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Thread: "Who Here Actually Sails Their Boat As A Cutter?"

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


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Who Here Actually Sails Their Boat As A Cutter?

Adam and Candace Cultraro

When I bought my boat the staysail furler was broken and my rigger took the staysail stay off because it also had a fractured swage end.

I never got it back. Over the next couple years, I've sailed the boat with a drifter or a regualr jib.

Is there and advantage to the cutter rig?

For So Cal sailing shoul I just stick to a big genoa?

Love to hear your experiences sailing wither single or double headsiails.


Dave Kall

When I had our 32 (now refurbishing a 42) I had exp a bit w/ cutter vs sloop. Adding the staysail put an additional increase in speed on the boat. The slot is so large on the WS's that the staysl' controls the flow thru there and over the main better. I would expect on a boat w/ a smaller slot that it might not make any difference. Dave King probably has some more input on the effect of the staysl. Hopefully hel'll respond too.

Norm Rhines


I will add one other bit in for your thoughts. My W32 has balanced reefing points as follows
below 7 Kts I fly a drifter with no stay.
5- 18 kts Working Jib, Stay and a full main
16 - 24 Kts Working jib, main reefed 1
22 - 35 Kts Stay only, main reefed 2
Above 35 It depends on the point of sail and my intentions.

The stay sail adds to the flow as Dave pointed out as well as adds to sail effort forward. The later can be addresed with a larger jib when you are off the wind, but hard on it does not quite work to just up size the jib.

On Imagine in light winds I have found the drifter alone without the stay works best for me south of a broad reach so the slot effect dependent on the wind speed and sail arrangement relitive to each other.
When the stay is included it adds about 3 to 5 deg of additional pointing ability when going hard on the wind (something I do try to avoid).

Adam I hope my experance helps helps you a bit.

Dave King

Ahoy Adam,
The short answers are: I do, Yes, and No.
The Aspect Ratio of the rig is a big determining factor in whether a boat is better off as a cutter or sloop. The AR of the W-32 is quite low and the benefits of the staysail are pronounced and undeniable. The AR of the 43 is higher but still low enough to benefit from the staysail, BUT, not necessarily when used with a large genoa. Just as the staysail offers lift and an additional slot, A large genoa can ruin all of it's benefits. This is from Jeremy Howard-Williams 'Sails': "If there is a belly to the leech area of the genoa, besides choking the slot, there will be an appreciable aft component to thrust, all of which contributes to drag and heeling moment" Two smaller sails forward offer a greatly increased luff length and the additional slot.
A slot can be too large also. If you are sailing with just a regular jib alone up forward then your slot is certainly too loose, or open, at times. It is not working well with the main. On your boat, you could probably go to weather better if you rigged a stay from the stem to the masthead, bypassing the bowsprit. You would then have a high AR and also a high Lift to drag Ratio. (But you would lose reaching performance)
Another quote from Howard-Williams and echoed by myself and most others: "... two sails forward of the mast seem to make a boat steadier offshore than a single one".
Another quote from the owner of the world renowned sailing loft Kern's Sails: "Luff length is performance. Foot length is Crew Abuse".
A hope this has been of some help. Good luck. Make the change. All of us will benefit knowing that a Westsail is out there sailing a little faster.
And one last, obvious, comment. Everything changes when the wind moves abaft the beam.

Michael Dougan

performance aside for a minute, I'd agree with Norm, that having the stays'le there gives you a few more options regarding sail combinations. When the wind is up over 20kts, or if I think the wind might get up over 20kts overnight, then I like to drop the jib and reef the main.

If I get a really scary weather report, I will drop the main entirely and just sail with the stays'le, which my boat sails terrifically under, as long as the wind is up.

I have a couple of reef points in the stays'le, but haven't tried to use them yet. I would probably prefer to have a little storm jib (really not much more than a little triangle of canvas) to put up rather than a reefed stays'le if I expected winds over 35kts (ok,I'm a chicken). Or, I might raise the storm sail in place of the main, as I think that would allow me to lay into the wind better.

My stays'le is on a boom and is self-tending, so, it is a real nice sail to have up when the weather has you concentrating on other things. Plus, the fact that it anchors at the stem makes it feel more reliable than something anchored on the bowsprit.

Rod Lawson

Just a point which hasn't been addressed yet. I'm certainly no experienced sailor but I have found the staysail assists when driving through a gybe. If I don't have the jib up I find it difficult to get through the gybe since I need to furl the genoa to get it over the inner stay. I also like the fact that it can double as a storm sail (mine has 2 reefing points) and I've used it exclusively on a couple occassions when the wind has been around 30 knots and the sea is a little rough. I don't see any advantages to not having it since it's such an easy and manageable sail. Not to mention a full cutter rig just looks damn pretty.

Linda and John Mendoza

We have found that sailing with the staysail, in addition to the jib and main, eliminates a lot of the weather helm on our Westsail 32. Also, one can always use a storm jib on the staysail stay when heaving to in heavy weather. Again, in heavy weather, a reefed main and storm jib is another option for a balanced sailing.

Don and Margaret Lacoste

More questions,

One comment above was not having too large a jib when using the staysail. I currently have a 110 jib. My vessel also came with a Yankee which is highfooted and only goes up to 3/4 the hight of the roller furler.

Compared to the 110, the Yankee looks small but combined with the staysail, is this a better combination? Is the 110 too large to use the staysail with?

My vessel was also extensively raced to Bermuda and Nova Scotia, winning the Bermuda race in 1995. Unfortunately, the owner is no longer alive to offer suggestions with the extensive sail inventory he had.

He also had a 130 & 150 genny on board, a full spinnaker, code 0 and a modern drifter.



Norm Rhines

Don & Margaret:

I have some what the same setup. My working Jib is about 215 Ft^2 which goes up the foil about 80% using a 6" Pendent and is Yankee cut, It works well with the stay sail. I also have a recut 305 Like a 120% and it does not interact with the stay sail as well (Please see Daves description of some of these effects) My gut feeling is that you could go as big as 260 +/- and have great ineraction between the fore sails. (Of course this is also related to wind angle to the vessel) I run my 305 usaly by itself less than 50Deg off the wind or if I am sheeted inside the stays.

When hard on the wind the smaller Jib and full stay sail out preform the bigger jib, least above 8Kts So I would defer to The function of jib selection based upon point of sail and expected wind speed. Dave gave a very good description of the effects of the slots interaction jib/stay and stay/main. So the answer is yes on the smaller jib pulling harder in good winds when sailing close to the wind, but that some what changes 30Deg south of a beam reach.

I hope this helps.

Don and Margaret Lacoste


Thanks for your response. I guess I have heard of "super yankees" that are made by Kern. That may be something to consider once my current Yankee wears out.

I guess the way to really understand the variations of sail combinations is to practice them in different conditions.

I have one more summer to learn more about my Westsail before heading south in the fall of 07 for an extended trip. Thanks for the advice.


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