Catamarans behave differently than monohull
boats when sailing directly downwind. Monohulls tend to roll from side to side with a double headsail rig, and a good argument can be made for tacking downwind in such a way that one headsail is more dominant in order to dampen or stop any tendency to roll downwind. Perhaps the larger gennaker
on one side and a smaller genoa or jib
poled out on the other side would work better in a monohull
In a catamaran
, there is no problem with rolling and so you have more freedom in the way you set things up, and there is no need to tack downwind when you are doing no bruising cruising.
I always used identical genoas with the eighteen foot spinnaker
poles. The pull is balanced and symmetrical so it makes the autopilot
happy. One genoa is on the Profurl, and the second genoa is flying with a loose luff. I can carry both sails
95% of the time in the trade
winds, and because of the spinnaker
poles, the sails
are very quiet. We monitor
the status of the downwind rig by sound rather than by sight. As long as the sails are quiet, we know the wind
is aft of the beam. When we hear a ruffle of one of the sails, we know the wind
has moved forward of the beam and we go into the cockpit
to see what adjustments need to be made. Sailing by sound rather than by sight makes offshore
passages much more enjoyable because we aren't spending hours each day staring at our sails and tweaking them. We simply set the downwind rig up, and let our ears tell us when something needs to be done. Of course, we always check around the horizon every ten minutes.
The other advantage of this double headsail downwind rig is that it requires very little tweaking. You set it up and let it run for days or weeks at a time. Occasionally, we vary our heading by ten or fifteen degrees as we sail offshore
, but tweaking of the sails is rarely necessary.
My highest priority when sailing in the trades is to EFFORTLESSLY sail 150 to 160 miles each day, and I want to do it COMFORTABLY. It must be no bruising cruising for it to be ENJOYABLE. Finally, I must be able to do it SAFELY. That means I maintain good speeds without being overpowered and battling with sails that are out of control, and no one is going to get hurt. Things would obviously be different on a racing
If the apparent wind gets up to twenty-five or thirty knots over the stern and the speed gets too high to sail EFFORTLESSLY,ENJOYABLY, COMFORTABLY, AND SAFELY, then I roll up the genoa on the profurl and then immediately unfurl it on the other side of the boat to blanket the freestanding genoa so that I can douse the genoa and tie it to the spinnaker pole. Then I will continue running downing using a single genoa that is on the furler
. I have run downwind in fifty knots of wind using about 15% of the roller furling
If I do another circumnavigation
, I may get a sail constructed that I can use for long tradewind passages. This would be a downwind twin headsail in which both genoas are attached to the roller furler
through a single luff, and that would make it easy to symmetrically reef a downwind twin on a single profurl. My only reservations about this system is the high continuous loads it would place on the headstay for weeks at a time. I don't think it's a problem, but it's worth thinking about.
The final and more expensive solution is to have two furling
headsails that operate independently of each other. That would be nice as it would give great redundancy and possibly back up the headstay which could be helpful when sailing offshore in remote
Maybe we were just lucky, but when we used our double headsail double spinnaker pole rig, we never had to go forward at night to deal with headsails in our trans-Atlantic run last year. It's extremely rare to send crew forward at night to deal with headsails. In our entire eleven year circumnavigation
, we haven't had crew forward of the mast
at night more than ten times. It wasn't necessary because we sailed in a COMFORTABLE, EFFORTLESS,ENJOYABLE, AND SAFE manner and we still got in our 150 miles a day. We could have sailed like a bat out of hell with our spinnaker up, but it just wasn't worth the work or risk to people or to Exit Only. I believe in no bruising cruising.
Life is good.