Why Sunfish?

There are more flashy and many specifically well designed boats to sail but this early 1970s hard chine, lanteen rigged boat is perhaps the most affordable and inclusive one design sailboats ever built.

What is most impressive is that simple to rig and race such that juniors as young as 9 yrs old and seniors well into their 80s who weigh as little as105 lbs. to over 200 lbs. can compete at a world class level. No other singlehanded boat can so closely level the playing field, making age, gender and size relative non issues. Families have been doing this for over 40 years.
See Brilliant photos of how to rig a Sunfish

Pictured (left) is the 43rd Sunfish World Championship in 2013, (conditions were somewhat less conducive to everyday racing, but not too much for this boat 😉

The Sunfish Class provides perhaps the most widely attractive one design racing on a world class level.
As former world champions Eduardo Cordero and I feel compelled to support the Sunfish Class. particularly in that is how we met Aside from the competition, we both feel that many of our closest friends made over the years have become like family. Those relationships represent what Sunfish has meant to us and we hope that anything we might provide may help give others the opportunities the Sunfish Class has given us both.
Here is a link to the International Sunfish Class –

How to Rig a Sunfish – by Eduardo

Halyard location:

106″-107″ measured upwards on the upper spar starting at the point where the black cap meets the upper spar on the bottom. Lowering halyard location raises the height of the boom above the deck. This adds power to the sail. Increasing the distance from the bottom to the halyard location will do the opposite. Make sure the line does not slip. Apply electrical tape on top of it.
* In light air, do not over tighten the halyard because it may cause the mast to twist.

Head location:

Measure 160″ on the upper spar starting at the point where the black cap meets the spar on the bottom and tie the head of the sail in this position. Keep the luff loose, so you have power for sailing downwind, especially in light air.


You can set the gooseneck between 12″ and 22″ but I recommend starting at 14″ or 16” from the point where the black cap meets the boom at the front.

  • Locate Outhaul Cleat on starboard side of the boom at 64” (from the front of cleat to where the front end cap meets the spar.)
  • Locate Cunningham cleat on bottom of the boom at 41” (from the front of the cleat to where front the end cap meets the spar.)

Aluminum cleats with roller fairlead work better. Use a thimble where you tie the loops on both controls, so it makes the line running smoother. Spray Mclube or dry lubricant on the spars. Do not spray Mclube on the gooseneck area (boom and mast)


Mainsheet: 33 feet of ¼ for light air or 5/16 for medium/heavy wind. 5/16 will be better as all-purpose line. (Polypropylene line with spectra core. e.g. Yale light, rooster ropes, or ultra light Samson.) My choice; ¼ rooster ropes. Don’t use polyester or dacron lines. They are heavier and soak a lot of water. Halyard: 24 feet of 3/16” or 1/8” spectra 100% ( AmSteel 12 – Samson) or any line with polyester cover and spectra or dynema core. …My choice would be 1/8 spectra, but it’s very skinny, so it’s hard to tighten.
Outhaul: 25 feet of 7/64’’ spectra or dynema line (AmSteel 12 – Samson)
Cunningham: 15 feet of 7/64’’ spectra or dynema line (AmSteel 12 – Samson)
Replace sail clips with the 1,75 mm or 2,5 mm 100% spectra line. Leave 1/16″ or more of a gap between the spars and the sail grommets. Leave a bigger gap where the halyard is tied on the upper spar. Use longer sail ties (twice around the spars) on the clew tie-down, head, cunningham grommet and tack.
* important: Replace supplied tiller extension with an longer one (about 42 inches)

Eduardo’s Tuning Guide

First of all, consider the four (4) primary adjustments to your rig/sail as wind conditions change.

  1. Mainsheet: Adjusts sail’s power; increases or decreases sail’s angle of attack.
  2. Outhaul: Flattens the bottom of the sail.
  3. Cunningham: Moves the draft forward
  4. Gooseneck: Balances weather helm.


1.1 Light Air :

Mainsheet tension determines sail shape and/or power.

  • Be mindful of over trimming the mainsheet. Tight trim will flatten the sail and tighten the leech; help pointing but stall much more quickly.
  • Make sure the leech stays open enough to “breath for speed” when needed.
  • The outhaul and cunningham are fine adjustments of sail shape
  • For maximum power, ease both the Cunningham and outhaul.
  • For flat water, you can apply tension to the outhaul to point higher.
  • For choppy conditions, ease for power.

Heel the boat to leeward to promote weather helm. Set gooseneck around 14-16 inches.
Sit forward to lift the stern of the boat but be aware of your own weight; you don’t want the bow to dip under water.

1.2 Medium Air :

Apply maximum tension on the mainsheet. If you have trouble pointing, mainsheet tension might be needed.Both Cunningham and outhaul are adjusted according to wind strength and waves.
– More tension on the outhaul than on the cunningham if sailing in flat water.
– More tension on the cunningham than on the outhaul if sailing in choppy water.
Boat Heel/ Trim
Keep the boat flat (Hike first, then think sail controls for de-powering)
If the if the boat heels, it will create weather helm. Remember that you can balance your boat (decrease weather helm) by moving the gooseneck back.
Use more Boom-vang if you have to ease the mainsheet when the waves cause the boat to loose speed. Vang is the best way to: .

  1. Keep tension on the leech.
  2. Keep the sail flat by pre-bending the spars.

Always FOOT for Speed

  • if the waves are high. Pinching will reduce boat speed, and speed generates lift
  • in fresh breeze the net effective lift is favorable

Flat water: Sit forward or about 1 or 2 inches from the cockpit’s forward edge.
If it choppy, sit back to lift the bow until you feel confident about both helm and boatspeed. The sunfish hull is very low above the water, so at this point avoid dipping. Torque body fore and aft according to the waves.

1.3 Heavy Air :

Trim mainsheet according to puffs.

  • The lighter you are, the more you have to “feather” the sail (or helm) to keep helm (and heeling) under control. Pull outhaul, cunningham and boom-vang tight to de-power the rig
  • Adjust gooseneck according to your body weight (around 19-20 to 22 inches).
  • If you are using a “Jens rig”, you can set the gooseneck to 17-18 inches.

NOTE: Keep in mind the asymmetrical sail.

  • You can always trim the mainsheet harder on port tack (medium & heavy wind).
  • On starboard, be aware how much mainsheet tension you have, especially in heavy wind.
  • The boat sails faster on starboard tack in light air, but since the sail is fuller, it is more difficult to control in heavy wind.
  • The opposite is true when sailing in port tack.
  • Hike real hard to keep the boat flat>> in flat water sit around 3 inches from the forward edge of the cockpit. Move further back in choppy water.


2.1 Light air

  • Outhaul and cunningham loose for maximum power.
  • Boom-vang tension> Wind strength will dictate tension, when in doubt, keep the leach open.
  • Trim mainsheet according to wind angle; (use tell tales)
  • Heel the boat to leeward when the rudder stalls; Sit forward to keep the stern out of the water (no dragging).

2.2 Medium air

  • Cunningham loose for maximum power; Do not over ease the outhaul; this closes the leach and reduces exposed area as wind increases (check wrinkles along the boom).
  • Boom-vang tension> Wind strength will dictate tension; keep the leach tight when it opens.
  • Trim mainsheet according to wind angle; (use tell tales)
  • Keep the boat flat; Slide your weight back as the boat starts planning in the puffs. Move forward in the lulls.

2.3 Heavy air

  • Outhaul and cunningham: If you weight more than 160, always power the sail. (I normally ease the cunningham and keep some tension in the outhaul. Lighter sailors could keep both controls tensioned for depowering.
  • Boom-vang tension> keeps the leach tight.
  • Trim mainsheet according to wind angle; (use tell tales) Lighter sailors should feather the sail when overpower.
  • Keep the boat flat; Sit in the back of the cockpit.


Powering up

  • ALWAYS loose sail controls (outhaul-cunningham) before rounding the windward mark depending on your approach.

Sailing/trimming Technique:

  • Sailing on starboard tack is faster most of the time because the sail is fuller.
  • Starboard tack running allows you to sail at a wider range of angles (“by the lee” or broad reach) in most conditions.
  • In light air be careful when sailing by the lee on port tack, It can be slower than starboard tack. (There’s a disturbance in the sail, created by the little triangle between the mast and the upper spar.)
  • Tell tales or a wind indicator on top of the upper spar will be effective to determine which way the wind flows on the sail.
  • Heel the boat to weather in light air, decreasing weather helm; less required as the wind increases.
  • It is very important to keep the stern out of the water in light air>>sit forward (close to the centerboard trunk). As the wind increases and waves get bigger you must move your body aft. Your own weight will dictate how far back you need to sit. In most cases when the boat is planning, sitting behind the rear edge of the cockpit is faster. Remember to do the opposite as the wind and waves diminish.
  • When surfing waves always focus forward on the wave pattern immediately to the right and left of the bow. Anticipate the best angle and intersection between waves. Head up for speed and look to anticipate the next wave or puff to accelerate downhill and sail by the lee. Learn how to synchronize mainsheet tension, helm and heeling angle. This is a difficult task but sure way to improve your boatspeed.

Vang control:

  • The flexible spars make leech control tension challenging.
  • Tighten the boom-vang to stabilize the boat on Runs (as the wind increases.)
  • The boat is more responsive when balanced with the vang; for steering and when adjusting the mainsheet.