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Old 01-05-2014, 10:56   #1
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Wind in the South Pacific?

What was the wind like for you in the South Pacific?

I did the usual run from Galapagos to Australia several years ago, and remember running or broad reaching under glorious trades nearly the whole time. It was rarely lighter than 15 knots. I had a whisker pole, a 110% roller jib, and a 90% jib hanked onto a solent. We used double headsails almost the entire way, and were almost completely satisfied with those sails. I've never calculated, but we probably averaged 120nm days on a 40' boat, without really trying.

A friend went through the Pacific last year, and seems to have had a bit more wind. He went way faster than I did with just a jib and whisker pole (no solent for double headsails). He averaged 160nm days on his 40' boat.

A sail maker I am talking to relates that he had strong winds, and reached and close reached, on his run through these waters. I don't remember ever close reaching, except for maybe a few hours to get away from an island. He says that the trade winds are usually glorious, but about 20 or 30% of the years, they are light.

My family and I are planning on heading that way next year, and I am trying to figure out a good low effort sail configuration. We now have a 48' cutter. I planned to add a furling light air sail in front of our jib, but now, talking to a rigger here in St Maarten, it looks like that's not going to be easy. I am adding a whisker pole, possibly two, next week.

My ideas are:
a) Just go with our working sails. Experiment with 'double headsails', where one is a staysail.
b) Add a giant 'light air staysail', since that sail uses hanks it's easy to swap with the staysail. The J of our staysail is 14', which makes it nearly as big as the solent on our 40' boat. And this boat seems faster downwind, it doesn't slow down when we bear off like our previous boat did.
c) Have a double headsail made with one luff, that we swap with the roller furled jib. Set it with two whisker poles. This was my first choice, since I remember so much broad reaching and running last time that I thought this would work nearly all the way across the Pacific. It'd be fun to have such natural balance and be able to easily set the throttle with just the furling line. But the sail maker tells me his year across the Pacific was mostly reaching and close reaching, where this sail wouldn't work. It'll be a pain to swap with the normal roller furled jib.

Do you guys have any opinions, or wind experiences to add? We are looking for a very low effort sail configuration, and will happily trade speed for easy handling. We also carry 250 gallons of diesel, with which our 50hp Yanmar and self pitching autoprop, is probably about 500 hours, or 2500nm of motoring downwind and maybe about 1500-2000nm motoring upwind.

Thank you!

Matt
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:38   #2
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Every year is different. Most modern designs don't benefit much from double running headsails and newer autopilots and windvanes also make them less necessary. We did 7 days over 160 miles in a row on a 29' waterline with just a single poled out genoa flying. Best day was 176 miles. Noon to noon fix distance, not actual distance sailed.
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Old 01-05-2014, 12:41   #3
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pirate Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Only time I got headed was US Samoa to Vanuatu for 25hrs of beating into the wind..
Most of the time I used an asymmetrical with snuffer.. just two of us on a 54ft ketch..
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Old 01-05-2014, 13:36   #4
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

I found the pilot charts underestimated the wind. It says Force 4. But we only had force 5 or 6.... Unless it was plummeting to 0.
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Old 01-05-2014, 13:56   #5
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Hi, msponer,

Your idea (a) is what we do, but with the main up, too. The genoa poled out to windward, the stays'l to leeward, and the main, often reefed or double-reefed, to stabilize the lot, and sometimes trimmed correctly for a little more power when the winds lighten. We carry a masthead kite for this boat, but use it only in light airs. When the wind is up enough to drive the boat okay, we drop it and use the genoa. Our genoa is basically a light air sail, and we go to the staysail at 20-25 apparent if we're on the wind.

Compared to the NW trades, I found the SE trades to be shiftier and somewhat less reliable. You should have a great sail. It is mainly a sea kindly area.
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Old 01-05-2014, 14:29   #6
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

I'm with Ann on sail choice

As for wind strength I've found it generally stronger than in the pilot chart era

Just a side note: when you say a double-luffed headsail can't be used reaching - if it's made right, you can simply gybe one sail, to arrive at a 2-ply combo, surely?
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Old 02-05-2014, 07:44   #7
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Wind in the South Pacific?

In March of this year I crewed on a cat sailing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. Of that roughly 3000 miles, we spent 2500 under a spinnaker, specifically a Parasailor. We had much higher winds than what were forecast by our weather router with most of the time seeing 25kts true with some fronts bringing winds to mid 30s and higher gusts. We sailed March 2-19th. Coming out of the Galapagos we were on a beam reach for the first couple of days. There was one or two days of wind ahead of the beam. The rest of the time it was wind off the stern/port quarter. Some slower boats that started at the same time lost the wind a few hundred miles from the Marquesas and did a lot of motoring to get there. I was on a cat and am thankful the owner spent serious boat bucks on the ParaSailor. What a slick spinnaker!!!
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:05   #8
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

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thankful the owner spent serious boat bucks on the ParaSailor. What a slick spinnaker!!!
Very cool, I want one of these!

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Old 02-05-2014, 09:12   #9
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Almost the exact conditions we had in early April 2005. We did it in 19.5 days on a 35' monohull. Did motor the last 36 hours or so as the wind did die on us as well.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:34   #10
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

The trades really can vary depending on El Nino years. In a normal year we have found the trades to Hawaii steady and a little more variation to the Marquises as the SE trades just are more variable. The low pressure systems seem to push up from down south in between the normal highs. In an El Nino year we were becalmed for 3 days straight and just sat there rolling back and forth like a metronome with the ongoing swell. The last trip we were able to sail the total trip from Mexico to the Marquises in 18 days on a Tartan 44 without a single hour of motoring. In the really light airs I found a double headsail rig sheeted very tight was faster than a spinnaker. Some times I had a deeply reefed main sheeted hard to center really reduced the rolling. Its usually a great sail and I'm sure you will have a blast, good luck.
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Old 03-05-2014, 05:31   #11
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Thank you, Ann, Mark, Andrew, everyone, for your thoughts. It feels a bit odd to head that way without a big light air sail, but maybe that's what we will do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
Just a side note: when you say a double-luffed headsail can't be used reaching - if it's made right, you can simply gybe one sail, to arrive at a 2-ply combo, surely?
Both sail makers I mentioned this to are dismissive of how well this works. I don't know if they just have much higher expectations for sail shape and disike compromises, or if using a double luffed headsail on a reach is truly awful.

I am having the same dilemma with wanting a new battenless main. Sail makers are so negative about having no battens, but every boat with in mast furling has no battens. It's hard to to know if a main without battens is a completely foolish performance compromise or one that may be worth it, to us, to have easier handling.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:06   #12
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Meet them half way and get vertical battens.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:40   #13
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

Personally either go with no battens and furling or go with the a standard main with oversized roach top 2 full and the rest long but not full.
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Old 03-05-2014, 10:27   #14
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

I disagree with full battens on a passagemaking boat. Too much slatting in light winds.

I now have all short battens and they are fine.
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Old 03-05-2014, 11:44   #15
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Re: Wind in the South Pacific?

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I disagree with full battens on a passagemaking boat. Too much slatting in light winds.

I now have all short battens and they are fine.
Thanks, Mark. The sail makers say we will lose ten percent of our sail area without battens, but really we lose 100% of it when we drop the sail because the battens are popping or don't even raise it because it weighs so much and binds.

How long are your short battens? Never any problems with them poking through? The maintenance on short battens is what made me want none at all.
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