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Old 22-05-2019, 22:04   #1
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Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

Hi All,

I've been doing a little reading, emphasis on little , on code sails. This is a subject I am very ignorant of.

My personal experience with anything beyond standard working sails is using spinnakers and storm sails. Our, my wife and I, main area of interest is in 15+ year old medium to heavy displacement cruisers from 35' to 45' as that is what my wife and I are currently shopping for. For the most part, we anticipate most (i.e. 90% - 95%) of our sailing will be shorthanded as a couple.

It seems some of these more exotic sails might be useful in light air and running. Yet in perusing the boating classifieds I see very little mention of them in ads.

Are these sails as uncommon as they appear to be? Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places.

Are they particularly difficult to use by a shorthanded crew?

Are they just not as useful no the boats I'm looking at?

At this point my interest in these types of sails is mostly just simple curiosity and maybe something to consider in the future.
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Old 22-05-2019, 22:14   #2
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

I single hand often, and even then I have been trying out some new (used) asymmetrical spinnakers on my boat. As long as you have a dowsing sock, flying these in appropriate winds is a blast.
I can hardly wait to set up and try my new (used) top down furlers which I hope will make flying colored sails even easier for the short handed or single handed.
Plenty of used symmetrical spinnakers for sail, and I have even flown them with a fixed tack. Not the best efficiency, but they are cheaper and more available than asymmetricals, so you can get some learning experiences in. I can't handle my big, 18 ft spinnaker pole by myself, so a sock and a fixed tack make colored sails, symmetrical or asymmetrical, pretty easy to fly on not so windy days.
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Old 22-05-2019, 23:39   #3
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

Don’t base your boat purchase on exotic sale inventory. You can pick up used spins and storm sails pretty easy. They can be a pain but they can also be useful tools.
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Old 22-05-2019, 23:51   #4
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

I'm always single handed, and playing with 50' spinnakers is not in my comfort zone. Unrolling them with my new Harken reflex top-down furler is though. They take some playing with before they get ready to use, but once they're working they're great. The difficulty is always making sure you can get it all down single handed and under control when the wind suddenly picks up to 20kts plus.
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Old 22-05-2019, 23:51   #5
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

For the long distance passage making I think you are best to focus on a boat that has dual foresails. A Solent rig, cutter or slutter. A medium sized Genoa and a heavy jib on furlers will give you a ton of flexibility in typical offshore winds
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Old 23-05-2019, 00:04   #6
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

Get a boat with inmast furling. Easiest single handling you will ever do. I agree, two furled headsails would also be nice but a cutter with a stay sail on a boom is ok too.
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Old 23-05-2019, 00:18   #7
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

I would hate to have a jib boom single-handing. I don’t trust my autopilot not to do something dumb at exactly the wrong moment, particularly in a big sea.
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Old 23-05-2019, 07:59   #8
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

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Originally Posted by rbk View Post
Don’t base your boat purchase on exotic sale inventory. You can pick up used spins and storm sails pretty easy. They can be a pain but they can also be useful tools.
Exotic sail inventory isn't even on my list of extremely optional equipment. Indeed since I know so little about them I'm not sure their presence would be much of a selling point, if any at all. I certainly won't pay extra for them being on board.
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Old 23-05-2019, 08:07   #9
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
For the long distance passage making I think you are best to focus on a boat that has dual foresails. A Solent rig, cutter or slutter. A medium sized Genoa and a heavy jib on furlers will give you a ton of flexibility in typical offshore winds
I think in the end something like you describe is what we will end up with. We have been especially attracted to cutters for they're flexibility and divided sail plan.
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Old 23-05-2019, 08:22   #10
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

If you're looking for a flexible sail plan, go with a ketch or cutter ketch. Of course, I'm slightly biased.
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Old 23-05-2019, 08:26   #11
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

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I think in the end something like you describe is what we will end up with. We have been especially attracted to cutters for they're flexibility and divided sail plan.
You’ll most likely find that once you start narrowing down a boat, it will be an ex cruiser and will have a spin or storm tucked away somewhere. Ours came with a flanker that appeared to have never left the bag. It has become one of my new favourite sails for light days and gives us the option to sail when we’d usually be motoring.
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Old 23-05-2019, 08:28   #12
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

Just as little further clarification.

I am asking these questions not in terms of should I get one these sails. But more in a more general vein of seeking information and education, as a non-racer and someone who is more interested in long distance long term shorthanded cruising. I'm just trying to get the lay of the land at the moment.

If you had/have these sails on board, why'd you keep them or get rid of them?
Do particular sails require specialized gear what might be needed to fly fly the typical spinnaker?
Are they durable? And a related question, are they repairable by an educated layperson?
Are they affordable by the average (whatever that might mean) cruiser?

Any and all input is welcome. All knowledge is useful.
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Old 23-05-2019, 08:50   #13
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

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Originally Posted by undercutter View Post
Get a boat with inmast furling. Easiest single handling you will ever do. I agree, two furled headsails would also be nice but a cutter with a stay sail on a boom is ok too.


As we were circumnavigating, we developed an informal ‘fleet’ of about 30 boats with whom we would cross paths and share anchorages frequently. A few of those boats were equipped with in-mast furling and 100% of those boats developed problems. From my casual observations, in-mast furling is probably best suited for day sailing or at most, coastal cruising.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 23-05-2019, 09:00   #14
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

My wife and I recently completed a 49,000-mile circumnavigation and carried with us an asymmetrical spinnaker but we flew it only occasionally, despite the fact that the majority of our wind velocities and angles would have supported hoisting it. We found that the asymmetrical gave us about one knot of additional speed but, since we were reluctant to fly it at night, that was not a significant increase to justify the work of deploying and retrieving.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 23-05-2019, 09:35   #15
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Re: Use of specialized sails by shorthanded cruisers

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We found that the asymmetrical gave us about one knot of additional speed but, since we were reluctant to fly it at night, that was not a significant increase to justify the work of deploying and retrieving.
I think that is a fair comment. We fly our asym if we can be sure of steady winds and a couple of ours without too many changes in course. Its a fun sail when you are happy to gently sail along.
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