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Old 10-07-2009
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Originally Posted by AndrewMac View Post
Great responses - thanks. To give a little more background on the boat's intended use: I'd use primarily for daysailing, but have three small kids and would like to take them for short cruises - say 1-3 nights (main reason for the upgrade). This would be primarily in and around penobscot bay in Maine, so lots of islands and would probably camp out at least one night. All of which is to say, I would trade cabin comfort for cockpit comfort (ie. prefer a larger cockpit and can live w/ spartan accomodations). I would also like something that is reasonably fast. I'm upgrading from an Ensign, which I love but find a little sluggish at times. While I would not consider going over 32', I would consider going under 28...say 26? Reason being that I have an interest in a baba 40 with my father - problem with that is: seems to really be his boat and I don't particularly like sailing it unless I'm going for a longer cruise (find cutter rig is a pain, too heavy and cockpit too small). Max budget is 30k - had figured I wouldn't spend more than 20k on the boat and leave 10k cushion for work.

Thanks again for the responses above.

Okay, that helps some. J32 would be well out of range.

But soem of the older JBoats might be a possibility. Depending how you much "cruise" you want, you might look at mid-80s J28s (cruisier) and J29s (racier/daysailor).

Here are two examples:



Given that you seem to have access to a fairly serious cruising boat, I would probably focus more on the daysailor/overnighter variety, and as you sat, maybe drop the size range a bit. J27 or maybe even one of their smaller decimeter boats (J80?) would be another possibility.

Hopefully you'll hear other suggestions.

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Old 10-07-2009
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Originally Posted by bubb2 View Post
What makes a good light air boat?

A good light air sailor.

Have you ever been out on an a day when there is not even a ripple on the water? You look out over the bow and see a dozen sailboats stalled and the one or two boats that are moving. You think to yourself there must be some sort of breeze over there. Chances are there is not.

Light air sailing is work and patience. Sail trim is essential. Anyone can sail a boat when there is wind to waste. Pick a day when you don't think there is enough wind and go sailing. Get out there. Ease the out-haul on the main. Get some "bag" in the sail. Wait 2 min's to see if the boat responses. Ease the vang wait 2 min's to see if the boat responses. Do not make sail adjustments fast or in combination's. tweak a little and see what happens. Then tweak a little more. The more time you put into it, The more you will know how your boat responses. The BFS sailors will not spend the time to learn light air skills because it is not very exciting, but it is certainly a challenge.

The point I trying to made is light air sailing is a learned skill, the more you practice it the better you will become.
I do agree with this, but sailing a boat with a rating of 130 or less in 4 knts of breeze is more exciting than one with a rating of 240+ in the same breeze. Keeps you sailing longer, and motoring less.
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Old 10-07-2009
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Nothing succeeds like efficient sail area with the operative word being efficient. While overlapping genoas help above really light air conditions, their high drag in the slot make a boat that depends on them a poor choice in the extremely light stuff.

More ideally you want a boat with an SA/D above 22 with 24 or so being more ideal.

Light displacement translates to low drag as well. You really want to look for an L/D well below 160 or so. I hear this hoey that heavy boats coast through the light stuff. In 45 years of sailing, I've never seen it....never... ever.

You want a high ballast to displacement ratio so that you can stand up to the higher SA/D. Without that you have a one trick pony.

I keep hearing about how great multihulls are in the light stuff. Below 3-5 knots they tend to be very sticky, especially catamarrans.

I would suggest that you look at boats like a Laser 28, J-30, Farr 1020, Kirby 30, and the like.


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Old 10-07-2009
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I would like to the 285 Beneteau to Jeff's list. Jeff's point on the large head sail is spot on when it comes to light air. Bigger is not better.

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Old 10-08-2009
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Thanks for all the responses. Very helpful. Bubb2, while i know you were being a little tongue in cheek with your initial response, it was actually quite helpful. I find that I frequently get impatient in lighter air and do not let each adjustment take hold as you suggest. And JeffH's comment about the high drag a large genoa creates in the slot is not something I had previously been attuned to - always assumed that, in fact, bigger was better in those conditions. Jeff/Bubb2, I'm assuming that you mean winds that are 5 and below? I guess I'm asking at what point do you think the incremental lift of the genoa becomes accretive (ie greater than the incremental drag)? I'm sure there is no hard and fast answer, but wondering if there are metrics you would use as a general guide...thanks!
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Sail Plan/Wind Range

Not to hijack the thread but this is interesting to me. I discovered the same thoughts on larger headsails. Just for fun, I started Wednesday racing my old Hunter 27 this year in our cruising class. I learned a lot about boat speed, or lack therof. For much of the season we either had too much or too little wind so I experimented with sails a bit. I have two genny's that I use, a 155 and a 130 that are on a furler (yes its set up for cruising, and has a grill).

While this might seem elementary to some, in very light air, the 155 is actually harder to fill, especially off the wind (unless its poled out). Despite its larger size, its heavier and has more drag so its seems slower than the 130. At the upper end of the wind spectrum, its size makes it easy to get overpowered, and clearly the 130 is better there too. Obviously that's why those that race seriously have 4-5 staysails.

The 155 is a great sail on my boat, but in a narrower wind range ( maybe 5-15 kts) than its smaller cousin. Above and below, the smaller sail is faster, and easier to handle. Ive always considered my boat fairly good in light air, but racing it taught me a bunch about getting speed out of it in different conditions. Sailing in 10 knots is easy on any boat, Light air sailing takes skill and patience, and the right boat/sail selection. I got slaughtered in both very heavy and very light wind, but did quite well in the middle. Next year, we'll see if I can get faster at the ends of the spectrum.
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Old 10-08-2009
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No worries about hijacking the thread! I too am very interested in this turn....thanks for the input. Very curious about tactics, sail selection, trim that are best to manage lift/drag in lighter conditions...
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Old 10-08-2009
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Any boat will not perform well in light air if the sail SHAPE isnt appropriate for the aerodynamic flow regimes (of less energy) that are present in light winds. Light winds with less energy are less able to make the turns around the leading edges of sails or you can easily experience a separation stall - where the air flow detaches from the leeward surface of the sail. Separation can also happen because the sail is set-up or shaped with *too much draft* and or the sail has too much cord length (BIG LP) and the energy in the wind is insufficient to keep the flow attached all the way from the luff to the leech. Such separations stalls are usually invisible to the eyeball ... unless you have lightweight tell tales at the luff, midchord and leech of the sail.

NO, full draft wont perform very well in light winds as when the sail has too much draft of cord, too much 'fullness' at the luff ... the flow on the leeside is more subject 'bursting bubbles' of separation stalls. FULL draft in a sail or 'oversized' sails is a 'killer' in light winds because of ease at which they can 'burst the leeside bubble' and detach the leeside airflow, ..... yet most sailors mistakenly 'draft up' .... usually followed by turning on the engine.

So in addition to all the desirable boat hull characteristic mentioned by other posters ... choose a boat that has the proper, easy and convenient to use 'sail controls' and the proper sails for 'light winds'. You can make a heavyweight 'crab crusher' outperform 'cruising boats' in super light winds simply by sail SHAPE and FULL SET of telltales.

Also, plain vanilla 'cruising cut sails' - sails cut with 'rounded luff entry shapes' so the sail is 'forgiving' for an inaccurate/inattentive helmsman - easily can have separation stalls due to this shape. A flat luff entry shape, requiring precise helm/steering, such as found in 'racing cut' sails, will be a strategic advantage in light winds as they are much less prone to a separation stall .... but the helmsman will need to be very precise with his steering and the boat will need a FULL set of telltales including a row of 'steering tell tales' (gentry tufts"!

BTW - catamarans sometimes do better in light winds .... not because of the reduced amount of parasitic drag because of less underwater surface, etc. NO not at all !!!! The reason is that because they are SO DAMN UGLY, the earth/ocean is physically rejecting them because of their extreme ugliness hence they sometimes tend to be less IN the water .... its the earth going "Oh puke, its a catamaran, get away from me". :-)
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Old 10-08-2009
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I got which a few of us in my club use, a 130 nylon drifter. it is about 130% of my fortraiangle area, higher cut on the clew. catches zephyrs of air very well vs my 155 string Fiberpath sail. 0-6 the drifter works well, 6-8 either, above 8 the 155 is best. Some have a really light 155, but I'm not as positive they work as well as the 110-140 ish nylon sails. Mine is a heavy spin cloth. I use 3/16" sheets too.

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Old 10-09-2009
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Hi all - so after getting people's feedback on my initial question on this thread, I have been busily calculating SA/D ratios (want to thank fud for supplying the equation) on different boats that I am looking at. I then started trying to figure out how to calculate the Wetted Surface Area as a number of people referenced that criterea as another critical determinant. For what it's worth, I came across this link which delves into methods for making the calculation in some detail (actually, a lot of detail - still trying to decipher it :-)) - thought I'd post it here in case it's useful to anyone else.
Wetted surface area - approximate formulas - Boat Design Forums
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