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Old 19-01-2013, 20:30   #16
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Re: Cutter Rig

Cutter rigs make the sails less manageable. You've got two headsails to tack instead of one. Plus you have to mess with running backstays.

The advantage of a cutter rig (and the only significant advantage IMHO) is that when the wind pipes up, the boat balances beautifully under staysail and double reefed main. For really windy conditions, right up to force 8 or even 9, nothing beats a cutter. If you sail in lighter air, get a sloop.
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Old 19-01-2013, 21:00   #17
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Cutter rigs make the sails less manageable. You've got two headsails to tack instead of one. Plus you have to mess with running backstays.

The advantage of a cutter rig (and the only significant advantage IMHO) is that when the wind pipes up, the boat balances beautifully under staysail and double reefed main. For really windy conditions, right up to force 8 or even 9, nothing beats a cutter. If you sail in lighter air, get a sloop.
If one puts a track P/S just in front of the mast, the second jib can be self tacking providing it doesn't over lap the mast. And I'm sure that could be setup as well.

Plus, running back stays are good to have on a tall rig, for off shore.
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Old 19-01-2013, 21:43   #18
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Cutter rigs make the sails less manageable. You've got two headsails to tack instead of one. Plus you have to mess with running backstays.

The advantage of a cutter rig (and the only significant advantage IMHO) is that when the wind pipes up, the boat balances beautifully under staysail and double reefed main. For really windy conditions, right up to force 8 or even 9, nothing beats a cutter. If you sail in lighter air, get a sloop.
The first proposition is certainly true, given that by "manageable", you are clearly referring to handling the sails when tacking or gybing.

However a yankee and staysail are more manageable (easier and safer to handle) when the time comes to get either or both of them down, than a single genoa.

Even with roller gear, the time may come when you have to get a sail off, when offshore (maybe to repair it, or to repair the roller gear, or to change to a more suitable size/strength for the section of ocean or pattern of weather ahead).

Large headsails equipped with a boltrope -- which is usual on roller gear -- are an absolute nightmare to handle in a breeze and/or with any sea running, unless you've got lots of agile foredeck hands, used to working together to flake a sail and keep it under control as it's lowered.

Some people don't factor in such considerations, because they hardly ever happen. My experience is that, most days offshore, something which "hardly ever happens", happens.

Which can be a joy, if you're the sort of person who's worked out plans ahead of time for surprising contingencies ....

Yay, we get to swing into action (and find out what's wrong with our plan !)

* * * *

I agree fully with the rest of your post. For a boat which spends a lot of time in windy waters, a cutter has advantages, for sure.

A couple of minor additions:

Rolling up the yankee and proceeding under staysail (or even better, dropping the yankee, if you're blessed with a wire headstay) is a nicer option in every way than partially rolling a genoa when the wind comes up.

The staysail will set nicely, because it is still at its designed size, and it's in a safer part of the boat to get to if it requires attention. If it's a decent size, if the construction is heavy enough to support using as a storm staysail, you can get it built with (or retrofit) a slab reef

This means you can reef it quickly and safely, (fit a permanent downhaul line from the reef clew, via a STRONG standup block on the deck, back to a cockpit winch, and clap on a second sheet - or move the lazy sheet up and across - if you have separate sheets) and still it will be well shaped in comparison with any roller sail.

Furthermore, unlike a roller sail, you can position the reefed clew in a suitable relativity to the reefed tack, such that the sheet lead does not need to be relocated. I would rather go through the process to slab reef such a sail in a hard breeze than to roll it.

Particularly if the headstay has no roller gear, the mast will also have a much easier time of it under the "double reefed main and staysl" scenario. Generally the head of the double reefed main will pass under the running backstays, meaning they can both be set up, which is better yet.

If you're trying to get to windward in a strong breeze, and weather helm is a big problem, another option a cutter supports is to drop the main, to set up BOTH running backstays (this is truly important under this option, as there is now no mainsail luff tension to keep the mast pulled aft and thereby stabilise it), and proceed under yankee and staysail.

You get the added efficiency of a slot effect, and the individual max. stresses on the smaller sails are CONSIDERABLY less than the maximum stress on a single large sail. What's more, stresses are distributed more evenly through the rig.

Finally, when reaching in a strong breeze, a yankee beats any sort of genoa hands down. It's virtually the same cut and characteristics as a 'blast reacher', which is still the sail of choice on most racing yachts, on this point of sail and strength of wind.

And when running in a breeze, the pole is kept high, desirable if you broach in big seas.
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Old 19-01-2013, 22:28   #19
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Re: Cutter Rig

Love the cutters. I have a drifter on the outer forestay for downwind / light wind, otherwise it's main + staysail. Covers all my bases and with three sails (main, drifter, staysail) I can handle anything from zephyrs to gales.
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Old 19-01-2013, 22:42   #20
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Re: Cutter Rig

Don't forget that for lighter air the cutter's dual headsails also become greater than the sum of their parts due to the efficiency of the slot.
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Old 19-01-2013, 22:45   #21
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Cutter rigs make the sails less manageable. You've got two headsails to tack instead of one. Plus you have to mess with running backstays.
Plenty of cutters have self tacking staysails and no running backstays.
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Old 19-01-2013, 22:50   #22
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Plenty of cutters have self tacking staysails and no running backstays.
Plenty of sloops have self tacking jibs so all you have to do is turn the wheel. As for the efficiency of the slot, in light air most folks fly an asym or a reacher.
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Old 19-01-2013, 22:57   #23
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Plenty of sloops have self tacking jibs so all you have to do is turn the wheel. As for the efficiency of the slot, in light air most folks fly an asym or a reacher.
Then there's no difference in foresails for tacking; I don't see why you're saying they're less manageable.

Beyond all that, I don't think it's practical to carry two working jibs (yankee / staysail) up forward. It's a really limiting setup and although you can haul ass with them, it's limited on the points of sail and wind speed where it works.

I can haul a drifter up quicker than an asym is going to pop out, and in heavier weather I can balance better with the staysail. It's just more flexible and without hustling sails around I have a really broad spectrum of canvas. Compared to the typical sloop setup with a genoa on a furler I've got a lot more tricks up my sleeve. I also don't need a whisker pole, since I never need to keep some mega sail polled out. That right there will save someone a grand.
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Old 19-01-2013, 23:38   #24
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Re: Cutter Rig

I bet I've tacked about 20 times in the last 1500 miles. If I'm out on deck alone, I just roll up the yankee, tack the jib, and unroll the yankee on the other side.
If we're all out on deck it's fun to tack the whole thing together. You just backwind the yankee a little and play out the soon-to-be lazy sheet slowly and it tacks really nicely, no big deal at all. It's a lot like tacking a cat but you let the sheet play out slowly. This is a big heavy pig of a boat and I can coast over 300 yards, We don't get stuck in irons from a slow tack.
BTW, in the entire time that we've been sailing this boat, we have yet to do a sail change. We aren't yet skilled enough to fly a spinnaker, we plan to learn that skill here in Banderas Bay. (Eric, wanna go sailing after your new baby is secured?) We can fly all three, the roll up the jib if we're heeled too much, then reef the main as a next step and finally roll up the yankee and roll out the jib again (and set the checkstay) and double reef the main if we need to. We haven't yet had to fly a storm jib. That should balance nicely with a triple reefed main and the storm jib on the inner forestay.
I plan to keep up our tradition of checking the weather closely and planning well and hopefully that brand new storm jib will always stay down below.
So we have a progression of 5 different sail plans as it gets windier without ever changing a sail.
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Old 19-01-2013, 23:39   #25
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Re: Cutter Rig

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Originally Posted by BillinKL View Post
What are the advantages of a cutter rig and does this configuration improve a boat's pointing ability?
Lets assume both boats have the same hull and the same mast height.

Last question first: Not generally. A cutter may have better pointing ability in gale or storm conditions, but probably not so as to be very noticeable. In general a sloop will point better in mid range wind conditions. Pointing in light conditions they will probably be flying the same drifter/CodeZero/asym and will be about even, a cutter will be faster on a reach because it has more places to put us more sail area and they will we about even on a run.

Advantages of a cutter rig over a masthead sloop in the absence of roller furling:
A) Redundancy of support for the upper part of the mast, i.e. the extra rigging to carry the staysail and counter it's pull.
B) Better sail area balance when drastically reduced for storm and gale conditions.
C) Increased relative speed on any reach (close, beam, broad), except in very light air.
D) In general decreased storage for sail inventory. What you can probably get away with carrying on a cutter is: Storm jib, staysail lapper, Yankee (high cut lapper say 130%), and drifter/CodeZero/Asymmetrical. In general I would store the storm jib and drifter below and leave the staysail and yankee hanked on and bagged in place ready to go so only the two smallest sails would be below. During a gale or worse all but the storm jib would be below. On a sloop I would want a storm jib, a working jib(80-95%), lapper (110-125%), genoa (140-160%), and a drifter/CZ/Asym(150-180%). In general I would have 3 sails below, with one up and the next smaller hanked on between the tack and the 1st hank of the sail that was up in order to speed changes. In heavy weather all but the storm jib would be below.
E) Decreased sail count and total weight depending on what the sloop chooses to carry. See previous item for list of what I would probably carry. So cutter has 4 sails to sloop's 5. But if you assume the storm jib and drifter are a wash for weight and storage volume and just consider the mid range sails, the yankee and staysail for the cutter probably have about the same sail area, weight and storage volume as the sloop's genoa, which leaves the sloop carrying the weight and volume of the working jib and lapper in excess of what the cutter carries.
F) Easier sail changes. For the whole mid range of wind strengths the yankee and staysail are on deck, and are either up or bagged/lashed on deck ready to go up. These sails are doused and secured in place without being removed from the stay. With a sloop you need to mostly unhank one sail before the other can go up.
G) Somewhat easier to set the storm jib on the inner stay. There is more room around the stay than rights at the pointy end and the motion is a little better several feet back from the bow.
H) It is easier, or at least more accepted, to make the staysail self-tending, either with a boom or a radiused track.

Advantages of a masthead sloop with hanked on sails:
A) Pointing ability in the wind ranges where the cutter would have up 2 foresails or just the yankee. In very light winds where both would be carrying a drifter or whatever it would be a wash. In heavy air with working jib or staysail only it would probably be a wash too except perhaps in gale or storm conditions where the cutter might have better pointing ability due to better sheeting angles and better balance.
B) Maintenance costs, fewer stays, toggles, turnbuckles, etc to inspect and replace on a regular basis.
C) If the cutter has a fixed inner stay the sloop will have an advantage in tacking convenience when sailing shore. Offshore, the period between tacks or gybes is measured in hours or days, not minutes or boat lengths.


Roller furling head sails on both boats changes the equation some but not radically so. Lets assume the staysail on the cutter remains hanked on.

Both still need a drifter(or whatever) and a storm jib. For both the storm jib and drifter need to be stored below and both are now about even on sail count, storage volume and storage weight. However the cutter now has an advantage in more steps in decreasing sail area between light and heavy weather: drifter, yankee & staysail, 85%yankee & staysail, yankee, 85%yankee, staysail, storm jib. Doesn't mean you are going to want to use all those steps, but they are at your disposal. With a sloop the steps are: Drifter, full headsail (120-130%), 80%headsail (equivalent to about a 95% working jib perhaps) and then the storm jib. With the cutter the headsail is fully rolled in significantly lower winds than with a sloop, meaning you are not pushing the reefing gear as hard.

For a sloop the issue of what to hang the storm jib on comes up. If you have to pull the headsail to put the storm jib up, you will be dousing a fairly large headsail with no hanks to control the luff while bagging it in pretty nasty weather. Alternatively there is the ATN GaleSail which goes over a rolled foresail, but which has garnered mixed reviews from what I have heard, I have no first hand experience with this product. Or you could rig a removable solent stay and hank the storm jib on, and possibly a small working jib before that so the headsail could be fully furled in lighter winds.


If you want to compare a fractionally rigged sloop to a cutter then lets assume same hull, same working sail area (main triangle and fore-triangle areas together with no roach counted) and that the spinnaker halyard for the sloop is at the masthead.

In order to get the same working area, the mast of the sloop will be significantly taller than the cutter. In the mid range of winds the sloop will be faster upwind. In heavy winds it's hard to say either way, though the issue of where to hang the storm jib comes up again if the forestay is roller furling. In light winds the sloop will probably be faster pointing. Flying a drifter/CodeZero from the masthead will give it a significant sail area advantage and increased speed. It may not be able to point as high as the cutter but it will likely be gaining enough speed thru the water to give it an advantage in speed made good.

On any reach that the sloop can fly a masthead sail it is hard to say whether it would be would be faster than the cutter, they both get increased sail area.

On a run the sloop will probably have the speed advantage with an over-sized main plus a downwind sail on a mast that is taller than the cutter's it would be hard to overcome.

Convenience-wise the fractional sloop is better than a masthead sloop since the foresail is de-emphasized there are probably fewer jibs to handle, store and change, but I don't think that is enough to be more convenient than a cutter.

To me the big things to consider are that the cutter provides mast support redundancy, is more convenient for setting a storm jib and is probably even in performance with sloops in very light winds (where frustration is the issue) and very heavy winds (where safety is the issue.)
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Old 19-01-2013, 23:40   #26
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Re: Cutter Rig

Sometimes, just a staysail is plenty of sail area ...
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Old 20-01-2013, 10:36   #27
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Re: Cutter Rig - in praise of the staysail.

Staysail is a lovely little sail for pootling along on my little ship as you can goosewing it without a pole and it is safer and more relaxing in a following wind than a main which has to be rigged with a preventer to safeguard against an unplanned gybe. So if I am running downwind I usually drop the main. If the wind gets around the back of either headsail the Hydrovane will correct the course quickly - not so quick if the main should gybe. If I need more sail area I hoist a lightweight genoa instead of the yankee but the staysail stays up in all weathers short of gales when the storm jib gets an airing.
Pleiades incidentally has no running backstays - the mast at staysail height is supported by permanent lowers opposing the inner forestay. Tacking with the two headsails is a doddle - I back the staysail for a second or two to speed up pulling the bows round.
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Old 20-01-2013, 19:53   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Cutter rigs make the sails less manageable. You've got two headsails to tack instead of one. Plus you have to mess with running backstays.

The advantage of a cutter rig (and the only significant advantage IMHO) is that when the wind pipes up, the boat balances beautifully under staysail and double reefed main. For really windy conditions, right up to force 8 or even 9, nothing beats a cutter. If you sail in lighter air, get a sloop.
Dear Curmudgeon,

I respectfully disagree. I sail a cutter and it is actually easier to tack than a sloop. There is a trick to it which most sloop sailors do not realize. As a result they have trouble tacking a cutter. A modern cutter has the mast set back some making more room for the staysail. But not to far back so the slot between stays is relatively narrow. If you have a big genoa as I do then some wonder how to tack it through the relatively small slot in front of the staysail stay. It is quite easy on my boat. Begin your tack but leave the staysail backed and release the foresail sheet first. The pressure on the staysail will "suck" the genoa through the slot quickly. Pull in the new sheet and then release the staysail. It will nearly self tack and you are on your way on the new tack. I show this to non-cutter sailors new to my boat and they are universally amazed.

I do not need running back stays either. I have them if things get really messy but have never needed them. The boat designer agrees with that.

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Old 20-01-2013, 22:45   #29
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Re: Cutter Rig

I owned a cutter and understand how to tack one. You still have to crank an extra set of winches unless the staysail is self-tacking, which creates its own set of problems.

The best rig IMHO is a sloop with a self tacking jib and a light air sail in front of the jib on a furler. The newer Tartans have this rig, so do the Sagas and a number of other boats. The solution to the heavy weather issue is a removable inner forestay with a hank on storm jib. And when you need the inner forstay, you also need the running backs.

Been there, done that. No more cutters for me.
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Old 31-01-2013, 02:45   #30
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Re: Cutter Rig

here in new zealand it blows a bit and i have found it is much easier and safer to hank on a storm jib to an inner forestay than an outer and with just a storm jib up and both running backstays cranked up tight we can run down wind in 50 knots and feel safe have done a lot of miles in a sloop as well and have felt decidely vulnerable at the bow hauling in head sails and hanking on smaller ones in the rough especially at night.cutter rig with runners also must give the mast more support
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