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Old 01-10-2005, 17:08   #1
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cutters-easily singlehanded?

I have read several times that cutters are more easily singlehanded-why is that?
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Old 01-10-2005, 17:13   #2
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I donít entirely agree; but the theory might go:
more sails = smaller sails = easier handling & more flexibility in sailplan.
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Old 01-10-2005, 17:27   #3
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The ease of singlehanding a boat has more to do with how the lines are set up than what esign the rig is. I had real concerns when bought my cutter, as I have to do a lot of short tacking when entering and leaving the harbor. THe boat is an old wood boat, so I did not want to stray to far when setting up the lines. I found that once the lines were set up to release easily, and secure easily with one hand, it was no harder to single hand than a sloop rig. I would not say it was any easier. Compared to my ketch rig, it is about the same. The size of the sails between a cutter and a sloop is negligable. The only issue on a cutter that might be a concern is the distance between the forestay and the inner forestay. If you have to furl in the headsail to tack, you will have a problem singlehanding. As my sails are hanked on, when running the 130, I just have to get the headsail to backwind solidly when tacking before I release the sheet. This slows me a bit, and with then having to swap the staysail sheet, it is not very efficient for races. Bottom line, a sloop is probably easier, but not enough to shy away from a design that you like. I do like the balance you can get reefed down with a cutter better than a sloop.
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Old 02-10-2005, 03:36   #4
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Scott, to the extent you are going to be cruising a smaller boat and to the extent your cruising will be along the ICW, USA coastal waters and nearby islands, a cutter rig makes less sense for you, not more. And while on the topic of size, focusing on overall length alone can be quite misleading. Instead, I'd encourage you to consider displacement and LWL as your primary size criteria.

The Shannon 28 illustrates all this well IMO. This boat was Shannon's attempt to maintain an offering at the lower end of the market when their 38 was escallating in price rapidly. It is a sound design, wonderfully built, and looks quite shippy; I would consider it a good offshore boat for the 'small' (5T) category. But for your intended use, where motoring will at times be unavoidable and where relatively accurate weather f'casts are almost always available, I would suggest its weight, cluttered foredeck with boomed staysail, added length to put more sail area on the short but heavy hull, ubiquitous topside wood, small cabin and short watereline length all work against more than are suitable for your plans.

Of course, we choose boats with our eye and heart as much as our head, and she is certainly an attractive, appealing choice.

Jack
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Old 02-10-2005, 10:09   #5
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EORO CRUISER

If I understand you correctly, I may want to look at a boat with a lighter displacement, based on it's LWL, due to the area I will be sailing in. Is that correct?

I must admit, the shannon is eye candy to me , but if that were my only criteria, I would be looking at wooden boats only....love them!

Scott
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Old 02-10-2005, 18:32   #6
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Hi Scott,

I do a lot of single-handing and have owned and sailed on a lot of cutters. I think that cutters are a somewhat dated rig that is a reasonable rig for use in a venue that predominantly has comparatively higher windspeeds. In those conditions a cutter would use a high cut headstaysail which is comparatively easy to tack short-handed.

I noticed in an earlier post that you are planning to sail on the Chesapeake. The Chesapeake is a predominantly light air venue punctuated by occasional doses of higher windspeeds. The Bay rewards boats with light air sailing ability and a bit more performance. A bit more light air performance can add a lot more sailing time vs motoring time. A bit more performance means a longer day's run and a lot more choices in anchorages.

If you will be spending most of your sailing time on the Chesapeake and single-handing then a cutter would not be a good choice either from an ease of handling perspective, and from suitability to the sailing venue. I think you would be much better served by a sloop rig, ideally a fractionally rigged sloop due to its short-handed ease of handling.

Anyway, the following is a section of a draft of an article discussing sloops and cutters that I wrote for another venue. I hope that it is helpful.

"CUTTER AND SLOOP RIGS

These are the most common rigs being produced today. In current usage these terms are applied quite loosely as compared to their more traditional definitions. Traditionally the sloop rig was a rig with a single mast located forward of 50% of the length of the sailplan. In this traditional definition a sloop could have multiple jibs. Cutters had a rig with a single mast located 50% of the length of the sailplan or further aft, multiple headsails and in older definitions, a reefing bowsprit (a bowsprit that could be withdrawn in heavy going). Somewhere in the 1950's or 1960's there was a shift in these definitions such that a sloop only flew one headsail and a cutter had multiple headsails and mast position became less relevant. For the sake of this discussion I assume we are discussing the modern definition of a sloop and a cutter.

Historically, when sail handling hardware was primitive and sails were far more stretchy than they are today, the smaller headsails and mainsail of a traditional cutter were easier to handle and with less sail stretch, allowed earlier cutters to be more weatherly (sail closer to the wind) than the sloops of the day. With the invention of lower stretch sailcloth and geared winches, cutters quickly lost their earlier advantage.

Today sloops are generally closer winded and easier to handle. Their smaller jibs and larger mainsail sailplan are easier to power up and down. Without a jibstay to drag the Genoa across, sloops are generally easier to tack. With less hardware sloops are less expensive to build.

Sloops come in a couple varieties, masthead and fractional. In a masthead rig the forestay and jib originates at the masthead. In a fractional rig, the forestay originated some fraction of the mast height down from the masthead. Historically, sloops were typically fractionally rigged. Fractional rigs tend to give the most drive per square foot of sail area. Their smaller jibs are easier to tack and they reef down to a snug masthead rig. Today they are often proportioned so that they do not need overlapping headsails, making them even easier to sail. One of the major advantages of a fractional rigs, when combined with a flexible mast, is the ability to use the backstay to control mast bend. Increasing backstay tension does a lot of things on a fractional rig: it tensions the forestay flattening the jib, and induces mast bend, which flattens the mainsail and opens the leech of the sail. This allows quick depowering as the wind increases and allows a fractional rig to sail in a wider wind speed range than masthead rig without reefing, although arguably requiring a bit more sail trimming skills.

While fractional rigs used to require running backstays, better materials and design approaches have pretty much eliminated the need for running backstays. That said, fractional rigs intended for offshore use, will often have running backstays that are only rigged in heavy weather once the mainsail has been reefed. The geometry of these running backstays typically allows the boat to be tacked without tacking the running backstays.

Masthead rigs came into popularity in the 1950's primarily in response to racing rating rules that under-penalized jibs and spinnakers and so promoted bigger headsails. Masthead sloops tend to be simpler rigs to build and adjust. They tend to be more dependent on large headsails and so are harder to tack and also require a larger headsail inventory if performance is important or is sailed in areas with highly variable wind conditions. Mast bend is harder to control and so bigger masthead rigs will often have a babystay that can be tensioned to induce mast bend in the same way as a fractional rig does. Dragging a Genoa over the babystay makes tacking a bit more difficult and slower. While roller furling does allow a wider wind range for a given Genoa, there is a real limit (typically cited as 10% to 15%) to the amount that a Genoa can be roller furled and still maintain a safely flat shape.

Cutters, which had pretty much dropped out of popularity during a period from the end of WWII until the early 1970's, came back into popularity with a vengeance in the early 1970's as an offshore cruising rig. In theory, the presence of multiple jibs allows the forestaysail to be dropped or completely furled, and when combined with a reefed mainsail, and the full staysail, results in a very compact heavy weather rig (similar to the proportions of a fractional rigged sloop with a reef in the mainsail). As a result the cutter rig is often cited as the ideal offshore rig. While that is the theory, it rarely works out that the staysail is properly proportioned, (either too small for normal sailing needs and for the lower end of the high wind range (say 20-30 knots) or too large for higher windspeeds) and of a sail cloth that makes sense as a heavy weather sail but which is too heavy for day to day sailing in more moderate conditions. Also when these sails are proportioned small enough to be used as heavy weather sails, these rigs will often develop a lot of weather helm when being sailed in winds that are too slow to use a double reefed mainsail.

Like fractional rigs, cutter rigs intended for offshore use, will often have running backstays that are only rigged in heavy weather once the mainsail has been reefed. Unlike the fractional rig, the geometry of these running backstays typically requires that the running backstays be tacked whenever the boat is tacked.

Cutters make a less successful rig for coastal sailing. Generally cutters tend to have snug rigs that depend on larger Genoas for light air performance. Tacking these large Genoas through the narrow slot between the jibstay and forestay is a much harder operation than tacking a sloop. As a result many of today's cutters have a removable jibstay that can be rigged in heavier winds. This somewhat reduces the advantage of a cutter rig (i.e. having a permanently rigged and ready to fly small, heavy weather jib). But beyond that the sheer size of these genoas make them very hard to tack or trim requiring overhauling a lot of line under comparatively high load.

Cutters these days generally do not point as close to the wind as similar sized sloops. Because of the need to keep the slots of both headsails open enough to permit good airflow, the headsails on a cutter cannot be sheeted as tightly as the jib on a sloop without choking off the airflow in the slot. Since cutters are generally associated with the less efficient underbodies that are typical of offshore boats this is less of a problem that it might sound. Cutters also give away some performance on deep broad reaches and when heading downwind because the Genoa acts in the bad air of the staysail. "

By the way, I sail out of Annapolis and often have room for one more on board.

Good luck,
Jeff
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Old 03-10-2005, 03:23   #7
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THANKS JEFF - as always, a well written, thoughtful & informative tutorial.
I'm looking foreward to 'the book'.
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Old 03-10-2005, 06:20   #8
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Scott, I can see Jeff's given you much to think about and we all consider his views well worth considering. To answer the question you put to me, I think you'll find many lighter displacement boats with sloop rigs that will be less expensive, offer more living and storage space, and at least equal sailing ability to the Shannon. They may not look as lovely nor be built as strongly, but they would be suitably capable for the waters in which you plan to sail.

Jeff's suggestion to consider fractionally rigged sloops may be more of a theoretical than a practical one. When I look around, I just don't see that many in brokerage inventories at competitive prices...but from a singlehanding standpoint, they have advantages that can make the search worthwhile.

(Jeff, we had a hell of a time getting on-line due to the local cable company. Finally have Vonage up & running - our phone service - and I'm looking forward to a chat shortly!)

Jack
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Old 03-10-2005, 09:36   #9
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Along these lines, I do have a fractional sloop and I am considering adding a removable inner forestay. Though this does not make it a cutter, as Jeff has explained, and though it is sacreligious to add a bunch of unncecessary rigging, windage and weight aloft, I believe there will be several benefits for shorthanded cruising where wide wind ranges can be encountered.

1) It is impractical to expect a single forestay sail to be adequate for all conditions. Beating into 25 knots or more is far different from reaching in 15 or less. Any compromise size of roller-reefing genoa will be out of its element in either extreme.

2) To change sails, particularly in rough conditions or when alone, will be far easier if I can simply connect and tension an inner stay and hank on a smaller jib. This will allow me to keep a large genoa furled and ready for action when conditions change again.

3) It is important to me that the inner stay be removable to avoid tacking difficulties when using the primary genoa. Running backstays will be added near the upper spreaders near the inner stay connection for additional mast stabilization, but will be forward enough on the deck rails not to interfere with the boom.

For daysailing or local coastwise boating I would not consider this addition worthwhile, but the farther from shore we intend to go, the more prepared we must be.

Note; I considered tacking the inner stay very close behind the forestay, but figured the rolled up genoa would disrupt the air flow too severely. Though this might have avoided the need for runners, I think it shall go a meter back instead.
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Old 03-10-2005, 14:45   #10
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Phil, your plans are very consistent with boats used offshore and your implied message as I read your post - that a fractional rig doesn't eliminate the need for an inner stay when sailing in wide wind ranges - seems absolutely correct IME. Of course, Scott's plans won't make this a necessity for him.

A quesiton for you: Could you consider attaching your inner stay below the existing headstay perhaps .5M? This Solent Stay arrangement will save you the need to install running backstays and, if also siting the bottom of the inner stay perhaps 1M aft of the existing headstay, you'll still have that separation and a furled genoa won't intrude on the Solent Jib's airflow. I did this with our masthead rig and we've seen it many, many times in Europe, on both masthead and fractional rigs.

FWIW one of the weaknesses I see with fractional rigs is that they are less easily modified to accept an inner stay. Also, some of those frac mast cross sections give me the willies. And then there is the spaghetti farm of cascading blocks and chafing tension lines I sometimes find back aft... Every rig requires a careful eye, it seems.

Jack
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Old 03-10-2005, 16:52   #11
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Jeff's reply is very accurate. I own a cutter myself. I also sail on the Chesapeks but down south on the fat end. Spring and fall bring nice big wind.

I added a tacking line to help when the clue of the jib hangs on the inner stay. It saves a trip to the fordeck though as it is an extra line you have to deal with it so it can work when you need it. No free lunch.

A modern sloop is built better and designed better. But if you get an old boat that is a cuter you learn to sail it as best it can. You can't easily make a cutter into a sloop. Inner forestay that removes or not it is what it is.

I do like my club footed stay sail a lot. It comes in handy and whyn you have a small group aboard and the wind is blowing hard you don't need to mess with the tacking.
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Old 03-10-2005, 18:29   #12
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Thaks everyone!

You certainly have given me a lot to digest.

Jeff,
If ever you need another crew member, I'd love to take you up on your generous offer. Just drop me an e-mail.

Thanks.....Scott
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Old 03-10-2005, 18:48   #13
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Yes

I've got 20,000 miles of open ocean experience, mostly under a cutter rig but several thousand miles with a sloop and some time in a ketch. For a non roller furling boat, I'd go with a cutter rig.

A double headsail sloop, cutter, or whatever you decide to call it are great offshore rigs especially if you don't have or want roller furling. You can sail around the world with only four sails plus storm canvas. That's a main, full size staysail, Yankee jib and an overlapping light sail plus storm canvas, all WITHOUT roller furling. What makes it even better is you only have to make one sail change from ghosting to near survival conditions. You need An overlapping headsail for very light air to weather and reaching in moderate conditions. When that sail is overpowering the boat, swap it out for the Yankee Jib and hoist the staysail if it hasn't been up all the time. That combination will take you to 30+ knots of wind with reefs in the main. When the wind pipes up further, drop the Yankee, lash it to the life lines and continue. If things get real snotty, you can reef the staysail and drop the main. That should carry you through almost all conditions. Another option in storms would be to hoist a trisail and storm jib or stick with the reefed staysail and trisail. If the boat has a bowsprit, the sails are all inboard as things get really nasty. One last thing, with the exception of the very light air sails, all the sails are relatively small in size.

The double sail slot of the cutter rig is super for sailing on a very close reach to near running conditions. The slots make the smaller sails work like much larger size canvas. Otherwise, in all

the conditions where a cruising boat can make good time. Hard on the wind is something that is only beloved by masochistic racers. The perpetual heave of the open ocean just doesn't lend itself to the day after day routine of a long distance cruiser. Going to weather even on a close reach is supremely uncomfortable to the crew and a gear buster on the boat in even small open ocean seas. Running dead before the wind is not a very fast point of sail and is very uncomfortable if the sea states are causing the boat to roll. So all the conditions under which a cruiser is likely to need to sail, the cutter rig is perfect.

I hate club footed sails. You are stuck with the main but you don't need the club on the staysail. A clubbed foresail/staysail is just that, a huge club waiting to kill you on the foredeck. Even if your head is indestructible, the club is a fence that effectively walls off half the foredeck. The damn thing is always between you and where you want to go.

If you want to go with roller furling, a 100% furling jib in combination with the staysail might give you a sail combination for almost all conditions. By furling the jib and reefing the main, you keep the power of the two slots through almost all conditions. Throw in an asymetrical spinnaker for reaching/running conditions and Bob's your uncle.

The main problem with a fixed staysail stay is tacking the boat like a sloop. A large overlapping jib may have trouble getting around the staysail stay., especially in light conditions. To tack the boat as a cutter, it's no big deal. The staysail is sheeted on the new tack before the boat is through the eye of the wind, without a winch, because of it's small size. That leaves the Jib which is also easily handled because of it's size, too. May take a little longer than a 130% genoa on a sloop but probably no longer than a larger genoa.

Running backstays are nice to have to triangulate the staysail stay. With a typical cruising boats stick, they are only necessary when the wind pipes up and/or when the main is taken down, however. For close tacking under most conditions, the runners are left lashed forward. If you really don't want to have runners. You can rig permanent intermediate shrouds to triangulate the staysail. These will only effect sail trim with the boom eased way out.

Baby stays on sloops do allow you to bend the mast but they are primarily there to hold the stick up. Typically, a baby stay is used when there are no forward lowers. The baby stay is necessary to keep the mast from pumping under this type of stay arrangement.

The smaller the boat, the greater the displacement ratio needs to be to carry anything. A lightweight small boat will suffer SEVERE performance deficits when loaded even for short term coastal cruising. A similar length, heavier boat will still perform well, even when way down on it's lines. If you want to go light, get a 55' BOC boat and fly. Even these boats sail with virtually no interior or creature comforts, btw. A heavier boat needs a rig to correspond to the more hp needed for it to compete in light air, though. That's why displacement, rather than length is a much better determinate of boat size. Don't know where the discussion of the Shannon 28 came from, but I'd prefer it over an Olson 30, any day.

Their may be good things to be said for fractional rigs. I'm not sold on them for anything but racing, however. Yes it is easier to shape the main by bending the stick. That is what makes me nervous about this rig for serious ocean work, however. That bendy stick looks like it is just waiting to do a pretzel and fail in column. Besides, in a short handed boat, you don't have the hands to play games bending the stick. You can triangulate the mast to control mast pumping but then you have the same problems listed against runners on any boat. I also think you can design a masthead rig with the same charactristics of a fractional rigs small headsail

Do I think the cutter is the ideal rig, NO. For coastal cruising, I'd go with a sloop with a roller furling 135% genoa. That's not an IOR chopped down boom huge foretriangle sloop but the older and/or more modern sloop rig with a large main and reasonable foretriangle. With an asymetrical reaching chute, you can cover most wind conditions. If you solve the problem of how to easily hank on a storm jib in real storm conditions, it might even be the ideal all around rig.

Aloha
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Old 04-10-2005, 01:02   #14
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Jack-
My first inclination was to go with a solent stay arrangement, in part to simplify the installation and avoid runners, but also because the foretriangle is relatively small to begin with and I donít want to reduce it too much. However, the position of my bow locker would push the stay position to within a foot (30cm) of the forestay. With the genoa wrapped up it just doesnít look like a sufficient slot for efficient laminar airflow across the jib. I fear the turbulence would detract from performance more than having the sail further back. Then the old salts start advising how runners would be a good addition for offshore anyway, so I came to accept placing the inner stay about 4í (115cm) back, behind the bow locker, not much more than the meter you suggest. The top end will terminate near the 3rd set of swept spreaders where it has that additional lateral support as well. Hope it works.
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Old 04-10-2005, 06:20   #15
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Phil, it sounds like you've done your homework and reached a decision you are comfortable with...and that's essentially what all of us are seeking. But one correction: the 'solent stay' alternative you described isn't the one I was recommending, namely anchoring the inner stay on deck just abaft the existing forestay. I've seen this a LOT on larger European boats with tall sloop rigs and with owners who apparently don't want to deal with runners...but it's not appealed to me as a a great alternative. It also mandates two roller reefing/furling systems (weight, cost, windage et al.)

The solent stay arrangement I was suggesting has the deck attachment point in the location you prefer, roughly 1M aft of the existing forestay. It's only the top attachment point that would differ, allowing the inner stay when set up to have its tension offset by the existing backstay. You will not have any flow issues with that arrangement.

Just wanted to clarify; I'm not "selling'... <g>

Jack
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