My first three boats were all sloops, my last three were all rigged as cutters (Bayfield 32C, Carrtwright 36 Pilothouse Cutter
and my current
boat, a Solaris Sunstream 40). Due to difficulties in tacking a genoa
, I converted by Bayfield and my Cartwright to Solent rigs with a detachable staysail stay. My Solaris, however, has a sufficient gap between the stays that I am able to tack the genoa with no difficulties - although backwinding it certainly helps. This minor inconvenience (and the increased chafe on the headsail, although that primarily effects the Sunbrella UV strip) is, in my opinion, vastly outweighted by the advantages:
1. Because it is on a permanent stay, my staysail also has roller reefing. This enables one to be able to make virtually infinite adjustments to the rig without the need to go on the foredeck in worsening conditions.
2. Unllike 'Galerider' type stormsails that slide over the furled headsail, the staysail has its own dedicated sheets
, track and winches - this not only saves time and increases safety when it is deployed, it ensures proper sheeting angles.
3. Furled headsails make poor headsails as:
a) whereas my staysail/storm jib is made from 10 ounce dacron with triple stitching, the typical furling
genoa must, of necessity for light air performance, be made from much lighter weight materials. As a result, they are much more apt to be blown out, or lose their shape when reefed down to the size of a storm jib
and subjected to very heavy winds;
b) although some sailmakers claim that furling
headsails with foam or rope
luffs can maintain effective sail shape even when reefed by 80 or 90 percent, many maintain that reefing beyond 35 - 40 % will leave an inappropriate shape. Certainly my staysail maintains perfect shape when reefed by 40%, at which point it is an ideal storm jib.
c) for ideal effectiveness, a storm jib should not only be smaller and lower than a typical headsail, it should also be moved further inboard for improved balance.
The flexibility of this rig is outstanding. In light air I can use both the headsail and staysail. As wind increases, I furl up the staysail and then as it increases further (and after I have put a reef in the main), I can reef the headsail, then put another reef in the main, then further reef the the headsail up to about 40% of its total area. At this point I put the third reef in the main, furl up the headsail and redploy the staysail, reefing it as required. All of this can be done without the need to go on the fordeck in deteriorating conditions. Yes, in order to maintain proper sail shape, as I reef each sail I do need to adjust their respective sheet leads, but this requires only a quick trip to the side decks. Furthermore, since I am reefing each sail to a maximum of about 35-40%, there is much less need for adjusting the sheeting angles than when reefing by twice that amount.
The other positive is that since reefing the headsail is so easy, I am far more apt to make adjustments at the first sign that winds may have become excessive for my genoa. Put another way, easy and safe deployment of a storm jib is just as important as easy reefing for the main, and both will tend to lead to better seamanship.