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Old 20-01-2014, 09:32   #1
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Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

Hi all: been searching for a new boat for a while now. I've been considering a cutter because I am frequently single-handed, and found the prospect of easy furling of a smaller headsail to be appealing. However, as I've been looking at boats I notice that virtually all of the cutters I've seen have large genoas, 125%, 130%, even 140%. I understand that large genoas improve performance in light wind and upwind. However, if a large genoa is so important for performance that most owners simply choose to forgo use of a jib or yankee entirely, it kind of defeats the purpose of looking at a cutter. So I thought I would seek input from cutter owners and experienced cutter sailors (which I am not). How much difference does it really make, given the downside of much larger foresails to deal with single-handed? I understand that every boat is different, etc, etc, I'm just looking for generalities here.

Thanks as always for your input. Best, Pete
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:00   #2
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

Pete , I think the folks with a big genny probably stow the staysail( or wish they did) because it is more work to tack with the big headsail bumping around the staysail. Some folks partially roll up the headsail to tack then pull it back out. For Singlehanding I find it easier to fly the Yankee and the staysail and I maybe only loose a knot or so compared to struggling with the 130 genny. You will discover what works best for you and your rig. Fair winds.
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:23   #3
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

although my boat is cutter rigged, I use a 140 genoa for most sailing on and off the wind. the staysail is rollered furled and self-tacking and used instead of reefing down the 140. there are times I use both head sails but not too often. tacking the big sail is a pain, I have a electric battery powered 90 degree drill motor that I can quickly roll up the 140 and pull it back out after the tack. pole out the 140 and the boat sails great downwind. all seems to work fine with me.
one more thing, I single hand almost all the time. you need a good autohelm.
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:29   #4
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Originally Posted by sailr69 View Post
although my boat is cutter rigged, I use a 140 genoa for most sailing on and off the wind. the staysail is rollered furled and self-tacking and used instead of reefing down the 140. there are times I use both head sails but not too often. tacking the big sail is a pain, I have a electric battery powered 90 degree drill motor that I can quickly roll up the 140 and pull it back out after the tack. pole out the 140 and the boat sails great downwind. all seems to work fine with me.
one more thing, I single hand almost all the time. you need a good autohelm.
Man... think of all that valuable upper body exercise your missing out on... works wonders..
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:40   #5
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

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Man... think of all that valuable upper body exercise your missing out on... works wonders..
It's important to have something in the 45+ range if this is to be effective....
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:59   #6
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

The main benefit is you can reduce sail area easily without having to leave the cockpit, if the both are on roller furling gear.
Big headsail if in light wind, then roll in the big one and roll out the staysail if a squall is headed your way or the breeze continues to build.
My inner forestay can be removed from the foredeck and stowed on those light air days (more often) when not really needed, of course on mixed days when conditions are not so stable it's nice to have in place. Of course, if your on long runs your not really tacking all that much so it's not really an issue.
I usually go to the smaller foresail at night anyway and go conservative just to ratchet down the stress level, it's not like you're trying to set any speed records.
Depends on what you need in a boat, many new boats are going the way of a solent rig, with moderate headsails and a light air reacher on a roller. If I were buying new it would definitely be something to consider, but since I don't have the means to buy brandy new, the cutter rigged boat I can afford works just fine for my needs. It at least gives you options and in my case it works for my needs.
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:59   #7
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

We have a cutter rig that we love. Our most used headsail is a ~125% genoa. Hard to weather this does not cooperate well with the staysail, but having the staysail up helps make the tacking easier (keeps the genoa from getting trapped behind the inner stay). When the wind picks up or going to weather we find that the yankee works great with the staysail and even though there are two headsails to tack it's faster, easier, and better than having up the genoa.
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Old 20-01-2014, 10:59   #8
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

My first experience with a cutter was crewing on a 40 tri. The first tack, I let go of the staysail sheet before the genoa had slide all the way around the staysail, and got promptly yelled at by the owners girl friend. She had to run forward and help the sail around. After a better explanation I let the staysail backwind just long enough for the clew of the genoa to slide past the inner forestay. Worked just great. There are probably as many methods as there are sailors, but what I have found that doesnt work well (at least for me) is to try to tack a genoa around an empty inner forestay, or a rolled up staysail. The genoa gets into the slot between the inner, and the mast and that creates lots of friction. I dont know how well a self tending staysail would help or hinder. On my own 44 foot cutter, I considered the staysail as a passage sail, and had the inner forestay removable so that it was out of the way for most of my sailing. I prefer a cutter over any other rig, but having the removable inner forestay makes a lot of sense for daysailing . I am sure people on CF will give many other methods. Good Luck, and have fun. ______Grant.
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Old 20-01-2014, 11:16   #9
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

We have a Caliber 40 that is cutter rigged and which we sail as a sloop almost all the time. We have had the boat for 19 years and sailed her quite a bit - off shore, inshore, and in confined waters.

The removeable inner forestay is seven (7) feet aft of the forestay / genoa tack.

The tack for the Code 0 is 14 inches forward of the forestay.

We originally had a 135% RF genoa on the forestay, a 120 sq foot staysail, and a 1250 sq foot Asymmetrical spinnaker that flys off the bowsprit 14" forward of the genoa tack.

After our first mini-cruise we upgraded our sailplane to:
120% genoa
750 sq foot Code 0 on it's own roller furler
170 sq foot overlapping staysail
120 sq foot staysail
80 sq foot storm staysail.

We kept the 135% genoa but felt it was too big to be rolled effectively in 18 knots upwind and not as effective as a Code 0 or spinnaker in less than 6 knots off the wind. Therefore -we had North Sails build us a heavier 120% RF genoa that held a very good shape when furled to 100%. That genoa furled to 100% is still quite effective hard upwind in 16 to 20 knots apparent.

We only rig and use the inner forestay / staysail in winds forward of 60 degrees apparent which, exceed 25 knots apparent.

The 170 sq foot overlapping staysail is a great upwind and very close reaching sail in 22 to 32 knots apparent. It greatly reduces heel and weather helm and gives about 2 degrees higher pointing ability than the furled genoa. From 30 to 45 knots upwind we use the 120 sq foot non-overlapping staysail. Above 45 knots - we have sailed there quite a few times but always chose to sail off the wind in those conditions.

We fly the Code 0 off the bowsprit in any winds aft of 70 degrees apparent from 4 knots to 10 knots. From 10 to 20 knots we use the 120% genoa.

I can rig the removable inner forestay in pretty rough conditions in just a few minutes. The hank on staysails are very easy to attach so we seldom keep the inner forestay rigged.

We have never experienced any problem tacking the 135% or 120% genoa with the inner forestay rigged.

I have single handed the boat for the last 18 years during at least 5,000 miles of sailing and have no concerns about rigging the inner forestay as a single hander. I have single handed in winds up to 40 knots up and downwind and it never occurred to me single handing a cutter would be any different than single handing a sloop.
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Old 20-01-2014, 11:27   #10
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

My boat had a furling 110% yankee with foam luff pads, and a furling, self-tacking staysail. Most of my sailing miles were in the Tradewinds or offshore passages, and his sail plan was ideal for me. I could set a combination of sails for any wind conditions above 6-7 knots all the way up to 50+ knots. For the lower windspeeds (mostly when we sailed on the Chesapeake), I had an asymmetric spinnaker in a sock.

I could easily single-hand the boat with these sails in any conditions I encountered. I never felt a need for a larger foresail.
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Old 20-01-2014, 11:42   #11
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

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My boat had a furling 110% yankee with foam luff pads, and a furling, self-tacking staysail. Most of my sailing miles were in the Tradewinds or offshore passages, and his sail plan was ideal for me. I could set a combination of sails for any wind conditions above 6-7 knots all the way up to 50+ knots. For the lower windspeeds (mostly when we sailed on the Chesapeake), I had an asymmetric spinnaker in a sock.

I could easily single-hand the boat with these sails in any conditions I encountered. I never felt a need for a larger foresail.
Pretty similar here, except that my staysail is relatively large and is relatively forward. I can use it solo to 40 knots without much worry.
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Old 20-01-2014, 11:56   #12
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

I've done quite a bit of experimenting with combination sail plans and never found them to be enough of a gain in performance to be worth the effort. But, I am a cruiser and a 0.3 knot gain is not much concern to me.

Reaching 135% genoa and medium size staysail
Reaching 120% genoa and big staysail
Running Poled out genoa and big staysail wing&wing
Running Poled out spinnaker and big staysail wing&wing

We have not done any tradewind passages so I suppose when you can set the sails and gain 0.3 knots for 24 hours with little adjustment it might be worthwhile. But, broad reaching SE along the US westcoast in 12 - 18 knots that come up at noon and die after sunset - the combination sailplans never seemed worth the effort.
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Old 20-01-2014, 12:03   #13
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

Thanks all, for the answers so far. As always, good information for all.

I just wanted to point out that my question was NOT whether you can put a large genny on a cutter, but rather whether a smaller foresail is so impractical that it's worth considering (given that almost none of the boats I've looked at have one). There have been a few posts that addressed this, and from those it looks like the gains from using a large genoa vs. a jib/yankee are small, which is what i was hoping to hear (!), but any further input would be appreciated. thanks, Pete
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Old 20-01-2014, 12:16   #14
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

pete33458:
"whether a smaller foresail is so impractical that it's worth considering"

I am not sure if I understand that question.

Are you asking if a smaller genoa is worth having?

Each sail is "better" in specific conditions. We changed our entire sail plan when we decided to leave Puget Sound where we can see strong winds but hardly any seas or waves and head offshore where big waves are a real potential problem.

what is "smaller?" - we went from 135% lighter construction genoa to a heavier 120% genoa. The 135% was better for sailing in 6 to 10 knots upwind. The smaller 120% is far superior upwind in 10 to 20 knots upwind.

We decided to split our sail plan into five regimes

- heavy air ahead of the beam - use staysails and reefed full batten main
- heavy air aft of abeam - use heavy furled genoa
- medium air ahead of beam - use heavy full genoa
- medium air aft of abeam - use code 0, poled out genoa, or spinnaker
- light air anywhere - use code 0 or spinnaker

There are a few times where I wish we had the bigger lighter 135% genoa up but that is only in the seven to eleven knot upwind range. Cruising in the Sea of Cortez and Western Mexico down to Acapulco - the 135% genoa would have been more useful than the 120% genoa.

But - as cruisers we never sail upwind! So - a heavy weather upwind plan is not so important. In four years from Seattle to Acapulco and up and down the Sea of Cortez quite a few times - we only sailed up wind for about 24 hours total.

Overall - we are glad we went with the smaller heavier RF genoa and the bigger overlapping staysail. Those sails, with the Code 0 give us great flexibility.

Is that closer to your question? I think the answer will really depend on where you want to sail.
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Old 20-01-2014, 12:19   #15
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Re: Large genoa on cutter: what does it mean?

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Overall - we are glad we went with the smaller heavier RF genoa and the bigger overlapping staysail. Those sails, with the Code 0 give us great flexibility.

Is that closer to your question?
YES it is!
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