Dear Mr. Dashew, I have owned a copy of your original Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia for several years and refer to it constantly. I have grown to respect your perspective and advice, and follow it most of the time. The best advice you have given that I followed was regarding the WH Autopilot. We have a Westsail 43 (beam 13′, WL 33.3′, displacement 18 tons, full keel, tall rig) and have run off in 40+ knot winds and quartering seas for six days and never touched the helm. I have been very interested in your philosophy about sail design and am in need of new sails. I would appreciate your advice about A full batten, large roach main sail for my boat. I fear that this kind of sail on my boat may be like putting a Ferrari engine in a tractor. We currently have a no-batten main and have had good luck with it especially when reefing off the wind. Due to our tall rig we must reef early. I fear this may be a problem with a full batten large roach main. I have considered putting a tacking reef in this type of sail so that in short tacking situations I could reef in order for the roach to clear the backstay. I am sure that you are very busy, but I would really like to have your opinion on this subject.
Thanks for a great publication. Sincerely, Ron G., Baja, Mexico
Bottom line–the less efficient your rig, hull, and keel, the more positive the impact from a fully battened, full roach sail. The results on a Westsail should be substantially positive–especially if you now use a hollow leech (battenless) sail.
Most people also find that there is less weather helm and less heel, due to substantially reduced induced drag and improved drag angles.
Your idea of a tripping reef–for tacking or jibing in really light airs–is a good one. We’ve done that on many of our boats too.
As to reefing with the full battens and large roach, once you get your lazy jacks set up correctly, you will find reefing easier. The battens hold the sail quieter when it is feathered, and help to keep in constrained within the lazy jacks.
Data on chafe protection for the sail and backstay is in your copy of Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. Also, you might want to get in touch with Dan Neri at North Sails. Dan is the sailmaker with whom we’ve worked over the past decade to develop any of our new cruising sail concepts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you change let us know how things work out.–Steve