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Old 07-12-2011, 11:52   #1
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Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

I've put about 3,000 miles on my boat in two-odd years, and she still has her original sails -- 11 years old and about 7,000 miles total.

She's a 54 foot cutter-rigged cruising boat with SA/D of 16.5, and lightish D/L of 200 (due no doubt to fully cored Kevlar hull). LWL is about 46 feet. She has a high-performance bulb keel.

The existing sails are still in pretty good shape, not noticeably baggy. The yankee jib has a very high cut clew, and slightly overlaps the mast. The staysail is self-tacking and is made of very heavy cloth - obviously being a storm jib was one of its main intended tasks. The mainsail is inmast-furling.

Despite 11 year old sails, and despite my cr*ppy sail trimming skills, the boat is d*mned fast, so long as her bottom is clean. We walk away from 40-odd foot racing boats, much to the consternation of their skippers. We can break our 9.1 knot hull speed on any point of sail so long as there is enough wind.

The question now comes up about how to evolve the sail wardrobe. The first problem is that I have no downwind sails. The second problem is that where I sail -- the English Channel mostly -- we very often have 20 to 25 knots of wind, which is too much for the yankee without performance-killing reefing, and too little for the staysail alone. Also -- even if I am faster than all those racing boats, I can't point with them, which really frustrates me. The best I can do at maximum VMG to windward is about 37 degrees apparent, which translates into 95 to 100 degree tacks on the GPS.

So, I'm thinking that the first new sail which I should acquire should be a blade jib, made out of Vectran, or perhaps, one of those load-path carbon/mylar things. The blade jib would be killing two birds with one stone, if I am accurately predicting how it will work -- I will be able to use it instead of the yankee on any point of sail, in higher winds without reefing, due to its smaller area. And hard on the wind it will be naturally more efficient, in any wind, due to its higher aspect ratio.

Am I theorizing correctly here?

For downwind work, I think I need an assymetrical spinnaker. The enormous size of a regular symmetrical spinnaker for my boat would make it really impractical, considering I never have that many skilled crewman on board at one time.

For a long downwind tradewind passage, I would rig up something like a twistle rig -- maybe with original yankee and new blade jib.

But I'm not planning any passages like that in the near future. My dream for next year's summer cruise is Iceland and Greenland via the Faroes and Orkneys. So heavy weather capability, and upwind efficiency, are the priorities for now.

The third new sail -- if I am blessed with enough spare cash to go that far -- would be a Vectran mainsail with vertical battens.

Any comments or suggestions?
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:10   #2
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

My boat was a cutter with a 110% yankee foresail. All three sails were roller furling. I never considered buying high performance "racing" sails, but I did do two things that made a huge difference in performance.

I had luff pads added to the yankee, and it made a huge difference in sail shape when I furled it, flattening the sail dramatically. What convinced me to do it was how terribly weather-helmed the boat was with triple reefed main, staysail and heavily reefed jib. The baggy shape of the heavily furled jib was ruining the sail balance and didn't really add much drive, either. After adding the pads I sailed in the same conditions (40-45 kts, close reaching), and it made a world of difference. The boat handled beautifully and had plenty of power to punch through the steep, choppy waves.

On the other end of the spectrum, I was really unhappy with my boat's performance off the wind in light air with the stock sails, so I bought an asymmetrical spinnaker in an ATM sock. What a world of difference that made! I actually looked forward to light air just for the pleasure of quietly gliding along when in the past I would be cranking up the engine. With the autopilot and the sock, I could rig, launch, sail and recover the sail by myself. Highly recommended!
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:12   #3
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Being someone only sailing 4 years and never raced etc etc I don't know enough to answer and feel I'm in a similar boat. My want is better light wind up-wind sail and have been looking at Doyle UPS sails. Hopefully I will understand more when the time comes (maybe I'll ask Doyle when I go pick-up my head sail later from the shop).

But I more than willing to help anyone fantasize about wardrobes, even if it is about boat stuff
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:21   #4
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

The best thing I can say is to try and keep your fantasies from getting too fantastic, which is why instead of standing on the dock lusting after a 60'schooner, I can stand on the deck of my own 30' cutter.
I do not have a new modern design with all the bells, whistles, gadgets gizmos and gilhickies....am I prefer it that way. I am more in tune with the workings of the boat, I am familiar with every system, I know how to maintain and repair it all myself.
Atkin & Co. - Captain Cicero
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Old 07-12-2011, 13:06   #5
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfenzee View Post
The best thing I can say is to try and keep your fantasies from getting too fantastic, which is why instead of standing on the dock lusting after a 60'schooner, I can stand on the deck of my own 30' cutter.
I do not have a new modern design with all the bells, whistles, gadgets gizmos and gilhickies....am I prefer it that way. I am more in tune with the workings of the boat, I am familiar with every system, I know how to maintain and repair it all myself.
Atkin & Co. - Captain Cicero
I'm not quite sure how this is responsive to the original question, but thanks anyway, and thanks to everyone else who replied.

Where I presently sail, light wind is much less often a problem than that maddening 20 - 25 knot wind which is not yet storm sail wind and still too much for all plain sail.

In 30 to 40 knots of wind I am a happy camper -- just reef the main down to the third spreader, put away the yankee altogether, and break out the staysail.

But in 20 to 25 -- how to get upwind? I am still lusting after that blade jib. No one has yet dissuaded me.
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Old 07-12-2011, 13:12   #6
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

I miss read the thread name, I had just responded to one about "your dream boat"
I have a total of 7 jibs
17ft luff yankee storm jib/jib topsail
25ft luff yankee
35ft luff yankee can be flown with 25ft as cutter
35ft luff standard cut 120%
25ft luff standard 110%
25ft working jib
39ft luff 180%
37ft luff 15ft foot battenless roachless main
Storm trysail which none of the last two owners has used even though there is alot of water under the keel
I will not need all these, but just have to try them out to see which work and which don't

20kts is when it starts to get fun....my boat has a full keel and high aspect rig (cutter variation makes it point very well). With main and jib alone on my boat I can get 35degrees off the wind, with cutter variation (I can switch around) I can probably do better.
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Old 07-12-2011, 13:48   #7
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

My first piece of advice is to talk to a professional sailmaker (or, indeed, several professional sailmakers). Explain your requirements and see what they suggest. Definitely try to get them on board the boat, and ideally get them to come for a sail (a decent sailmaker outght to be up for this, if they have a realistic chance of securing an order from it).

Personally, it is my prejudice that "exotic" sails are hard to justify on a cruising or even cruising-racing boat (and this from the guy who's old IOR 1-tonner cruiser just cleaned up in our Club's twilight racing series, Division 1). Unless you have very deep pockets, the price premium for carbon / Kevlar and the relatively short life-span just don't make sense. I don't mind admitting that this "prejudice" comes from the fact that we don't have a huge budget, so we just can't justify buying sails that we aren't going to get a long life out of.

I will also just mention that, from memory, "The Blue Book" (i.e. the racing rule book) recommends against kevlar or carbon exotics for heavy weather sails.

Our sail wardrobe uses Dacron for our storm jib and #4 jib (i.e. heavy weather jib), a cruising laminate for our #3 working jib and Hydranet radial (Dacron with Dyneema reincorfement) for our overlapping genoa and mainsail.

For us, the Hydranet cloth is a good compromise between performance and durability: Better performance and will hold shape longer than straight Dacron, but will last longer than tafetta or mylar exotics. Obviously you do pay a bit more for Hydranet than Dacron, but it is a compromise that we are happy with.

I can't really offer anything meaningful about assymetrical spinakers because we don't have any, and they are not a sail that I have all that much experience using on other people's boats (apart from some rather exhilarating runs up to 24.5 knots in last years Launceston to Hobart Race on an old 47 footer).

What I will say though, is that in terms of performance, assymetrical spinnakers work best sailing angles and jibing relatively frequently, and in terms of VMG, they don't necessarily work if your boat isn't designed with this in mind. I have spoken to a designer about putting a-sails on our boat, but he suggested that with our hull shape and rig, we would make better VMG with a symmetrical spinnaker running close to dead downwind than we would with an asymmetric spinnaker sailing hotter angles anyway. Again, my advice is to talk to a sailmaker.

P.S. We took delivery of the Hydranet mainsail relatively recently. For reasons that I won't go into, it is slightly smaller than our previous mainsail, which was Dacron. Even so, we note that we beat to windward approximately 0.2 knots faster and several degrees (maybe 4 degrees) higher than we did with the old, larger (stretched, 10 year old), Dacron mainsail
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Old 07-12-2011, 14:11   #8
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

I suspect you'll find that new sails, custom made, will improve your pointing ability significantly.

With that in mind, I think you ought to keep the yankee + staysail arrangement. Specify flat cuts for higher winds, and tell the sailmaker you're more interested in improving pointing ability than increasing power.
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Old 07-12-2011, 14:18   #9
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weyalan View Post
My first piece of advice is to talk to a professional sailmaker (or, indeed, several professional sailmakers). Explain your requirements and see what they suggest. Definitely try to get them on board the boat, and ideally get them to come for a sail (a decent sailmaker outght to be up for this, if they have a realistic chance of securing an order from it).
Agree then post their comments here
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Old 07-12-2011, 14:26   #10
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bash View Post
I suspect you'll find that new sails, custom made, will improve your pointing ability significantly.

With that in mind, I think you ought to keep the yankee + staysail arrangement. Specify flat cuts for higher winds, and tell the sailmaker you're more interested in improving pointing ability than increasing power.
Sounds logical. Yes, certainly, I will keep the existing yankee jib for winds 20 knots and under and anything less than hard on the wind. I can't complain about performance in those conditions. I have seen 12 knots of boat speed for hours at a time on a reach in 18 to 20 knots of wind. The existing yankee is fine for that kind of work -- plenty of power -- and shape still pretty good.

And, the existing staysail is fine for gales. I have just one problem -- the inner forestay is slack for some reason -- need to work on the rig tension.

As to sail material -- I am preliminarily convinced that Vectran -- or perhaps Load Path mylar/carbon sails, which are cheaper -- is the way to go, for a cruiser who cares about performance. I will be glad to have my arguments shot down by someone more knowledgeable, but as far as I understand, Dacron will lose its shape in the first 1000 miles and then keep the same crappy shape for another 10,000 miles without any problem. A well-made sail from UHMD material will keep a perfect shape for 5,000 miles then fail catastrophically. I would rather have 5,000 miles of excellent shape, than 9,000 miles of mediocrity.

My boat is made for speed, and it seems to me that the sails should correspond. For a low performance hull shape like my last boat, you wouldn't care so much about perfect sail shape, and you would be delighted for the many miles Dacron gives without hassle. But my present boat is different, and it seems to me that a different sail material is in order.

Again, glad to have my armchair arguments shot down, if someone knows better.
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Old 07-12-2011, 14:46   #11
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Having had the opportunity to go aboard Dockheads yacht I can say she is just fab, although I would have kittens trying to park her in some of the Solent marinas.

The good news is that your yacht is located in the centre of the sailing world, I can't think of another place with so many sail makers within 20 miles. Quantum across the river in Hamble Point marina would be a good start, although they just split from Quantum and gone back to their original name which I have just forgotten.

http://www.onesails.com/loft_greatbritain.php

The other thought is the London boat show is in early January if your in country so likely to be the big name sail makers present enabling a chat to several sail makers.

Taking the yankee down is going to be interesting even in harbour, that's a big sail - I used to sleep quite happily on a Nic 55 genoa

Hydranet would be my choice as it's a bit more forgiving over a laminate in terms of being stuffed in a sail bag, but if it really is performance you are after then a good laminate carefully rolled up when not in use could be the answer.

This months Compass Magazine (Yacht Association Magazine) has quite a few advertisers who would offer a discount and an advert on page 47 for inmast vertical battened main on a M49 for you to ponder over.

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Old 07-12-2011, 14:55   #12
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Again, glad to have my armchair arguments shot down, if someone knows better.
Sorry to disappoint, but I agree with you 100%.

The last main I had built was a cruising laminate of a dacron scrim and mylar. Loved it. Best of both worlds.
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Old 07-12-2011, 15:21   #13
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Given your intended voyage next year a spare head sail is probably essential. If you were to blow out the Genoa half way you would be down to the stay sail, not really ideal.

In addition to the genoa and storm jib we also carry a spare hank on No 2 and roller reefing No 2 both in nearly new condition despite being second hand. With the cruising chute as well there isn't a lot of room left under the forward berths.

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Old 07-12-2011, 15:32   #14
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

I love fantasizing! But it never got me more then just stimulated.

But I can out point most sail boats.
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Old 07-12-2011, 16:12   #15
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Re: Help Me Fantasize About a New Sail Wardrobe

Lots of comments below. I have regrouped your prior comments in several common themes to make it easier to respond:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

Sail Material and construction:
Dacron will lose its shape in the first 1000 miles and then keep the same crappy shape for another 10,000 miles without any problem. A well-made sail from UHMD material will keep a perfect shape for 5,000 miles then fail catastrophically.

Close but not exactly.

Dacron sails change shape in two way. (1) the basic dacron fibers stretch. (2) as the resin filler wears out, the weave stretches across the bias (45 degrees to the weave). Both of those make the sail fuller and moves the draft back. The classic 'old dacron sail' look.

Laminate sails do in fact lose shape over time, but in a quite different way than woven sails. I lose about 5 degrees of pointing over the life span of laminate sails because of the shape change. Mylar (the base of essentially all laminate sails including load paths) shrinks with uv exposure. So much of the body of the sail will shrink, except the parts with multiple layers (corners and reef points and batten pockets, etc) where there is extra UV protection for the inner layers. You get puckering in the interface between these patches and the body of the sail. Also the leaches do dump off over time.

Net net, the laminate sails do tend to hold their shape longer than woven, but their still is noticeable shape deterioration. In a laminate the mylar is what goes first, not the high modulus fibers. So for a cruiser it makes sense to add a little weight and have taffeta's and other means to protect the mylar from uv.

As to sail material -- I am preliminarily convinced that Vectran -- or perhaps Load Path mylar/carbon sails, which are cheaper -- is the way to go, for a cruiser who cares about performance.

Spectra is the #1 fiber for cruising sails, and vectran #2. They both are high modulus but spectra is more UV resistant than vectran. I believe carbon is a bad choice for cruising because it is very sensitive to flex/flutter fatigue.

A laminate tri-radial spectra sail has been the 'standard' performance cruising sail for a boat like yours. It was the normal sail for the French Vendee boats for a long time. A cloth like DP DYS would work very well for you. This sort of cloth is low stretch and durable. There are a few vectran laminates around but because of the UV issue the spectra will be the better choice.

A load path sail (D4, 3DL, Fusion, etc) can use almost any fiber except unfortunately spectra. Their laminating process is hot and will melt spectra fibers. So, the best cruising choice here is vectran. I would stay away from carbon. The load path sails are incredibly smooth - none of the seams and small lumps and bumps you have on even a good paneled sail. They are reasonably durable assuming you get taffeta's on both sides, butI have found them significantly more vulnerable to chafe than the spectra laminate cloth.

Between the spectra laminate triradial and vectran load path I would guess your boat performance would be pretty much the same. The load path would look better and be a little easier to trim while the spectra laminate would be a bit better in durability.

Hydranet radial is a new option. Its a woven dacron sail with spectra fibers added. It will hold its 0 direction shape much better than a dacron sail but its stretcher than the high modulus laminates because it will stretch on the bias just like a woven dacron sail, nut it will be much more durable because there is no mylar to fail.



Performance Issues:
The first problem is that I have no downwind sails.

Get either a code zero on a continuous line furler or an asy on a continuous line furler furler or in a sock. The zero will be easiest to handle but the smallest sail area. The asym on a furler will be second easiest to handle and much bigger and better for deeper sailing (but less good for light air close reaching), but you need a sail maker who understand these furlers as they are a little tricky.

For downwind work, I think I need an asymmetrical spinnaker..... The enormous size of a regular symmetrical spinnaker for my boat

Actually asyms can be bigger than syms. Its just up to you. For cruising I normally feel an asym 3/4 the size of a racing A2 in 1.5oz cloth is a good option. Big enough to be useful but not so big as to be unmanageable. The sail makers will want to use .75oz and for coastal work I agree but for passagemaking its proven to be a bit too delicate for cruising couples who occasionally get caught by squalls.

For a long downwind tradewind passage, I would rig up something like a twistle rig -- maybe with original yankee and new blade jib

If you get a continuous line furler (facnor or karver) for a code zero or asym, you can also use it for a blast reach type sail that you can fly in parallel with your yankee or blade for downwind cruising when there's a breeze. Its an excellent sail plan.

20 to 25 knots of wind, which is too much for the yankee without performance-killing reefing, and too little for the staysail alone.

with your sa/displ I am honestly surprised that you can't carry the yankee in 20-25kts. You say it only overlaps the mast a little? Do you reef the main first (at about 20). You should be able to able to carry the yankee to 25 (with the main reefed a bit) for sure. So, there is something here I don't understand.

The best I can do at maximum VMG to windward is about 37 degrees apparent, which translates into 95 to 100 degree tacks on the GPS.

Yes, Hawk's upwind max vmg is 27 degrees (with good sails and clean bottom) so your pointing is not very good. 37 is about what our old ketch did. There could be lots of reasons in addition to blown sails - rig tune, outboard sheet blocks, windage of 'junk on the back' (eg solar panels and stuff).

New Sails:
the first new sail .... The blade jib would ....be able to use it instead of the yankee on any point of sail, in higher winds without reefing, due to its smaller area. And hard on the wind it will be naturally more efficient, in any wind, due to its higher aspect ratio.

Unfortunately the sailmakers don't all use sail descriptions in the same way to mean the same thing. I think of a blade as having the clew right at the sheet block and the foot right along the deck in about the 105% size. For cruising a somewhat higher clew (perhaps about mid-chest height) would be useful (will not trap waves, better sheeting when reaching, and can see under it at least a little). It will be more efficient up wind than the yankee.

The third new sail -- if I am blessed with enough spare cash to go that far -- would be a Vectran mainsail with vertical battens.

Spectra or vectran would be terrific. I can't comment on the priorities without having seen the sails, but the mainsail is important for pointing vmg.

But I'm not planning any passages like that in the near future. My dream for next year's summer cruise is Iceland and Greenland via the Faroes and Orkneys. So heavy weather capability, and upwind efficiency, are the priorities for now.

Actually when we did faroes, iceland, greenland we hade the asymmetrical up most of the way in light air. The passages are short enough you can sit in harbour for the heavy weather and sail in downwind flat water.
That's just a stream of unedited the cuff comments/reactions. I hope its a little useful.
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