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TOPIC: Downwind head sails for the Pacific

Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 3 weeks ago #3270

  • simoncurrin
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I took the following posts from the OCC Facebook Page:

Toby Norman
19 hrs
I'm in need of advice please. We have the ability to run twin headsails having recently renewed our 140% jib. Essentially my concerns are putting excessive load on the forestay running the two jibs through the twin tracked proful roller reefer. I have a single pole to fly the windward sail but I'm concerned with the loads with such big sails over a Pacific passage. Neil McCubbin Peter Whatley and Colin Speedie your advice much appreciated.

Russell Frazer We came across the Atlantic Westbound in that exact mode. It was a really great set up! Yes we rolled and snapped along and I worried about the head stay too. However years later removing the wire and taking the pro furl apart for routine re wire it was found to b just fine.

Toby Norman Really pleased with the pro furls. It's just huge stress on the stay which concerns me. The profurls like many have the second tracks which I assume is for running twin sails.

Linda Lane Thornton We sailed across both the North Atlantic and the Pacific with two headsails on the twin-grooved forestay of our 20 year old Harken furling system, where both sails could be reefed simultaneously. When the wind shifted onto the quarter, the windwarrd sail could be mo ed to the leward side inside the leeward sail, and again both furled together. An effective rig and no issues with fatigue: that came much later.

Chris Mortimer We thought about this, but for the same reasons decided to goosewing across the Atlantic with prevented mainsail and poled out 140% genoa. Both could be furled from the cockpit, without removing pole and preventer. During the day we flew a gennaker but for safety took it in at night.
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Toby Norman
Toby Norman We did exactly that for the Atlantic and made a fast safe crossing although chaffe was really high with the rolling

Peter Whatley Hi Toby this is an interesting question and worthy of consideration and debate as it is sure to produce different views.

We carry a number of coloured sails but the problem in using them when deep sea is the rolling and subsequent moving of the centre of effort that causes more rolling. So they tend to stay in the bag and come out for local sailing. Our solution has been to use twin poles with a 110% genoa on the furler (Profurl) and staysail hanked onto a removable stay close to the forestay. The staysail is not big but is efficient. The genoa is rolled in a bit to keep it taut and this helps prevent chafe both of the sail and the sheet that we feed through the pole end. We have found it better to hand the main completely when the breeze is steady as this prevents the risk of damage and chafe.

Having a clean bottom helps keep the speed up.

We did contemplate having two sails on the furler using one halyard but somehow we couldn't quite bring ourselves to do this although I know that plenty of people are happy with this arrangement.

When things get a bit exciting (vicious squall with extra rain) we furl the genoa leaving the pole in position (fore and aft guys essential) and if the staysail proves to be a bit much then we just dump the halyard and the sail collapses. We don't dump the sheet.

A second furler close to the main forestay is quite popular and a system much favoured by designer and past Commodore, the late Mike Pocock.

I have heard many stories of pole tracks being ripped off because most boats have a single track on the centreline. I'm sure you can envisage the geometry. We prefer twin tracks either side of the centreline. So, to conclude my preference would be for independently rigged sails each rigged firmly with its own pole. I think the Profurl is a strong unit as the section is big although I have always been a bit concerned about the sloppy fit plastic bearings but they seem to survive.

I have no doubt that others will have their own views and experiences that suit their boat.

Isn't it a great facility within the OCC to be able to ask these questions and get responses from such a wide audience of sailors. It is one of the benefits that I am always extolling to prospective members.

Hope this helps. Fair winds

p.s. New boat coming on a treat! Will send photos.

Toby Norman Thanks again Peter
Alex Blackwell Hi Toby Norman
I would contend and went out from the premise that it is not the forstay we need worry about (bar the attachment points. Much rather it is the back stay that is to take double the load. So when we did fly two headsails, in our case a gennaker and a yankee, we made sure our running backstays were deployed. As mentioned above, we also always reduced sail overnight.

Toby Norman Great point Alex Blackwell, always shy away from rigging them for some reason. Tend to only use them if using the staysail in strong wind which to be fair is rare as the jib alone is normally more than enough drive

Emerald Sea Aroundoceans Toby Norman. You are significantly increasing load into the complete furling and pole system. Ultimately only the manufacturer understands its design limitations and you'd be best to address this with them. We have done similar with our Facnor and they replied with a reduction in sail area in increasing wind conditions.

Colin Speedie Hi Toby, my concern would be slightly different. 140% is big and with a standard length pole I would partially roll the sail to avoid having a bag in the sail that would tend to generate rolling. And that's something that cannot be done with twin sails...See more

Peter Morley Personally I'd want a pole for both sides for sailing relatively direct downwind and/or light winds with rolling, unless you have experience with yours that suggests it's not needed. My system is something similar to a twizzle rig. I am pretty cautious on deciding to reduce sail as both are hank on. Should also admit I haven't actually set it in years, great system but has drawbacks for single-handed coastal sailing!

Toby Norman Fantastic advice chaps, thanks so much to you both. Very much respect and value both of your opinions. Colin agreed, 140 does carry a baggy sail even with our huge telescopic pole at full length, granted a reef helps. We have been offered a second huge pole for a very reasonable price but I'm reluctant based purely on deck space for a second pole that might never get used. I had thought of a small pole for the stay sail instead which might be a compromise, maybe attached as a second pole below the main spinnaker pole. That said, our stay sail is small and requires running back stays.
It's difficult trying to work out in advance a suitable rig for a ketch to cross the Pacific. I guess I need to play around for the first few days.

Thanks again for your thoughts. Hope your both well and Peter, would love some updated pictures please!

Colin Speedie Toby, a short whisker pole might be fine, or even rig a block on the main boom (with the main stowed) for the staysail. That way you can still reef the genoa at will easily and the staysail won't collapse. 'Poor mans downwind rig' it's sometimes called but works fine - just the usual necessity to watch for chafe. And I'd just stow the mizzen on a ketch.

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 3 weeks ago #3271

  • bwallace
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I have read all the above with interest. No one has mentioned the "Twistle rig". Two Genoas of similar size on the same furler, (twin track) with both poles going back to a free universal joint held in place by an uphaul and downhaul. This takes out most of the rolling that is transmitted to the hull through the mast. No problem with the foil taking two sails, but if one is not happy and is worried about strain on the furler track leave one turn of sail on the foil. This rig is great for a long downwind passage. We crossed the Atlantic all the way from Canaries to Martinique in 2007. When the wind increased we just furled the sail more, and the main sail stayed inside its cover on the boom! Wind vane steering made for an easy and fun voyage.

Brian Wallace B)
s/v Darramy

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 4 days ago #3300

  • Tony.Stattersfield
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I tried twin 140's on the foil from Gibraltar to the Canaries. I have only one pole so used the boom! whilst not perfect it was a very easily handled rig for three on a 42ft boat.

I have now bought a light weight twist sail which will sit very comfortable 'inside' the genoa when upwind.

Now sorting out a second pole and car!

Very good downwind rig.

Tony

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 4 days ago #3302

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Hi all,
I am curious, in reading the whole report, why all the worry about the rig integrity: either furling gear, forestay or backstay. It takes so little apparent wind speed to get a boat up to a decent boat speed downwind (compared to upwind loads and shock loading from bashing to wind) that I would not think worrying about damage to the rigs components would be a big deal. I find most boats allow themselves to become overpowered downwind and that decreasing the sail area significantly usually results in far easier motion, greatly reduced loads, less anxiety about broaching (and other downwind disasters) while only losing a few tenths of a knot boat speed.
What am I missing?
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 4 days ago #3306

  • David Tyler
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Sorry, I can't resist any longer. I just have to share with you a paragraph from the latest Junk Rig Association magazine. I sold my boat Tystie (junk rigged ketch) to Martin, in New Zealand, as I was feeling that I had reached the end of my long distance cruising days. I'd sailed her from NZ to Alaska and back again, singlehanded, as a finale, and that seemed like enough miles covered.

Anyway, Martin, who had jumped at the chance to buy Tystie, as he'd been struggling with the pole on his Endurance 37 bermudan cutter and knew from bitter experience that sailing downwind with poled out headsails was for masochists, writes:

"A strong southerly was forecast so it was decided that Tystie should take advantage of it to return home. There was much reefing and unreefing with Tystie running wing and wong before the wind, with up to four panels reefed in the main and three in the mizzen. It was wet and windy, so much time was spent below eating, drinking coffee, and marvelling at how Tystie was sailing herself through some fairly rough conditions. In fact it was the fastest sail I have ever had in any boat. Just before my Navionics stopped recording the day's track I saw that she had covered 72.5M in nine hours. An average of eight knots! The incredible safety of the rig was emphasised to me that day, in that, if I did leave it a little late to reduce sail it was easy to rectify from the companionway. Furthermore, when she did broach to when over pressed, there was no danger of gybing because the rig will sail so readily by the lee. There was no dangerous foredeck work with poles 6m long, and no heart stopping moments rigging preventers. I anchored off Norsand Boatyard in good spirits, feeling very pleased with my boat’s performance, after a ten hour day anchor to anchor. Had this been done with a pointy rig I would have arrived exhausted, after a tense nerve-racking day, tending to a labour-intensive and frightening rig. Sadly, most of my pointy rig friends find impossible to believe that I had enjoyed such a fantastic run in conditions that would most probably have kept them waiting at anchor for better weather."

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 4 days ago #3307

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Hi David and all,
While being clear that some boats have points of sail where they revel (and others points of sail where they wallow), I don’t believe any boat has a lock on its passengers having a good downwind passage. It is hard to think of any element of a boat that is not a compromise.
That said there are always improvements that can be made. For my part (on a cutter rigged boat with the mast almost amidships) downwind sailing got much safer and easier with the addition of a carbon fiber whisker pole (20 feet long, weighs 7 kg or so, used for 15+ years in winds to 50+kn) and, what I call, an offshore asymmetrical spinnaker. The asym, I have written about in the forum, not sure about the pole. The other element that has improved things is my leading headsail is a jib topsail and its higher clew facilitates downwind sailing impressively.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 3 days ago #3308

  • David Tyler
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Dick, this topic started with a question about how best to rig headsails in such a way as to mitigate all the problems that arise when they are used for a purpose for which they are not optimal (chafe, fatigue, unfair loadings causing track damage etc) - long downwind passages . They are good for going to windward, but poor for sailing on other points. I would have to agree that any boat can have a good downwind passage across the Pacific - so long as that boat's crew has a sufficient supply of strength, stamina, courage and ability to fix rig problems. Where those qualities are in short supply, there are better ways of sailing downwind than with poled out headsails. I just ease the sheet and relax!

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 3 days ago #3309

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Hi David,
Whereas you may be absolutely correct in contending that junk rigs get you downwind in the safest, fastest and easiest fashion, the vast majority of the sailing world, with good reason, will be sailing more conventional rigs. I would also like to challenge that, to have a good downwind passage, one needs, in your words, “a sufficient supply of strength, stamina, courage and ability to fix rig problems” with its implication that all those admirable attributes will be amply exercised in any downwind passage of length.
I have attempted to attach some writing of mine on taming the downwind pole, but have so far failed to negotiate the computer’s demands. I will persist.
My best, Dick

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 6 months 3 days ago #3311

  • David Tyler
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OK, Dick, I'll take the bait, though I probably shouldn't.

How naive of me. I thought that if we could get downwind, and also across the wind, in the safest, fastest and easiest fashion, and as well as that, could get upwind in the safest and easiest fashion, but sometimes just a few per cent slower than a bermudan boat with a well shaped headsail - then we'd cracked it. But apparently not. Unless we've also spent time "taming the downwind pole", we've not made a worthwhile passage.

Consider for a moment, Dick, the weaker crews: the singlehanders, the ageing couples, the families with young children to look after, when a line squall strikes. Their strength, stamina and courage have limits. Foredeck work in bad conditions probes those limits, quite unnecessarily in my view. Why should they have to do things the hard way, when they could do them the easy way?

Just what are these "good reasons" that people choose a "conventional rig" (whatever that is)? I can only think of bad ones, such as passively accepting what the commercial manufacturers choose to give them. Please enlighten me.

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 5 months 3 weeks ago #3327

  • simoncurrin
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David,
I post this on behalf of Dick who, like several, is experiencing some Joomla inspired IT issues at the moment.
Simon,
Hi David,
My challenge from the onset was merely that I believed your description of the trials and tribulations attendant to a downwind passage on conventional rigs (sloops, cutters, ketches etc.) was, to my mind, exaggerated, in your effort to extol a rig with which you have clearly much experience and much affection. I believe that downwind passages in these conventional vessels can be accomplished without damage to the vessel (you listed chafe, pole track, etc.) and excessive crew fatigue. I would hope that any writing I do would facilitate that end.
As to the good reasons, I think it best to say that the vast majority of recreational sailing vessels out there are the conventional ones I just listed and that most owners feel they had good reasons for their choices. I write this with the knowledge that this does not “prove” their reasons were good, but, for you to dismiss the choices of such a vast majority of recreational boat owners as a “passive acceptance” of “commercial manufacturers” seems to me another unwise exaggeration.
The above exaggerations I refer to are my opinion and based on my experiences. I would not necessarily respond at all, but as they were publicly expressed and portrayed a dismal conclusion of downwind sailing on conventional sailing vessels, I worried the comments would discourage others from honing their skills in this important area or see miserable trips as inevitable. I in no way wished to do a “compare and contrast” for which I am ill equipped, but to encourage those doing downwind passages to find solutions to the challenges presented by their particular vessel and their particular crew on their chosen vessel.
My best, Dick

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 5 months 3 weeks ago #3348

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Hi all,
Of possible interest to those following this stream, I just posted a new topic "Taming the downwind whisker pole".
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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Downwind head sails for the Pacific 4 months 2 days ago #3468

  • Wild Bird
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We crossed the Atlantic a number of years a go and used a twistle rig with two poles. We had our large genoa on the furler and we set a second smaller genoa flying free although we did have a second slot in the furler.
If the wind increased we could furl the large genoa to give a more balanced sail plan. If the wind increased more we could keep furling the genoa or drop the free flying second smaller genoa. The slot between the two genoas let the bigger gusts through. Worked very well

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