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Thread: "Sail 'management'"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Sail 'management'

Mike McCoy

With all the hurricanes flinging themselves about here & there I thought I might ask a question about cutter sail management in heavy weather:

When the weather starts picking up and after the first reef in the main sail which sail should you douse first, the jib or staysail?

Not having sailed a cutter rig before I would *guess* the staysail first as it has the largest area.

Or on the other hand, might I want to douse the jib first? (as the pulpit is the last place I want to have to be on later if the wind & seas pick up more ;)

Maybe someone could map out a basic 'plan' as the weather builds, e.g.

1. 15-20 kn 1st reef in mainsail
2. 20-25 kn douse staysail
3. 25-30 kn 2nd reef in mainsail
4. 30-35 put up storm jib
5. 35+ put up trysail

The above is just a guess on my part of what to do on a cutter in deteriorating conditions. While I know different conditions call for different strategies and there's no hard/fast setpoints (other than do it earlier than you think) it's kinda the basic 'rule of thumb' info of what I'm looking for.

Dave King

Ahoy Mike, This is but one opinion: My procedures differ a bit from yours. Also there are circumstances that dictate different procedures. The following is only a general outline as to what I do. It must also be noted that I do not have an aneometer aboard.
1. O-8 kn. Full sail. Drifter or Genoa or spinnaker or whatever.
2. 8-15 kn. Full working sail. Usually nothing bigger than a Yankee.
3. Above 15 kn.
1st. reef in Main.
2nd. douse or reduce jib.
3rd. 2nd reef in Main
4th. douse any remaining jib.
5th. douse the main.
6th. staysail alone
7th. storm sails as necessary.
Storm jib goes on the inner stay.
Notice that the staysail is the better choice to leave up forward until the end. Saraband's staysail is reefable so I also have that option as desired. We have sailed in 50 knots under just the reefed staysail although the better choice at that time would be storm jib and/or trysail.

Mike McCoy

Thanks Dave,

That was just the kind of info I was wanting/needing.

Mike McCoy

Oops.. one more clarification.

I presume the running backstays would come into play when the main gets doused & staysail alone is up?

Dave King

Ahoy Mike,
One of my running backs are up whenever I am in the ocean, regardless of what sails are up. I do not follow this practice here locally, on the river. In fact my running backs are removed from the rig while "at home".

Dick and Libby Mills

In their book "Storm Tactics" the Pardeys discuss heaving to in storm conditions (>55 knots) They say
use whatever combination of sails work.

What combination has Westsail 32 owners found effective in those conditions?

Dave King

Ahoy Dick & Libby,
Why is no one answering this question?
55 knots is a lot of wind.
I have been out there twice in 50 knots. This is my experience. You may have to read between some lines.
50 knots is sailable. On one occasion I was just going to hoist the storm sails when I realized I was doing 5+ knots with nothing up. As I was going down wind anyway and the windvane was steering, I just continued on under bare pole. There was no problem. On another occasion Ruth and I were sailing upwind and wanted badly to get somewhere. We beat into it under reefed staysail and double reefed main. Please note that our 2nd reef is Very deep. We were able to hold onto a course about 85 degrees off wind.
The most wind I've hove-to in was about 45 knots. We did that just to rest as we weren't making too good of progress anyway. At that time we hove-to with a reefed staysail and double reefed main. If the wind had been stronger we were prepared to hove-to with a storm jib (on the inner stay) and the trysail. The W-32 will hove-to pretty good with the helm tied down. We were making about 1 knot in 40 knots of wind and the boat was fairly quiet.
The next time I'm out in 55+knots, I'll try hoving-to and get back to you with the details. Good Luck, Dave

Michael Dougan

I'd asked this question once before and someone chimed in that they were stuck in a series of gales off of South Africa in the Agulhas current (not a great place to be stuck), and they sheeted the staysail amidships and tied the helm down, but only part way. They said that they rode about 45 degrees off the wind for a few days that way.

Haven't had the opportunity to try it :-)

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