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Old 18-01-2015, 12:25   #1
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Sail Plan Tricks

As some of you know, I shredded my yankee jib in heavy weather in the Baltic in August, and am now waiting for new sails to be made. Meanwhile, I have been sailing without a principle headsail -- with just main and staysail.

I've learned a few things I thought might be of interest.

I was always taught to keep the sail plan balanced, and certainly to avoid having more main than headsail up -- to avoid weather helm. I only recently () figured out that my boat, with her modern underbody, does not work in this regard like the boats I learned on, and that on my boat, the sail plan balance is nearly irrelevant -- weather helm is a linear function of heel.

I've done plenty of sailing on my boat with deeply reefed main and staysail alone -- that's my usual heavy weather setup. It works well in winds over 30 knots -- that rig is completely self-tacking, there is very little heeling moment, it's a good secure setup for when conditions get tough, however, very little drive below 30 knots of wind.

I would never have dreamed of trying to sail with the staysail and full main. But lacking a principle headsail, that is what I have been doing lately. I am amazed at how well it works. Especially on a true headsail-driven cutter rig where the mainsail is only about 35% of the total sail area.

What is really interesting is what a good shape the main has with no yankee up. The yankee backwinds the forward part of the main when going upwind. Without the yankee, the main looks much better and seems to give a lot more drive. Likewise, the little staysail, out of the shadow of the yankee, trims up much better than I ever thought it would despite its self-tacking system (barber hauling it a bit doesn't hurt, also).

So this rig works surprisingly well. I sailed up today from Yarmouth on a lovely cold, sunny, winter day, nearly hard on the wind, in 10 to 14 knots of true wind, and was making 7 knots most of the way, sometimes 7.5. If the wind drops a little the speed falls right off, and it's a lot slower than with my full sail plan for sure. But 7 knots is ok progress (on my previous boat, that was sailing fast, actually). And it's really pleasant jogging along in a low stress configuration, with almost no heel (less than 10 degrees), but still making actual progress upwind. In that wind, I might have been making 8 or 8.5 with the full sail plan, but how much work and stress those extra 1 to 1.5 knots would have required. The low stress is particularly welcome when single-handing.


Last week I sailed across the Solent from Cowes with a friend on board. I got the main up just before we got out of the harbor and where then whacked by 40 knots of SW wind rolling up the Solent. I never had a chance to get the staysail up, so we sailed on main alone -- unreefed.

I was surprised at how well this worked -- I expected that I would need to reef, but after flattening the sail and trimming carefully I could see that reefing would be unnecessary, so we sailed like that, in 30 gusting to 40, very pleasantly, without too much heel (about 20 degrees), and going pretty fast, 8 to 9 knots and sometimes more -- on mainsail alone. No excessive weather helm; something I would never have believed a couple of years ago.

It was so much fun that we sailed all the way up the river, putting on the motor only shortly before my mooring. I did reef as we went into the river in order to maintain a safe speed.


Some of this begs the question whether my yankee jib is rigged or cut correctly -- I would have thought that I would get some advantages from the interaction between this sail and the main, and not only minuses, as it looks today.

Another thing which occurs to me is how right and good it is that I ordered a blade jib to use instead of the yankee in brisker weather. If this lets the main work as well as the staysail alone does (and it will be sheeted to the staysail track), then this should be a great setup, which I may want to use in a lower wind range than I am expecting.

Roller furling headsails are great, but they mean that almost none of us carries different headsails for different conditions. But roller furling headsails don't really subsitute for different headsails, because they work so badly when reefed. They just allow you to keep sailing when the wind pipes up without changing sails -- but they don't allow you to keep sailing well. Some people around these parts are buying the newer cruiser-racer boats with SA/D ratios of over 20 -- I feel sorry for them. In a nice 20+ breeze like we have so often at this latitude, they are always reefed down and struggling with their standard genoa jibs.
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Old 18-01-2015, 12:48   #2
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Re: Sail Plan Tricks

Many modern boats ate essentially main driven , often the headsail can be off questionable value.

Your experiences are not unusual

Dave


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Old 18-01-2015, 12:56   #3
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Re: Sail Plan Tricks

Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Many modern boats ate essentially main driven , often the headsail can be off questionable value.

Your experiences are not unusual

Dave
Like catamarans. Yes, I am perceiving that. Very different from how sailboats worked back "in the day".

But my boat is definitely not main driven -- she is a true cutter with the mast located aft of where a sloop's mast would be, with a big headsail plan and smallish main.
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Old 10-02-2015, 03:47   #4
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Re: Sail Plan Tricks

I recently did a few days of sailing without a mainsail as the furling outhaul mechanism broke. I wondered if I would experience a poor performance compared to your experience. It turned out that I got pretty much full performance out of the boat: speed relative to wind strength. 16 to 22kt breeze.

I expect what matters most in producing drive is sail area more than anything else. I was sailing in winds that would have had me reefed down to almost the same total area as what I had with just the headsail.

Normal weather helm too, maybe just a bit less. So confirming in my boat also your conclusion about heel.
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