What Sails Will You Take?
Sailmakers off thoughts on the inventory you'll need if you're headed off to go cruising. "Hands-On" Sailor from our June 2010 issue
Or, says Bob Pattison of Neil Pryde Sails, cruising boats can employ an inner forestay on which a hank-on or roller-furling staysail can be set. Often, this staysail will be of a heavier cloth and will have reef points so it can be used as a heavy-weather jib.
On other boats that have just a single forestay, Pattison often recommends an 85-percent jib with a high clew and hoist so it's up off the deck and won't be damaged by waves. Offshore, where conditions can be windy and rough for days, such a sail wears well and affords excellent visibility.
Bob Phillips, the managing director of Doyle Sailmakers in the British Virgin Islands, says in general that many boats arriving from the States have sails that are just too big for the conditions in the Caribbean. A 120-percent genoa is the sail of choice for trade-wind sailing, he says, where wind speeds hover in the 20s and 30s. In those conditions, the sail provides plenty of power for reaching between islands, can handle running in the trades, and can be furled down, if need be, when sailing to windward.
"The first thing people should be aware of is that their primary roller-furling headsail should be of a size that, unrolled, should work 85 percent of the time," Phillips says. In the conditions found in the islands, a 135- percent or 140-percent headsail is just too big. "You're sailing with the rail down all the time. It's hard on the boat and the crew, and it's not pleasant cruising." Bottom line: You want a sail that's easy to use.
Reefing a sail beyond what's intended distorts the sail and loads up the threads in ways that can damage them and shorten the life of the sail, Phillips says, a view that's echoed by Quantum Sail Design Group's Barry Gately.
"I think people get complacent sailing around with the ability to furl," says Gately, who recommends having the right amount of sail up for the conditions and not overfurling a large sail when changing to a smaller one would be the better option. "I just look at it as what it's doing to the sail. It's a big investment. I wouldn't race the engine on my car for no reason." He suggests that his customers carry a large genoa built of, say, 6-ounce cloth and a small working jib of 8-ounce cloth.
"If the boat's sailing on its lines, it's going to go faster, be balanced, and be more stable," Gately said. An overpowered sail plan, he adds, taxes both the helmsman and the autopilot.
What's in the Editor's Cruising Quiver?
• 150-percent genoa: This is a racing-type sail that I seldom use on my Sabre 34 because it doesn't reef or furl well.
• 135-percent genoa: On my boat, this is the working sail for most conditions. The boat moves reasonably well in light air, and I can fly this sail efficiently in up to about 25 knots of wind.
• 110-percent genoa: If I'm headed off on a trip, I always have this sail on board. If windy days are forecast or big sea breezes are expected, I'll set this sail well in advance.
What sails do you carry?
Tell us and other cruisers about your choice in sails and how you use them. Go to cruisingworld.com/forums to join the CW discussion.
Mark Pillsbury is the editor of Cruising World