Originally Posted by BillinKL
What are the advantages of a cutter rig and does this configuration improve a boat's pointing ability?
Lets assume both boats have the same hull
and the same mast height.
Last question first: Not generally. A cutter may have better pointing ability in gale or storm conditions, but probably not so as to be very noticeable. In general a sloop will point better in mid range wind conditions. Pointing in light conditions they will probably be flying the same drifter/CodeZero/asym and will be about even, a cutter will be faster on a reach because it has more places to put us more sail area and they will we about even on a run.
Advantages of a cutter rig over a masthead sloop in the absence of roller furling
A) Redundancy of support for the upper part of the mast, i.e. the extra rigging
to carry the staysail and counter it's pull.
B) Better sail area balance when drastically reduced for storm and gale conditions.
C) Increased relative speed on any reach (close, beam, broad), except in very light air.
D) In general decreased storage
for sail inventory. What you can probably get away with carrying on a cutter is: Storm jib, staysail lapper, Yankee (high cut lapper say 130%), and drifter/CodeZero/Asymmetrical. In general I would store the storm jib and drifter below and leave the staysail and yankee hanked on and bagged in place ready to go so only the two smallest sails would be below. During a gale or worse all but the storm jib would be below. On a sloop I would want a storm jib, a working jib(80-95%), lapper (110-125%), genoa (140-160%), and a drifter/CZ/Asym(150-180%). In general I would have 3 sails below, with one up and the next smaller hanked on between the tack and the 1st hank of the sail that was up in order to speed changes. In heavy weather all but the storm jib would be below.
E) Decreased sail count and total weight depending on what the sloop chooses to carry. See previous item for list of what I would probably carry. So cutter has 4 sails to sloop's 5. But if you assume the storm jib and drifter are a wash for weight and storage
volume and just consider the mid range sails, the yankee and staysail for the cutter probably have about the same sail area, weight and storage volume as the sloop's genoa, which leaves the sloop carrying the weight and volume of the working jib and lapper in excess of what the cutter carries.
F) Easier sail changes. For the whole mid range of wind strengths the yankee and staysail are on deck, and are either up or bagged/lashed on deck ready to go up. These sails are doused and secured in place without being removed from the stay. With a sloop you need to mostly unhank one sail before the other can go up.
G) Somewhat easier to set the storm jib on the inner stay. There is more room around the stay than rights at the pointy end and the motion is a little better several feet back from the bow.
H) It is easier, or at least more accepted, to make the staysail self-tending, either with a boom or a radiused track.
Advantages of a masthead sloop with hanked on sails:
A) Pointing ability in the wind ranges where the cutter would have up 2 foresails or just the yankee. In very light winds where both would be carrying a drifter or whatever it would be a wash. In heavy air with working jib or staysail only it would probably be a wash too except perhaps in gale or storm conditions where the cutter might have better pointing ability due to better sheeting angles and better balance.
costs, fewer stays, toggles, turnbuckles, etc to inspect and replace on a regular basis.
C) If the cutter has a fixed inner stay the sloop will have an advantage in tacking convenience when sailing shore. Offshore, the period between tacks or gybes is measured in hours or days, not minutes or boat lengths.
Roller furling head sails
on both boats changes the equation some but not radically so. Lets assume the staysail on the cutter remains hanked on.
Both still need a drifter(or whatever) and a storm jib. For both the storm jib and drifter need to be stored below and both are now about even on sail count, storage volume and storage weight. However the cutter now has an advantage in more steps in decreasing sail area between light and heavy weather: drifter, yankee & staysail, 85%yankee & staysail, yankee, 85%yankee, staysail, storm jib. Doesn't mean you are going to want to use all those steps, but they are at your disposal. With a sloop the steps are: Drifter, full headsail (120-130%), 80%headsail (equivalent to about a 95% working jib perhaps) and then the storm jib. With the cutter the headsail is fully rolled in significantly lower winds than with a sloop, meaning you are not pushing the reefing gear as hard.
For a sloop the issue of what to hang the storm jib on comes up. If you have to pull the headsail to put the storm jib up, you will be dousing a fairly large headsail with no hanks to control the luff while bagging it in pretty nasty weather. Alternatively there is the ATN GaleSail which goes over a rolled foresail, but which has garnered mixed reviews
from what I have heard, I have no first hand experience with this product. Or you could rig a removable solent stay and hank the storm jib on, and possibly a small working jib before that so the headsail could be fully furled in lighter winds.
If you want to compare a fractionally rigged sloop to a cutter then lets assume same hull
, same working sail area (main triangle and fore-triangle areas together with no roach counted) and that the spinnaker halyard
for the sloop is at the masthead.
In order to get the same working area, the mast of the sloop will be significantly taller than the cutter. In the mid range of winds the sloop will be faster upwind. In heavy winds it's hard to say either way, though the issue of where to hang the storm jib comes up again if the forestay is roller furling
. In light winds the sloop will probably be faster pointing. Flying a drifter/CodeZero from the masthead will give it a significant sail area advantage and increased speed. It may not be able to point as high as the cutter but it will likely be gaining enough speed thru the water
to give it an advantage in speed made good.
On any reach that the sloop can fly a masthead sail it is hard to say whether it would be would be faster than the cutter, they both get increased sail area.
On a run the sloop will probably have the speed advantage with an over-sized main plus a downwind sail on a mast that is taller than the cutter's it would be hard to overcome.
Convenience-wise the fractional sloop is better than a masthead sloop since the foresail is de-emphasized there are probably fewer jibs to handle, store and change, but I don't think that is enough to be more convenient than a cutter.
To me the big things to consider are that the cutter provides mast support redundancy, is more convenient for setting a storm jib and is probably even in performance with sloops in very light winds (where frustration is the issue) and very heavy winds (where safety
is the issue.)