I've thought about this thread quite often over the last two months and wanted to post here again about sailing downwind. If you read the four posts that I had previously posted, they were about the problems with running downwind that I've perceived and experienced.
We just completed an East to West Atlantic crossing
and then continued up to the Bahamas
. It's been classic trade
wind sailing and almost all the time the point of sail was nearly DDW. After many days of messing around with main, jib, and spinnaker
, I think I finally get it. Crazy that it took this long and I apologize if I had made statements that discouraged this tack of sail. We used it A LOT!!
Unfortunately we tore a 15' gash in the spinnaker two days into the crossing because I didn't want to fly it without the main up. It backwinded into the spreaders and that was it. So for a period of days we sailed deep downwind with a triple or double reefed main and half a jib on the same side. With a full jib, the clew would backwind. We then tied a line very tightly between my fore and midship cleat and started to tie off the jib clew to that.
As the wind moved more Easterly, we moved the jib from port to starboard and sailed DDW wing on wing for many days effectively. The range of sail without backwinding the jib was from port 170 to starboard 160, which was fairly easy to maintain. We did jibe twice but since the sail was so deeply reefed, they were non-events. I still don't and won't use a preventer. The crew absolutely loved this sail plan and I was impressed how efficient it was. In 13 knots apparent we were consistently doing 7 knots. Palarran is a heavy boat and not a high performance boat either so to get this speed out of a triple reefed main and full (self tacking) jib was nice. The surfing helped a lot. We did hit a top speed of 16 knots surfing one particular wave, which was a new high speed for me.
5 days out from Antigua
the wind dropped considerably so we pulled the spinnaker out of the snuffer and through one of the fore-hatches to repair
it. It took 3/4 roll of high quality duct tape but it was soon flying again. The bets were that it would last between 20 minutes and 4 hours - it lasted 5 days. Incredible. We didn't fly the spinnaker with the main up anymore and it was fantastic. We were on a starboard tack and attached the spinnaker tack to an adjustable line off the starboard side of the forward crossbeam. We used a barberhauler on the spin sheet but let the spinnaker ride quite high off the deck
. With this sail we achieved 6 knots of speed with 9 knots of apparent wind running DDW. The range of the sail was quite large without collapse - from 120 starboard to 170 port.
I learned a lot of this trip and really look forward to another tradewind passage
. One final detail that really helped was the quick release shackle we had on the tack of the spinnaker. I tied a bigger loop in the small line and we could release the tack very easily. It snuffed so much easier than what we were doing before. Anyway, a little humbling for me but stoked all the same.