Sail Selections

Mr. and Mrs. Dashew,

I am in the process of reading both your Encyclopedia and Storm Survival books (I keep flipping back and forth between them). Not only am I extremely impressed with both of the books but with the two of you and your long and successful marriage. In the end this of course will be your greatest accomplishment.

I am 52 years old and don’t have the greatest of hearts. I have sailed for many years and have decided that it should be possible to equip a boat intelligently for single-handed long distance passagemaking (even if that means sailing primarily in the Trades). My purchase will be in the 32-33 ft. range as that is about the largest size that I can afford to equip to a very high standard. By high standard I mean the very best of the basics done in the best way, not fancy systems that might add more complexity than I could manage. I want a simple but bulletproof proper passagemaker.

My question is in the area of sail selection. I realize that you are a big fan of cutter rigs, and I agree with you, but one of my favorite boats is the Hallberg-Rassy 31 Monson which doesn’t have a foretriangle that is suitable for a second stay. If I am equipping a sloop I would be very interested in your recommendation for sails in order of priority. I would like to have a furling sail on the forestay that can handle most conditions and so that I am only going to the bow in light conditions to bring down the furling jib to put up a light air genoa or to put up a second jib for down wind sailing. In very heavy weather I imagine that it will be a case of following your active tactics until I need a rest at which I would heave to or deploy a Jordan rig off the transom.

I am sorry for the long and involved post but I wanted to give you some background and some of my current ideas if it will help you with your deliberation.

Thank you very much in advance, David

Hi Dave: I used to like cutters in larger single stick rigs–but today, with the materials available I prefer a mainsail driven sloop–especially one which can sail on mainsail only.

Sail inventory depends a great deal on where you plan to passage, and how important light air performance will be.

The comments which follow assume you have limited powering range, so need good light air performance, and will be sailing in higher latitudes form time to time which means versatility in a blow. In order of priority:

1-Storm trysail sized so you can use it into the 65 knot wind range by itself.

2-Mainsail with two reefs, with a nicely shaped roach and at least the top two battens full length, and other battens double normal length (better yet all battens full length). Lift outer end of boom when reefed so you don’t drag it in big seas when reaching.

3-Working jib sized to be able to carry it in 25 to 30 knots of wind with reefed mainsail. Clew cut high so is efficient when reaching and doesn’t scoop water. Consider leech battens which are parallel with the luff to improve shape (if the jib doesn’t overlap shrouds). Our friends the Neris have a nice roller reefing working on their 38′ Calvin. Shape isn’t perfect, but looks a hell of alot better than what we’ve seen in the past.

4-Equivelent of a #5 jib for the headstay for use in boisterous weather and if the main jib is damaged. You might set this sail before leaving Bermuda for the mainland. About 65% of the forward triangle.

5-Drifter for use in light airs upwind and to augment speed downwind. High cut slew so effective at wide angles. Possibly free flying if you can fit it with Spectra luff rope and roller furling drum. Otherwise, for the headstay.

Good sails are the most important ingredient to safe, comfortable,and fun sailing and at the top of our list–right after massive anchors!

Good Luck–Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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