Finally, a day of sailing. And what a fantastic day it was. It was just me, my dad and 5 year old daughter on board. The wind
never got above 10 knots but Panope really came alive - never sailed better.
I'll give some background on Panope's past sailing rig before describing what happened today.
Here is a shot of her original schooner rig with her "light air" fisherman. We were always quite happy with this rig and its performance. The tan bark sails
total 600 square feet. The fisherman adds 150 square feet for a total of 750.
Here is a shot from my brief (2 month sea trial) splash in 2012. I designed this rig so that the geometric center of these sails
matches (in the fore and aft direction) that of the old rig. This center of effort did move up about 1'6" (taller rig). The main sail is 480 square feet and the working jib
is 120 square feet for a total of 600 - just like the old schooner rig.
The performance of this sail combination is not great. The boat just does not "come alive" unless the breeze stiffens. Weather helm
increases (enough to hear gurgling around the rudder) and the rail goes in the water
. This is pretty much how it was with the schooner rig = fun begins with rail in water
After the sea trial of 2012, I described the sailing qualities to my sail-maker, Carol Hasse. She felt that a larger, light-air head
sail would be nice for light winds and could be used in winds up to about 15 knots (that is about the time the main gets it's first reef and the excessive weather helm
I had just paid Carol for the working sails and my wallet was still glowing red hot so I was a little reluctant to drop another wad of cash on what I felt (at the time) to be sort of a shot in the dark (I really do not have a clue about designing sailing rigs). Eventually, I took Carol's advice and gave her the go-head.
Here is what she came up with. It is a nylon "drifter" of 180 square feet. it is designed to be hanked on the the fore stay in place of the working jib
. In addition to this placement, I added an extended chain plate
(see pic) to the bow so that the drifter could also be flown high (to the mast
head) and a bit forward of the working jib. I did not rig a second head
stay. I just hank the drifter to the "fall" of a 1/4" Amsteel halyard
when using it up in the "Yankee?" position.
Yesterday, I finally got to try out the drifter and some other changes that I made (rudder got some balance, got bigger and gap got closed. Jib sheet angle closer) see pic.
So here is what happened. We were sailing on Hood
Canal not far from Pleasant Harbor. The channel is only a mile or two wide. The wind
varied between zero and ten knots from the North. The tide was flooding so current
(maybe a knot) was in the same direction as the wind.
We started off with the two working sails reaching across the channel in 7 or 8 knots of wind. Not much was happening. GPS
speed (current not helping) was less than 3 knots and although the rudder
seemed better than two years ago, there was not enough speed to give much feed back to the helms-person.
The drifter came out of its bag and before the peak reached the mast
head (and still luffing) I noticed that suddenly there was a bow wave splashing along. I looked back to my dad (at the helm) to see what was going on and he said it is like the engine
got turned on. It took a bit a fiddling with sheet placement (extreme aft hand rail) and tension to get things trimmed nice. Boat speed increased 2 knots. Amazing considering it is only an additional 180 square feet.
Eventually, we found 10 knots of wind and speed reached 6 knots on a close reach. I know this does not sound like much to you racer
types but for this old fashioned girl, it is nothing short of miraculous. Even better, the helm was light, the weather helm was tiny, and heal was minimal. Both my father and I kept shaking our heads and looking up at the drifter in amazement. It even slipped through the gap (about a 1.5 feet ) between the fore stay when tacking - no problem.
When we sailed out of the wind to an area of water with just the slightest ripple, we were still making 2 or 3 knots and had lots of control.
We then dowsed the working jib and re-set the drifter on the fore stay. We assumed that we would lose much of what had gained with all three sails up. We assumed wrong. We only lost
a half a knot
. In other words, the 180 square foot drifter was 1.5 knots faster (about 8 knots of wind) than the 120 square foot working jib.
My guess is that my round section mast severely mucks up the airflow over the main sail. The large overlap of the drifter must be helping keep the airflow attached to the main.
Or maybe the drifter is just the right baggy shape? The working jib is very heavy by comparison.
Anyway, we are thrilled with Panope's new found light air performance. I suspect the working jib is going to spend a lot of time in its bag.