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Old 20-12-2012, 19:32   #1
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Self Tacking Headsails

I have been looking at Hanse yachts and they come with a self tacking headsail. I can see the advantages for short handed sailing, but are there any major disadvantages?
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Old 20-12-2012, 19:48   #2
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Re: Self tacking headsails

Difficult to heave to??
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Old 20-12-2012, 20:07   #3
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Re: Self tacking headsails

I have started singlehanding and have thought how nice a self tacking jib would be, but in reality once you get used to it, a larger jib is not too bad to handle. And i think the boat has to be designed for one. On a boat like my Alberg 30 the headsail would be relatively small if it were self tacking. The J measurement is 10.5ft. I can carry a 140% up to 20kts. I have a "working jib"(90-100%) which could be self tacking if set up. My alberg does not like this small headsail at all! I need to fly it in 20+kts for it to be effective.
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Old 20-12-2012, 21:31   #4
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Re: Self tacking headsails

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Originally Posted by meharvey71 View Post
I have been looking at Hanse yachts and they come with a self tacking headsail. I can see the advantages for short handed sailing, but are there any major disadvantages?
Not if the hull and rig were originally designed for it, ie. tall mast set a bit forward, very large main and fractional headsail. SA/D has to be pretty big to start with in order to have sufficient sail area for light air performance. The APHRODITE 101 is another example of this. One downside I can see is that to make the tall mast work you need a pretty deep keel for stability, the Hanse boats bear this out. Another downside is the inability to have double lowers or even a babystay, which is a problem if you want to go cruising and the mast is not significantly overbuilt.

Retrofitting to a masthead rig which is shorter and more balanced fore and aft doesn't work well because you wind up being limited to a 95% jib when the boat was designed for a large overlapping headsail be used in light air. Using drifter or CodeZero in light air is only a partial solution because the boat is under canvassed in moderate winds when there is too much wind for the Drifter/C0 but not enough for the self-tender to work effectively. That range of wind strength where neither setup works well may be fairly small for many boats and non-existent for a few boats, but for most boats designed as a masthead from 12 or 15kt when the drifter comes down until about 18-20kt when a 100% is the correct headsail you will be undercanvassed.

The one place I could see a self-tender work in a retrofit is for a stay-sail.
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Old 20-12-2012, 22:06   #5
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Re: Self tacking headsails

Disadvantage, you lose speed. Advantage, they're easy. I'm getting older and I don't care if I go fast. There is a self-tending jib in my future.
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Old 20-12-2012, 22:45   #6
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Re: Self tacking headsails

If the boat & rig has been designed for it, like the Hanse, I'd say their great. However, most people who race Hanses fit an overlapping Genoa and if I was only cruising I'd probably have both. You can actually heave-to with them. You just need to get a couple of pin stops fitted to the track so that you can hold the clew to weather. I have this arrangement on my staysail. I'd be interested in any Hanse owners comment about downwind performance of the self tacking headsail. I think the width of the track might limit it's usefulness downwind somewhat.
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Old 20-12-2012, 23:45   #7
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Re: Self tacking headsails

I don't know about the Hanse system, but I have a self-tacking staysail, and you have no controls to trim the sail -- no sheet leads, nothing, except a single sheet which runs through a car. It's nice not to have to tack it, especially when you're using it as a storm jib (then the entire rig becomes self-tacking), but not being able to trim it is frustrating sometimes. I can't imagine rigging a primary headsail that way.
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Old 20-12-2012, 23:52   #8
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Re: Self tacking headsails

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Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Not if the hull and rig were originally designed for it, ie. tall mast set a bit forward, very large main and fractional headsail. SA/D has to be pretty big to start with ....
Excellent post. Thanks.
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Old 21-12-2012, 00:01   #9
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Re: Self tacking headsails

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I don't know about the Hanse system, but I have a self-tacking staysail, and you have no controls to trim the sail
A proper self-tending headsail can have all the usual controls: halyard tension, stay tension, sheeting angle, sheet tension, and sheet lead. At least my 11:Meter did. Even had batten tension as it was rather roachy to make up for the small size. The weird one was the sheet lead - the clew had a headboard-like panel with multiple holes for the sheet. Low hole for windy conditions, etc...
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Old 21-12-2012, 15:13   #10
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Thanks for all the feedback. Being a relative newbie I'm still trying to figure out the best solution for short handed sailing. I guess if the job sheets lead back to the cockpit then it is just down to practice.

Mind you practicing my short handed sailing skills on Sydney harbour is like learning to drive a car in Rome !
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Old 21-12-2012, 15:58   #11
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Re: Self tacking headsails

Get a cutter with a self tending staysail?

The heave to bit is interesting. I ended up putting a full traveler on my staysail so that I can force it to one side or the other.
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Old 21-12-2012, 16:44   #12
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Re: Self tacking headsails

I rigged my boom-mounted jib with 4 part fiddle blocks with jam cleats port and starboard with a snap shackle on the lower block and an endless sheet. It is not self-tending but it allows me infinite adjustment without a traveler or vang. When running deep I move the sheets outboard so that the boom works like a whisker pole. The nicest thing about this arrangement is that the boom is always "locked' in place by the 2 sheets so there's no banging about and no danger of an accidental jibe. Also, I rarely need to use the winches and it allows me to backwind the jib if need be.
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Old 21-12-2012, 16:50   #13
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Re: Self tacking headsails

Can't see any generic disadvantages. Sailed a couple of boats with a self-tending jib and they were all cream to handle.

To back the sail you need an extra piece of line then and they can be tricky if you want to sail wing-and-wing.

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Old 21-12-2012, 18:43   #14
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Re: Self tacking headsails

You mean like this, Usually I have the autopilot on and just hit the tack button.......I love this boat
http://youtu.be/h1hTaD1SSHQ
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Old 22-12-2012, 02:54   #15
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Re: Self tacking headsails

I sail a Hanse311 with self tacking jib. When the sail is new, you are able to sail very close to the wind, however after a few years you're loosing height. The works great uptil 140-150 degr. after that it starts flapping. This can be solved by putting extra blocks on the foot rails and run an extra pair of sheets to the cockpit.

My next headsail will probably be a 110%, so no self tacking. With this I'll be able to sail closer to the wind and get a little bit more speed. Less easier to use. It's all about choises
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