Question for those who sail cutters - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 27 Old 10-12-2012 Thread Starter
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Question for those who sail cutters

All of my sailing experience has been on sloop rigged boats. When at the Annapolis boat show we went out on a 54' Hylas, a cutter rig. Every time we tacked one of the crew was up on the bow pushing the genoa over and around the staysail to complete the tack. I've never seen this before.

Is it that much more difficult to tack that you need a crew member up there to get the sail through the slot or was I just seeing inexperience?

And what does one do with a double headsail configuration, where you have only inches between the stays? Tartan had this setup on their 4300.
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post #2 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

Even a 'baby stay' can seriously interfere with tacking on some boats. I'd imagine a staysail would be even worse.

I believe that on the double headsail rigs you mention, if you're on the forward sail it's expected you'd roll the sail up, tack and unfurl and carry on. (unless the outer sail is a A sail and you do an outside gybe downwind) If you're on the inside sail it's no issue. These rigs are not intended for short upwind legs with any significant frequency of tacks.

Was the staysail flying, or was it just the forestay/furler than was the hangup? In the case of the Hylas it may well have been quicker (and easier on the sail) to partially furl and unfurl the sail during the tack.
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post #3 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

Some have more room between the stays than others so it can vary as to the PITA factor. True cutters generally have a wider slot than a cutter rigged sloop like I have so I've found them easier in most cases. What I do is if I am sailing upwind, or even a beam reach, I'll fly the staysail as well as the genny. When I tack I'll leave the staysail sheeted tight and release the genny sheet at the normal time. This allows the genoa to slide along the "wall" created by the staysail and slide through the slot without any hangups. As soon as it's clear I tack the staysail. Dead down wind can be interesting, but in light wind I can usually get the genny to go through OK, in stronger winds I furl it in most of the way and then let it out on the other side. You get used to to it, but that's why you don't see many cutters racing:-))
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post #4 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

I have been a a few boats with stowable stays on which we rig a heavier air sail.

We furl the genoa when changing tacks. Of course, this is an offshore set up so we only change tacks rarely.

I do like jrd's solution and will give a try.

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post #5 of 27 Old 10-12-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

This looks like a sistership to the one we were on:


When I was at the helm I tried to thread the genny through the slot without needing assistance. The guy who was hired as a temp captain seemed very nervous (the owners were aboard) and coached everyone at the wheel, whether they needed it or not.

Before boarding he asked if we had any sailing experience. I gave him a brief description of mine and he said, "That's great! The last group had no idea what they were doing." So I thought we established some trust.

Once we were out on the water he hovered over anyone who took the wheel, so I never got the chance to get a good feel for the boat or if I could control the tack sufficiently to get the genny to thread through the slot without manual help.

I did find however that the helm on that boat was VERY slow to respond. And I've sailed some heavy displacement boats. It seemed the helm needed some fine tuning but maybe that's inherent in Hylas yachts.
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post #6 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

To a great extent it depends on sail size and wind strength (probably as some factor of the size of the staysail and gap size). Our 100% yankee headsail has never caught. Our 130% genoa will need walking every time in winds under about 12knots. Partially rolling it up helps!

[Edit - in other words "what he said" now my browser decided to catch up and show the other posts, or I opened my eyes]
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post #7 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

We have a cutter and find that if it is blowing around 8 or 10 kts. the genny presents no issues on the tack usually carrying itself through the slot without assistance. Our genny is very high cut, which I believe helps. As mentioned earlier, by jrd22, it also sometimes helps if the stay-sail is also up to help guide the genny through and support it as it passes toward the slot. If winds are light we sometime help it through by going forward and other times we partially roll it in and let it out again on the other tack. It is more difficult if the stay-sail is not being used and is still rolled up as the genny encounters more friction and seems to be divided by the stay-sail, part going through the slot and part caught behind. It can be a PITA but we love the rig.
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Last edited by Leocat66; 10-12-2012 at 08:32 PM.
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post #8 of 27 Old 10-12-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

On my cutter when I tack, the staysl is only released after the genoa goes through between the headstay and forestay .... the bulk of the genoa 'slides' across the unreleased staysl.

When downwind, I simply re-rig the genoa sheets to gybe 'out and around', the staysl is on a clubfoot and I simply gybe that (and usually sail the Genoa/staysl combo 'wing and wing'.
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post #9 of 27 Old 10-13-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

I don't see the point of flying a staysail with a genoa as all the staysail does is steal wind from the genoa. On Alacazam we use a yankee/staysail combination which works just fine, and the high-cut yankee tacks through the gap without any assistance.
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post #10 of 27 Old 10-13-2012
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Re: Question for those who sail cutters

Juliemor, from the photo the gap between the genoa and staysail seems like a generous slot to tack the genoa. What size was the genoa and was it a deck-sweeper? I have a true cutter rig and I have no trouble tacking my high-cut 110& genoa. As noted in the posts above, perhaps being high-cut makes this operation easier. When I tack I just wait until I'm through the wind before I haul on the gib sheet. The wind does the rest and pushes the sail through the slot.

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