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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 09-03-2007
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Jib , Genoa or Main only?

We are in Boston for a few days. We are trying to charter a skippered boat maybe in the next day or so. . .Not sure how that affects my question. . .

From other boats and the pier, we see many boats running with one sail. . .Is this for some reason, or is it just a way for a new sailor to learn to handle one sail at a time?
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Old 09-03-2007
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Well, today we set the main and genoa, but the wind became really gusty so we tried to furl the genoa...When the cable frayed almost all the way through, so I had to drop it haul it out of the water, and untangle all the lines without running into the small island dead ahead. It was an interesting day.

To answer your question it's manly due to the wind, my boat sails great in gusty winds under main alone, some do it with jib/genoa alone but I can't as my boat will not sail into the wind under genoa. I'm just learning to sail myself and today I should have just set the main.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Depends on the wind direction. We'll often be lazy and sail with just the genoa if we're slightly off a downwind (broad reachish). If it's blowing REAL hard we'll sail with just the main. On most points of sail other than a reach you need to have the main up to create a proper slot for the headsail, but you still find a lot of people sailing with just their headsail out (it's easy).
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Old 09-03-2007
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Sailing downwind in gusty conditions (such as today's 20 - 25 kt, 30 kt gusts), I usually fly the 150 genoa and make good headway. As labatt stated, in a close to broad reach, the main may perform better.

It also depends upon the crew . . . I was single handed - so the mizzen, sheeted out to starboard and the Genoa to port - was an easy sail plan to maintain on a long downwind tack. Beating requires the slot between main and headsail to be effective.
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Old 09-03-2007
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These days of nearly universal roller furling makes it very easy to 'roll out' the headsail and sail off, and many boats can make decent progress that way, esp as noted above, when you are off the wind a bit.

I think it comes down to laziness or convenience more than real practicality from a sailing perspective. The boat will definitely perform better, and balance up better with both sails properly deployed - at least until conditions demand extremely short sail.

But you're right, it's easy to find a lot of boats around that seem to rarely have had their mainsail covers off.....
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Old 09-03-2007
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More often than not, just too lazy to take the mainsail cover off. Really what is important is to keep the boat balanced over the center of resistance in any wind condition.
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Old 09-03-2007
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One thing a lot of people don't consider, however, is that many rigs were not designed to have the headsail out without the mainsail up. The forces don't balance, and the heavier the wind gets the bigger the issue. I recall reading something about this a while back, but I don't recall the specifics. It's extra work cleaning up after the mainsail, but I'm usually glad to have it out. I still wonder, however, why it is that the smaller sail is the one with all of the controls and fine tuning! I mean, I know why, but it just seems kind of in reverse
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Old 09-04-2007
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I just posted to an identical thread on Cruising Sailors BB.

With mastheaded boats especially and with woven dacron sails (not laminates) its Easy to reshape a sail to readjust the position of maximum of draft to move closer to the boats conceptual 'CLR'. When sailing on 'just the main' simply over tension (bar-tight) the halyard (and cunningham if you have one) to move/reshape the (dynamic) CE or position of maximum draft forward. The closer the point of max. draft comes to the CLR the better the boat will behave, the rudder will not drag almost 'sideways' through the water, etc. and you on most boats will be able to adequately sail with ONE sail; not as good as with two but still adequate and not 'cross controlled'. Yeah sure some poorly designed unbalanced boats wont do this but thats an exception rather than a rule. Additionally you can: 1. trip the leech to make it flatter aft by totally releasing the vang and 2. dont apply any hard or moderate force to the mainsheet which will tend make the leech hook to weather and thus increase overall camber.
The same methods can be used to very adequately sail (even point moderately) with just a genoa with just a small modicum of overlap for the very same reasons. Ya' just gotta know how to reshape a (dacron) sail. Especially on cutters with the mast at approx. 50% of boat length the single-up big genoa is going to match the CE over the CLR almost 'naturally' ... because most true cutters have the total sail plan CE located in FRONT of the mast by design; most sloops will usually have the CE behind the mast.

Sailing sans mainsail up ......
There is almost NO mechanical nor stsructural reason that having one sail up will adversely affect the loading on the mast and rigging ('cept one ... later/below) that will adversely affect the integrity, etc. With respect to forces transmitted to the mast, etc. it stands to reason that less than two sails will generate less than two 'sails worth' of force and if the rig can stand adequately with 2 sails it sure in hell can stand the applied forces of one sail.
The only exception is when then the reduction of sail area/mass changes the 'excitation frequency' of the mast and the mast begins to oscilate or pump at this new harmonic/induced frequency caused by the change of mass or wind loading -- and that will quickly fatigue the rigging terminals, etc. But that same pumping condition can be found occasionally when sailing with Two or more sails .... and all you have to do is change the 'natural frequency' of the mast by changing the rig tuning, pre-bending the mast, changing the sail pressure by sheet tension, or applying running backstays, etc.

In thinking to answer LaBatts comment/question of why the BIG sail has less controls ..... roller furling/reefing cant stand the loads that one can apply in proper sail shaping/setting and thus hardly noone remembers how to do it or even that it can be done. Secondly the laminate sails simply cant be shaped by 'edge tension' so the shape that you buy is the shape youre going to have - period. Then think about those ALSO with in-mast/in-boom furling who simply cant adjust/re-shape ANYTHING.
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Last edited by RichH; 09-04-2007 at 04:21 PM.
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Old 09-04-2007
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It really depends on the conditions and my mood... If I've got a good wind from behind me, I will often take the lazy way out and just sail under the genoa. My boat can do pretty well under just the genoa, but balances much better with the main out or under the main alone. The design of the boat makes it very difficult to tack under just the genoa alone.

If it is expected to really blow, I may roll the genoa up and sail under a double-reefed main alone.
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Old 09-05-2007
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A common reason for sailors to be using only the mainsail is because the wind is light and/or blowing in an unfavorable direction from their intended route. In that case they'll frequently raise the mainsail, and use the motor. It's called "motorsailing." The motor is what mainly drives the boat, but the sail helps a little, and the sail also steadies the boat, so that it doesn't roll so much in the waves.
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