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  #1  
Old 06-06-2003
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Sailing Cutters

I''m interested in hearing opinions from owners of Cutters on their sailing abilities. I''ve read some previous posts on the board here that mention the advantages of dropping the topsail and using only the staysail and reefed main in a blow. I''ve also read comments about the difficulty of tacking the topsail through the slot when using both sails. Do the people that own cutters feel that the advantages of different sail configurations out weigh any disadvantages that Cutters may have? How difficult is it to manage a Cutter single-handling. I''ve never been on a Cutter,but have always found their sail arrangement an interesting concept,as well as pleasing to the eye.
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Old 06-06-2003
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Sailing Cutters

My father and I owned a cutter for roughly 11 years before moving on to more modern rigs. The cutter was fine if there was enough wind to get by with just a forestaysail and Jib. If it was too light and we had to use the genoa the boat was a real pain in the butt to singlehand as the genoa hangs up on the forestay and so meant a lot of winching under load and a really slow tack. I have also been asked to sail on a small IP to help them figure out how to tack the genoa through the headstay without stopping the boat and found that the only reliable way was to partially roll in the genoa on its furler. then tack and release the retractor. Again, not my idea of an ideal single-handing rig. The other thing that I found with cutters is that the staysail usually does not have enough area to properly balance the mainsail producing tremendous weather helm. This can be offset by reefing the mainsail in which case there was not enough sail area to drive the boat through a chop. The cutters that I have sailed generally have needed running backstays in heavy going when sailing under just staysail and reefed mainsail, which again is not my idea of an ideal singlehanding rig. (Also unlike most fractional rigs with runners, the runners on a cutter generally hit the mast well below the head of the reefed mainsail resulting in a boat that is no longer self, tacking even when reefed.)

While a lot of folks swear by cutter rigs for offshore sailing, having owned and sailed both for many years, I strongly prefer the smaller headsails, greater simplicity of a fractional rig and wider wind ranges permitted by the ease of depowering a fractional rig which reduces the need to reef or douse a sail. To me for boats under perhaps 40-45 feet a fractional rig is much better for single-handed cruising either on or offshore.

Respectfully
Jeff
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Sailing Cutters

One other point, Cutters do not point as high as sloops. In order to keep the two slots open on a cutter the sheeting angle is kept wider than can be achieved on a fractional rigged sloop. When you are single-handing, the number and frequency of tacks becomes a lot more important. Offshore it is no big deal, you simply sail a half day longer before your tack again, but as you approach a coast or work up a harbor or river this can become very important. This becomes more critical in an opposing current where a few degrees of pointing ability can make the difference between one pair of tacks and literally a dozen.

Jeff
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Old 06-06-2003
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Sailing Cutters

Jeff already stated the main drawback - a little less pointing ability.

Tacking a cutter can be a problem in ''shooting'' the genoa between the fore and jib stay. I dont have that much of a problem by simply very slightly/momentarily backwinding the genoa before releasing the sheet(s) .... and it will ''shoot'' between the stays, a few small split parrel beads above the hanks on the staysl will affect smoother ''shooting the gap''.
For areas that require lots of tacking, consider a removable jib stay, and sail it like a sloop. Most sails you find on cutters are usually built with too much rounded luff entry ... a flat entry sail will do wonders for a cutter where you have to tack a lot - rivers, narrow bays, etc. ... if you can steer/set/trim ''precisely''. Passages/long distance - rounded luff entry is better for less steering, ''lazing''-around, etc.

Nothing beats a club footed staysl and flattened main in heavy going (up or down): just steer the boat ... hardly ever have to ''grouse'' with sheets. When its get ''really blowin'' most cutters can sail well on stays''l alone. A Bob Perry design (Tayana Baba, etc.) can almost lay over on her beam ends and show little adverse weather helm, ... if the sails are shaped/trimmed right.

IMHO - The aerodynamic interaction of cutter sail plans is very misunderstood and technically misrepresented by most non-cutter sailors. Takes some learning! (and calculating).
If you''re planning to sail mostly down or across (wind) a cutter makes a good choice ... if you KNOW how to set and shape sails, etc.

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Old 06-09-2003
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Sailing Cutters

Thanks to those that contributed information on the sailing capabilities of Cutters. It gave me some insight as to the +/- of these vessels that I was unable to obtain in the books that I have.
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Sailing Cutters

I heard of a removable inner forestays, called a Solent Stay, that when attached allows you to furl your roller furled genoa and carry a smaller heavy weather headsail. When not in use, the Solent Stay is carried close to the mast tensioned with something like a pelican hook. Depending on the boat, such stays can be retrofitted to existing masthead rigs, offering some of the benefits of a cutter without most of the disadvantages.

Larry
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Old 06-10-2003
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Sailing Cutters

Intresting Larry But how is this less a pain than just using sail hanks and putting the heavy weather sail up on the same stay as the furled sail?
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