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Old 08-01-2014, 23:48   #1
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Is the rig damaged by sailing with no main?

In another thread U4ea32 said:

Your mainsail is necessary -- not optional -- to stabilize your mast in heavy seas when you have headstay tension. If you can't set your mainsail properly in heavy seas with headstay tension (when flying a headsail, and even more so when flying a staysail), your risk of losing your rig goes way, way up.

That statement made me wonder if I have been abusing our poor old Caliber 40 cutter (Mirador) for the last 20 years. I frequently single hand and will often sail the boat with just a headsail ‘cause I am too lazy to hoist the main.

I met Cecil Lange while working on our boat while she was hauled out in a La Paz, Baja California yard. For those of you who don’t know – Cecil was the designer and builder of the Cape George sailboats. By his estimate he built more than 2,000 boats over the years.

Cecil told me several times, while walking under our boat’s deep and fat bilges, that she would have “ to be led by the nose rather than pushed by the hips.” We were discussing sail plans and tactics for dealing with storm force winds when sailing a cruising boat with short handed or single handed crews.

He stressed that having only a small jib or genoa, set as far forward as possible, would ease the loads and balance the boat better than a jib and double (very deep) reef when sailing off the wind in more than 20 knots.

We have followed that tactic for over 15 years in winds that have been gusting over 50 knots and seas that were way over ten feet. The helm always seems light and balanced and the rig shows no abnormal bending or movement. A couple of those 35 gusting to 50 episodes lasted over 12 hours but Mirador seemed to be enjoying the experience.

During both our trips from Seattle to San Diego and on to Cabo Falso we encountered many days of confused four to six foot seas and 15 knots from the stern quarter and frequently flew only a headsail or asymmetrical spinnaker.

Our cutter has heavy intermediate shrouds, which attach to the mast at the same level as the inner forestay and come to the deck over a yard behind the mast.

QUESTIONS:
- Have we just been lucky we did not break or damage the rig?
- What are the force vectors that require a main to balance a small jib?
- Do the intermediate shrouds prevent damage when sailing with no main?
- Does anyone else sail with just a headsail in confused offshore seas?
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Old 09-01-2014, 00:07   #2
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Re: Is the rig damaged by sailing with no main?

Tacoma,
When I read your post the name "Mirador" clicked somewhere in my brain. I thought I had seen it before. After I noticed your boat was in fact a Caliber 40LRC I put 2 and 2 together.
It was all those ads for Caliber Yachts that I had read in my Cruising World magazines.
Is this in fact your Yacht?

I remember being impressed by her ability to withstand the pounding and the apparent lack of major structural damage.
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Old 09-01-2014, 00:08   #3
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Re: Is the rig damaged by sailing with no main?

don't you have a backstay to counter the headstay tension ?
Seems the OP is saying that he needs leech tension in the main to counter the forestay.
If it was a modern high aspect rig with aft swept spreaders and no backstay, then I could see that as being a potential problem, but properly setup with running backstays it should be fine.
With a conventional rig with forestay, backstay, side stays and fore and (maybe) aft lowers, as you have, the rig should be stable.
My last boat was setup like that with an inner forestay and running backstays. In really heavy going she performed well with just a storm jib on the inner forestay, windward runner wound up tight and no main at all.
Its the runners that counter the force at the head of the jib. The runners should come aft from the mast at the same height of attachment as the inner forestay.
I never had any concerns that the rig would come down because there was no main.

Cheers
Alan
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Old 09-01-2014, 00:49   #4
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Re: Is the rig damaged by sailing with no main?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OutOfControl View Post
Tacoma,
When I read your post the name "Mirador" clicked somewhere in my brain. I thought I had seen it before. After I noticed your boat was in fact a Caliber 40LRC I put 2 and 2 together.
It was all those ads for Caliber Yachts that I had read in my Cruising World magazines.
Is this in fact your Yacht?

I remember being impressed by her ability to withstand the pounding and the apparent lack of major structural damage.

Yes that is her and I 10 years ago last fall.

Repaired some cracks in the gel coat, put on a new bottom, improved the bow rollers and have subsequently done a lot of sailing.

Two insurance surveys and two standing rig surveys since that picture have found no problems with the boat.

Caliber did build a sturdy boat.

Mirador is Hull number 4072 - the last of the boats built before the LRC series started.
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Old 09-01-2014, 01:10   #5
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Re: Is the rig damaged by sailing with no main?

It's another it depends on your boat. A masthead rig with fore and aft lowers, especially a cruising boat with a heavy solid mast section doesn't rely on sails for mast stability.

A bendy mast with one set of lowers offset foreward or only inline with the uppers is relying to some extent on the main to be the aft set of lowers to help keep the mast from pumping.

Lots of variations in between.
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