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Sail Configurations for Short Handed Voyaging

Sail Configurations for Short Handed Voyaging

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Published by: forrest on Dec 19, 2008
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09/03/2010

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On various combinations of sails, small and large, for cruisingboats, and thoughts on how to rig them.
 Joe Cooper401 849 940016 April 2007Of all the issues that exercise the mind of the sailor who is planning an ocean voyage, the onethat I get to hear the most about surrounds the quantity, size, detailing, utility and eventually theshape of the sails. While it is true that many sailors have made substantial passages with amainsail and a headsail on a furler, this is I think tempting the weather gods to a greater degreethan is justified. I was prompted to write this essay after having basically the same discussionwith the owners of three boats over the course of last winter beginning with the Annapolis BoatShow. One is a Rival 36, one a Camper and Nicholson 35 and one a Jeanneau 43. All three of these boats are perfectly suitable modest ocean voyaging boats capable of carrying to theirowners on one of the greatest joys known to mankind, to wit: ocean voyaging in one’s own boat. This essay will look at:1. Background thoughts on the sail’s force2. Discussion on sail sizes3. Small sail options4. The “Solent Stay” and rigging thoughts5. The “Cutter Stay” in two versions and rigging thoughts with pros and cons.It is well worth the cost ($20 non-members, $15 for members) to have a copy of the “ISAFSpecial regulations governing offshore and oceanic Equipment,” AKA the “Offshore Regs,” onhand when reading this essay and when preparing to go offshore in general. This pocket sizedbooklet is full of excellent information and can be had from US Sailing.http://store.ussailing.org/viewItem.asp?ItemID=51006&UnitCde=1&Desc=ISAF%20Special%20Regs%202006%20-%202007&Search=N
1. Background math on the force on sails
First off, there is one bit of the physics of sailing to remember throughout this discussion and thatis the following: The wind FORCE increases as the square of the wind SPEED. So, in English whatthis means is that, at say 10 knots, the breeze is, well 10 kts, but the force is 100 units. At 12knots the FORCE is now 144 units and at 20 knots it is 400 units. So in the latter example thewind speed has doubled but the force has increased four times. This is why race boats have, forinstance, 3 number one size sails then a 3, a 4, a 5 in some cases then a Storm Jib.Second: Light air (head) sails need to meet at least three criteria to be effective as “light air”(less than 10 knots true wind speed) sails:a) They need to be full in shape,b) Generally of light weight material andc) Light in overall construction so as to keep the weight down and make it easy for the wind to fillthem to the desired shape.
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 The latter two criteria are necessary to make it easy to get the wind in the sail. Unfortunately allthree of these criteria act against the typical boat’s 150% Genoa being of much use in anythingbut light air, say under 10-12 true, and certainly not at all recommended as a sail for general useon an ocean voyaging boat. And most certainly it cannot be used as a general use rollerREEFING sail. This is why something like 75% of the general use roller REEFING headsails I do forfolks in my trade as a sail consultant are of the 130-135% LP size. These sails can be flatter,heavier and being smaller to start with are more capable of being reefed to generally about thearea of a 90% jib. This configuration, and two reefs in the main, is generally adequate for “most”weekend sailors operating within the coastal and near offshore scenario that comprises the bulkof sailboat operators.For a variety of reasons most ocean cruising boats are in the medium to medium-heavier side of the sail area to displacement equation. So rather like a heavily laden truck they need more gearsthan a family sedan. This requirement of more gears, than the weekend sailor who might go allsummer with out reefing his mainsail, is at the heart of this essay.It is my experience that it is prudent for a cruising sailboat going into Deep Ocean to be able towithstand trying to sail in winds up to around 50 knots. Generally above this wind speed the seaconditions are just too unpleasant and so heaving to and or streaming a sea anchor is thecommon solution. Therefore we must find sufficient number and styles of sails to go from,functionally, 4-5 knots of air to 50 knots. Roughly a 10 fold increase in the wind SPEED but a 100fold increase in the wind’s FORCE.
2. What is the right or appropriate size?
 There comes a time when the general use 135% headsail is just too much sail area, reefed orotherwise. What happens then? Sailing merely with only the mainsail is agonizingly awful formost boats. Sailing with a FURLING headsail, especially one that is a light air sail, like a 150, is nobargain because the sail is too full, too light in material and too lightly engineered and so has apoor shape when reefed. Some of the dedicated “cruising boats” like the Tayana, Cabo Rico, andPacific Seacraft type of cutter rigged boats can “change” to the cutter staysail. (Roll up theoutside sail and set the staysail.) However this is generally a big jump in area, a too bigger gap inthe gears. For example (and I will forgo the math and merely give you the answers):A Pacific Seacraft 37 cutter with a 130% LP Genoa has 450 sq.ft. of headsail up and in 16 kts of apparent wind this sail will have 115,200 units of force distributed over the 450 sq.ft of the sail’ssurface. At 22 knots apparent the same size sail will have 217 800 lbs of force distributed overthe sail’s skin. Roughly an 89% increase in force for a 37% increase in wind speed. These sailsare commonly Dacron and the boat is rigged with Polyester sheets and halyards so by this windspeed the strain will begin to cause the headstay to sag, the luff tension will be diminished(unless the operators have tensioned the luff as the breeze increases which in my experiencethey will not have done), the shape will migrate aft in the sail thus creating drag and addingweather helm This is why it will begin to feel over powered, heavy to steer and be sailing at largeangles of heel.If this Genoa is rolled down to 80% of its fully deployed LP, it most likely will end up being around315 sq.ft. and the force at 22 apparent is reduced to 143 010. However the staysail on this boatis on the order of 180 sq.ft. and at 22 knots apparent the force on this 180 sq.ft. of sail is only87,188. So there is less force on the staysail at 22 apparent than on the unfurled Genoa in 16
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true. What happens? The boat feels under powered: so here is a gap (In the gearbox) betweenthe rolled 130 (at 315 sq.ft. and the staysail at 180 is sq.ft. This is the essence of the issue---Too big a gap in the gearbox.
3. Sail options
 There are a few options available to address to above scenario with the overpowered Genoa.
One:
 You can unroll the now reefed Genoa, wrestle it to the foredeck, get it in the bag and then setabout getting the 80% Yankee into the furler. With the 80% jib set the wind force on this sailassuming it is 277sq.ft. is 134442 or a bit less than the furled Genoa. This is actually why hanks are still used on some (not too big) boats going in the ocean- It isactually easier to change sails and eliminates all the rigging I am going to describe below. Andfrankly many of the boats that are today used for cruising were designed when hanks were thestandard way of securing sails to the stays and unfortunately when large headsails were also thestandard design feature of boats, which has to do with rating rules and boat marketing and is abit outside the scope of this essay Most folks are disinclined to engage in the wrestling match required to change sails on a furlerwhen it is blowing 20 knots, let alone 40 knots, although simply turning the boat down windmakes it a lot easier, so there needs to be another answer.
Two:
 The general use roller reefing sail, living on the furler can actually be one of the smaller sails, saya 110% Yankee and the lighter air sails can be set on the Solent—see below The phenomenon described in point one has led to the increasing use of what is commonly calleda Solent stay.
Three:
A Solent is a stay (and companion halyard & equipment) that is attached to the mast close to thetop, generally about a foot below the topmast head stay. It lands on the deck just abaft of thefurling unit. It thus roughly parallels the head stay and is aft of it by perhaps 12 inches or so onboats the size we are discussing. This stay needs to be removable, ideally pretty quickly, so as tobe able to unroll and/or tack the general use furling sail if it is needed in a hurry. (
NB since theSolent stay is so close to the head stay it is not practical to contemplate tacking thefurling sail thru the 12” gap between the two stays
) The Solent stay should also be able tohave the tension readily adjusted once it is set and after the entire load has been applied and thewire and other parts have stretched over time-generally a few hours. The Solent stay offers theopportunity to have several sails (gears), as for instance:
1.
A light air drifter/reacher for the under 6-7 kts true wind condition or perhaps, a bit morewhen reaching, say 10-14 true at 75-90 apparent.
2.
A hank on general use Genoa, in the 140% size range if the general use sail on the furler isa 100% Yankee as noted in two above.
3.
A small sail such as that 85-90% Jib/Yankee described above. Possibly with a reef in it.Reefs in headsails are installed in the same way as in a mainsail and were common inheadsails before the days of roller furling equipment.
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