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Old 02-08-2015, 02:42   #1
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Staysail Advice

We sailed into some windy conditions last weekend and ended up with some staysail issues. I'm looking for some experienced advice much like Dockhead sought near the end of last season.

We sail with the staysail on our cutter fig all the time in winds up to 25 knots without any issues. The boat handles fine, the jib, staysail and mainsail all maintain their parallel airfoil shapes just fine. Usually, we furl in the main for the first couple of reefs when the time comes, then the jib.

Question and issue:

When the winds increase to a continuous 30-35 knots, the staysail begins flogging like crazy, if that's the correct term. The bottom and aft edge of the sail flap like the thing's going to come apart, even when I bear off the wind. Then it becomes a problem to furl in the staysail with all the flapping, flogging going on up there. The most significant problems arose when I tried to use just the staysail alone in 35 knot winds.

Is a storm jib required at 30 knots plus? Is the the staysail beyond its limits at this wind speed? The sail is in fairly good condition and easily shaped to match wind speeds below 25 knots.

Thanks

Ken
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Old 02-08-2015, 03:20   #2
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Re: Staysail Advice

If the sail is only fluttering on the leech and the foot, it sounds like an issue with the sail. You should be able to use a staysail up to quite high wind speeds - 40 odd knots at least. So, is the leech hooked? are there leech and foot cords fitted? Sometimes leech flutter can be fixed by cutting more curve into the leech if the leech and foot cords being fully tight do not fix the issue... Consult a decent sail maker.
Don't tolerate a fluttering leech or foot - it WILL destroy the sail.
Good Luck!
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Old 02-08-2015, 04:09   #3
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Re: Staysail Advice

I have used my staysail to 50 knots or more. It is cut flat and strong. It is small and is intended for this. My storm sail!
Sounds like an issue with the sail. Maybe cut for light air. If it is small suggest you think about a flat one cut for strong winds. Staysail is best storm sail. Does not add that much in light air unless it is big.
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Old 02-08-2015, 04:18   #4
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Re: Staysail Advice

Sounds to me like the leech coward and foot cord are too loose, at least at high wind speeds. If you look near the clew there should be two strings (one per edge) that allow you to adjust the tension, just pull them in a touch when the sail starts to flap. This is part of normal sail trim btw and needs to be reset to just tight of flapping no matter the wind speed.
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Old 02-08-2015, 04:30   #5
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Re: Staysail Advice

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Originally Posted by Stumble View Post
Sounds to me like the leech coward and foot cord are too loose, at least at high wind speeds. If you look near the clew there should be two strings (one per edge) that allow you to adjust the tension, just pull them in a touch when the sail starts to flap. This is part of normal sail trim btw and needs to be reset to just tight of flapping no matter the wind speed.
Neptune and stumble,

I have not adjusted the cords, I believe they don't presently have any tension on them. Initially, how much tension should I have on each? Just a little then check, then add a little more until I get it right?

Can you please explain the proper procedure for doing this on a 53ft sailboat?

Thanks
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:11   #6
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Re: Staysail Advice

Ahh, sounds like the leech and foot cords are the problem. Getting the tension right is mostly trail and error. And unfortunately the stretch means that as the sail loads up they often need to be tightened. Then in light airs the leech gets cupped, and you need to loosen them again.. I retrofitted a spectra leech cord to my last furling genoa. As the sail stretched out the leachcord tightened automatically. Seemed to work well. Or at least I never had to touch it again.

In your case start by tensioning them slightly. Pull them just enough to to hook he leech in light airs then loosen them slightly till the hook is gone.

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Old 02-08-2015, 05:22   #7
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Re: Staysail Advice

I don't even have leech or foot cords in my staysail.

Mine is made of extra-heavy cloth and is on an oversized furler (Furlex 400S) and is specifically intended to be used as a storm jib.

It is an incredibly useful sail which I use in a great variety of different conditions. I use it with deeply reefed main or even alone in really strong wind (50+ knots).

Now that I've changed the principle headsail to a blade, I go straight to staysail in winds too strong for the unreefed jib. I have not yet ever reefed the blade other than sailing DDW, which will extend the life of the jib and makes for much better sailing. Reefed headsails suck in terms of shape; much better to change to something different.

Last year I discovered that it can be used with the full, unreefed mainsail without balance problems. So one more use which has been added to its repertoire is sailing comfortably and relatively slowly in conditions where I could be using the jib, but don't feel like it (night time, having dinner, or just not in a hurry).

My staysail is hard to trim well because it is on a self-tacking semi-elliptical car which makes it impossible to balance the foot and leech tension without barber hauling. With time I have realized that this is not really a big problem. The foot might not be shaped right under some conditions, but the rest of the sail generally works. So I barber haul it sometimes, but often not. It takes a great deal of tension to keep the sail from fluttering at high (30+) wind speeds, when hard on the wind, because of the number of turns and blocks in the sheet. But my staysail sheet (original one, now 14 years old) is Dyneema and handles the tension just fine.

I would start with sheet tension, Ken, if your staysail is rigged like mine (pics?). You may need a lot more tension than you think, due to all the turns. If that doesn't work, I would suspect the cut of the sail. I would show it to a good sailmaker.

Leech and foot cords are bandaids, and should be used for occasional or marginal problems, not as a general cure.

Whatever you do, do fix it -- you'll be glad you did. It's an incredibly useful sail.
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:22   #8
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Re: Staysail Advice

Thanks for your help.

It sounds like what I need to do, is head out sailing with my wife when the wind is light and place some tension on the leech cords, probably on the Jib as well, then just see how the sails look as the wind increases. Then make any changes the next time out in light wind.

There's really no way i can tension these things in a windy situation. Any change will need to be done in light air.

Thanks agin. 'Love the excellent advice on this forum.

Ken
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:27   #9
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Re: Staysail Advice

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Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
Thanks for your help.

It sounds like what I need to do, is head out sailing with my wife when the wind is light and place some tension on the leech cords, probably on the Jib as well, then just see how the sails look as the wind increases. Then make any changes the next time out in light wind.

There's really no way i can tension these things in a windy situation. Any change will need to be done in light air.

Thanks agin. 'Love the excellent advice on this forum.

Ken
If you post photos, it will help a lot.

To sheet in (or put tension on the leech/foot cords), luff up a little to depower the sail.

Don't start using foot/leech cord tension until the sail is reasonably stable and just fluttering a tiny bit. You will just be masking a deeper problem otherwise.
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:29   #10
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Re: Staysail Advice

Dockhead,

Our staysail is not self tacking. During the windy conditions, I had the thing tensioned quite tight, but the two edges of the sail continued to flutter so wildly, that I was convinced the sail was going to rip to shreds if we didn't take it in immediately. Which was also a problem. The furling line's outer casing came apart when I was reeling it in by hand and jammed up in the blocks. I'll be replacing it over the next week.

This kind of stuff is always discovered at the worst possible time.
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:48   #11
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Re: Staysail Advice

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Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
Dockhead,

Our staysail is not self tacking. During the windy conditions, I had the thing tensioned quite tight, but the two edges of the sail continued to flutter so wildly, that I was convinced the sail was going to rip to shreds if we didn't take it in immediately. Which was also a problem. The furling line's outer casing came apart when I was reeling it in by hand and jammed up in the blocks. I'll be replacing it over the next week.

This kind of stuff is always discovered at the worst possible time.
Photos would help.

But that kind of behavior -- with respect to the other posters here -- is not something which leech and foot cords are designed to correct. If I were you, I would show it to a sailmaker.

It seems to me that it is impossible for both leech and foot to be fluttering hard, if there was enough sheet tension on and if you were not too close to the wind for the sail to draw. You could have one or the other fluttering if the tension was unbalanced, but not both. Even a bagged out sail should not cause that.

My bet is that either you were too close to the wind for the sail to draw (usable wind angle might be much worse than the principle headsail depending on sheeting angle and shape of the sail), OR you don't have as much sheet tension as you think, for some reason.

If the sail is bagged out or not cut right (should be cut very flat), I would have a new one made. Quite cheap compared to the other sails and what joy it will bring when it works right.
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Old 02-08-2015, 06:10   #12
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Re: Staysail Advice

Ha, dockhead, most of my sails have been bagged out and old.

I agree that the leech cord is a dangerous tool, too much can lead to a nasty baggy cupped leech.

But on a mechanically sound sail with a typical stretched foot and leech, Getting the leech cord tension just right is the only way you are going to save that sail from fluttering itself to death while at sea, short of furling it away.

Sheet tension can sometimes work, combined with getting the sheetlead right but more often than not you have to combine this with adjusting the cords.

Long term you get the leech cut down, cutting 3 inches or so of extra hollow into it and putting in a new , wider leech tape and spectra leech cord. I don't know if it was the spectra cord, or the extra hollow in the leech but it solved my genoa issues. Probably both had a part to play.

But in the short term the only tool that will work well is the cords, on an old dacron sail.

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Old 02-08-2015, 06:14   #13
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Re: Staysail Advice

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Ha, dockhead, most of my sails have been bagged out and old. I agree that the leech cord is a dangerous tool, too much can lead to a nasty baggy cupped leech, but on a mechanically sound sail with a stretched foot and leech, Getting the leech cord tension just right is the only way you are going to save that sail from fluttering itself to death while at sea, short of furling it away. Sheet tension can sometimes work, combined wig getting the sheetlead right, and Ideally you get the leech cut down, cutting 3 inches or so of extra hollow into it and putting in a new , wider leech tape and spectra leech cord.

But in the short term the only tool that will work well is the cords.

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You could be right.

The main purpose of leech and foot cords, though, is to set up an alternative path of load carrying in order to kill resonance. Not to make up for insufficient tension. Important difference.
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Old 02-08-2015, 06:21   #14
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Re: Staysail Advice

Understood.

Right now, I think I'll work on adding a little cord tension because I don't believe there's any currently. We'll see how that works.

I could be that both of you are right.
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Old 02-08-2015, 06:27   #15
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Re: Staysail Advice

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You could be right.

The main purpose of leech and foot cords, though, is to set up an alternative path of load carrying in order to kill resonance. Not to make up for insufficient tension. Important difference.
Very true. Certainly you have to get everything else right as well. Tightening the leechcords not going to work if you're cars are too far aft, or you are luffing the sail.

One other issue I have had in strong winds is the Sun cover strip inflatingand ballooning out to leeward. It caused a nasty slow flogging. I now use the stick on stuff.

Sounds like you sure are enjoying your new sails. I am looking forward to one day being able to use the racing sails that came with my two tonner.

It will be interesting to hear a sailmakers take on this. I am only going from my experience.

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