bow person control the foot and tack, another person at the mast controlling the leech, the sewer sucking the sail through the hatch and the pit controlling the halyard, tack line and bow sprit.

With all sailing and maneuvers, do what feels good to you. “Tune” with any other 32’s you can find, keep notes on all days you feel fast and also the opposite. If the boat feels slow or you feel “ out of the groove” revert back to notes and what felt good last time you went sailing.