Contessa 26 Tech Notes

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A Design for a Mainsheet Traveler

(or “Horse”, if you prefer*)

by Merrill Hall

* What is it they say about English and Americans, two nations divided by a common language? My Concise Oxford English Dictionary says of horse: naut, rope, bar in various uses. A Penguin Dictionary of sailing has: A metal bar fitted athwartships in sailing boats, which retains the mainsheet, and on which it travels. (Incidentally it also gives as a second meaning a sand bar that the tide may leave high and dry). So I will continue with horse as I am too old to change, but of course you are quite right all the catalogues all them travelers now. Peter de Jersey, Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK “Dysca III” CO 26

Regardless of the name, I wanted one. Every boat that I had ever owned had a traveler. “Lucy Ann” didn’t and I had to remedy the situation. Being involved in the design and manufacturing business helped because, not only could I design the thing, but I had access to local shops that could make the parts at a reasonable price. The design had to be both rugged and aesthetically pleasing and not totally out of character with the Contessa’s lines.

After a taking a few dimensions, I drew up what appeared to be an attractive design and then modeled it using cardboard and duct tape. The duct tape didn’t hold well so I switched to a combination of hot melt glue, bad language, and single malt. The cardboard model looked great (at least to me) so I fired up the CAD system, finalized the design, and detailed the parts for the shop. “Dirty” Don’s sheet metal shop fabricated the risers, “Fat Andy’s” (who is skinny as a rail) supplied the teak for the cross bar, and the bronze track, with slider and stops, came from an outfit in Portland, ME USA called Traditional Marine Fittings.

Traveller 1

Traveller 2

Traveller 3

Traveller 4

For cutting the cross bar camber, I printed a full scale pattern, glued the pattern to the teak, and cut it on a band saw. Final finishing was minimal.

The track is through bolted to the teak using 1/4-20 bronze flat head screws with nuts and washers recessed on the underside. Attachments to the risers are 1/4-20 stainless steel round head screws, counter bored from the top and bunged.


1. Riser Brackets (2) #316 stainless steel .125” thick. Heliarc welded. Angled inward at 20 degrees and 11.38” high.

2. Cross Bar (1) Teak sawn from a 2.25” x 3” x 48” plank. .65” camber.

3. Track (1) 1” bronze with bronze end stops and bronze car with bronze car stops.

Total cost: Approx $350 (US)