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  Topic Review (Newest First)
03-17-2004 04:23 PM
Furling Main Sails

Thanks to everyone for the discussion of sail and rig theroy, it is interesting, but the reality of our budget and our plan says we are looking for 15 yr. old moderate displ. cruising boat and not many of those are going to have a fractional rig. And as someone said, we end up buying what the designers build. And for my budget and boat year that seems to be Ted Brewer, Ted Hood and Robert Perry. So my choice is sloop, cutter or ketch.

Our last boat, 45'' sloop, did not balance very well on main alone, so in a big blow, say near 40mph, we''d double reef the main and furl all but just a tiny triangle of the genoa. This little bit of head sail was high up on the head stay and had absolutly no shape. I''m hoping that this is where the cutter rig would fill the gap, pull the center of effort back and down a bit.

03-17-2004 06:58 AM
Furling Main Sails

Jeff, I agree...this is interesting stuff that one normally doesn''t see ''aired'' very much in the popular yachting press (or at the boat show) very much. One follow-up question for you WRT (which means ''with respect to'' the person who asked) your comments on fracs.

I most often hear two reasons for cutters being preferred offshore: a perceived easier handled rig when reducing sail (which we''ve already discussed), and the fact the rig is stayed more ''redundantly'' given the permanent inner forestay and the aft intermediates (or running backs). As I look at the sampling of fracs before me now, including the Kiwi boat, I see the rigging going in the opposite direction, usually comprised of one attachment point on deck for one after lower, one upper lower (via a swept back spreader) and one headstay along with the conventional full-length backstay. (The Kiwi boat has a baby stay as well, but it''s angle is so narrow as to serve no purpose should the forestay let go). Some fracs have a set of intermediates, via a second spreader, but this seems related to keeping the mast in column and not inherently making the rig more protected. My question is how the designers address this when discussing the fractional rig as suitable for cruising. To my way of thinking, it''s an inherent weakness and, if I were shopping for a mid-30''s ocean cruising sloop, I''d definitely choose the traditionally stayed sloop rig, add another Solent and then look at whether twin backstays were feasible. I must be missing something; what is it?

BTW the Kiwi couple did a lot of downwind tacking; I think they''re quite clued in on points of sail that do/don''t work with their fractional rig. That smaller foretriangle is a smaller workhorse, plain & simple. And I was pleased to hear you make the comment you did about upper full battens (we have two), altho'' I''m still finding even they can be problematic relative to a smaller roach with conventional ones. But I can''t quibble about their value re: sail shape. This is also the first loose-footed mainsail we''ve cruised and, combined, these two features even make us look like we know how to trim a main.

03-17-2004 02:44 AM
Furling Main Sails

This has become an interesting discussion even if it is a bit a field of its title. I especially think that you have hit on an important point when you said, "I''d also note our tendency in these discussions to talk about such characteristics (keel shape, ballast material, thru- vs. deck-stepped mast, rig choice and such) somewhat in isolation, whereas in fact it''s the sum of the parts where the emphasis needs to be placed." I agree with you whole heartedly that the individual decisions regarding various hull, keel, and rig options must be considered thinking of the boat a system.

In a general sense, Fractional Rigs work best on boats which are comparatively low drag and which have comparatively high stability for the amount of drag that they produce (i.e. comparatively long boats for their displacement, perhaps L.D less than 200 or so, and with low drag foils and fairly high ballast ratios carried low in the boat). Cutter rigs are at their best on boats that are a little higher in drag and proportionately lower in stability relative to their drag. Ketches seem to come into their own on bigger boats (perhaps over 45 or so feet) and on boats which have a lot of drag for their stability.

I think that in viewing a cruising boat as (ideally) an integrated system, the people who operate and live aboard the boat become a very important component. To some extent, I think that a fair critique of the fractional rig is that it takes more skill to get the most out of it and loses much of its advantages in the hands of someone who is not familiar with sail trim and how frac''s work. In the case of a fractional rig coupled with its ideal hull and keel form, You would almost never head dead downwind, only doing so in confined passages or in heavier winds. Fractional rigs thrive at deep reaching angles where they can develop VMG''s that are as much as twice as high as their dead downwind VMG''s. For a cruiser this means a more comfortable motion and not being as close to risking a jibe. Frac''s give up a little downwind speed in lighter going where their smaller headsails mean a little less drive, but their standing sail plan L/D''s tend to be larger than those of other rigs because the sailplan can be depowered without reducing sail area so it is not that they end up going all that slow downwind as much as their speed relative to their speed potential is less. I think that your aquaintances would have been better served by reaching up a little bit. They would have covered more ground and been more comfortable as well. (BTW I consider a sail with all full length battens a bad idea for offshore work as chafe and broken battens can become a very seriour problem. I personally prefer to see only the top one or two battens being full length coupled with overlength partial length battens.)

The designer''s discussion group was interesting. The discussion began talking about a 50 something foot boat that Ron Holland had built for himself and had taken cruising across the Pacific. He had commented that he chose the fractional rig as a cost savings measure but after the trip had convinced Trintella that fractional rigs were the way to go in thier mid-sized boats. Similarly Beneteau, Dehler, Hanse, and Hunter were moving towards Fractional rigs. It was only in that forum with designers letting down their hair that it turned out that each had considered fractional rigs the ideal rig for cruising boats for their own use for the reasons mentioned above. As you note, the market is driven by what the builders think that they can sell and that the market tends to be conservative in their perceptions and is generally more controlled more by perception than by the realities of a given situation.


03-16-2004 10:29 PM
Furling Main Sails

There are a couple of worthy points in Jeff''s post I''d like to follow up on...

I really liked the phrase "...the direction that designers seem to think that cruising rigs are headed" because it reflects the facts that there really are no ''silver bullet'' rigs and also that designers are often expected by their customers (that would usually be the builders, not us folks...) to offer a rig that can be successfully marketed as easily handled by a short-handed crew, not necessarily BE easily handled for a given set of conditions. Given the other design constraints, the answer is often sought in hardware more than the details of rig design. It also reflects the continual search for what might be ''perceived'' as the best choice, while in reality builders, designers and sailors all have varying views that shift in and out of vogue over time. (Remember e.g. Shannon''s ulimate answer to the cutter''s weaknesses - the Scutter Rig?)

I don''t see the choice of a fractionally rigged cruising boat as being superior either, but rather just another alternative with strengths & weaknesses. I''d also note our tendency in these discussions to talk about such characteristics (keel shape, ballast material, thru- vs. deck-stepped mast, rig choice and such) somewhat in isolation, whereas in fact it''s the sum of the parts where the emphasis needs to be placed. Note Jeff''s report on the designer forum''s comments: "In this discussion, the fact that fractional rigs were already flying proportionately small headsails meant that they [are] handier for coastal work and were able to shift gears more quickly and reliably into heavier air conditions." I had a chance to finally discuss the 43'' fractionally rigged Kiwi sloop at our marina with its owners, who sailed it to London from NZ. Their comments on their rig illustrated clearly that it worked well in some circumstances (such as the one Jeff reported) and would probably be a great choice for Med cruising...but wasn''t all that functional in their long downwind runs. It also put a premium on attending to that large main with its full battens, as that''s where building winds will make themselves known. These folks are thinking of selling the boat here and, while one reason is the financial gain a sale would produce, another seemed to be they just weren''t eager for two more long, downwind runs with more rolling and less performance from their headsail(s) than other boats get. That seemed an honest, practical observation to me.

Also interesting was their answer to my question "We rarely see fractionally rigged cruising boats, especially at 13M+ LOA. How did you end up with that choice?" Simply put, they said that''s what the builder (and his designer) were familiar with, since they mostly built small racing boats. In general terms, that''s kinda what we all end up with: the builder''s notion of what works vs. what we ultimately think after using the boat in our sailing venue for our purposes. Guess that''s mostly how life works too, now that I think of it...

03-16-2004 05:33 PM
Furling Main Sails

I totally agree with Jeff on this. Get a classic main, but maybe get lazy jacks or better yet the dutchman flaking system with an electric halyard winch. It will go up nice and easy, and coming down will be easy unless it''s blowing real hard where you will have to just help the slides down the last little bit and put the sail cover on later. You can also get a lazy bad and just zip it up after ward. The little extra work is worth it. The leach on roller mast sail has to go straight down with no roach at all. The leech is the most critical part of a mainsail and in mast furling just doesn''t give it to you.
03-16-2004 11:32 AM
Furling Main Sails

Whoosh: What do you mean by the term WRT in your postings?
03-16-2004 03:38 AM
Furling Main Sails

I also think that when you talk to the more up to date designers of offshore distance cruising boats, more and more of them are leaning towards fractionally rigged sloops over cutters. In a long conversaion at a recent designers forum, one of the key points heard over and over again is that as cutters are typically being used during offshore cruising, the cuurent trend in so-called cutters of today, either suffer with dragging a genoa through a confined slot, or with rigging a jibstay in heavy conditions. In this discussion, the fact that fractional rigs were already flying proportionately small headsails meant that they handier for coastal work and were able to shift gears more quickly and reliably into heavier air conditions. As as a part of the discussion there was a belief that as most cutter rigs were being proportioned, the staysails were too small to balance the mainsail except in the heaviest of wind conditions with the mainsail double reefed, and that as most cutters were being set up, the weight of the sail cloth on the staysail was too light for heavier going but too heavy to be of much help in lighter conditions.

I am not throwing this out as the only right answer but just as a counterpoint to show the direction that designers seem to think that cruising rigs are headed.

03-15-2004 08:22 PM
Furling Main Sails


Well, I don''t mean to argue against ''systems'' and ''complexity'' when it meets needs otherwise not well met. E.g. we''ve got what to me is a pretty sophisticated DC electrical system (tho'' also very common on cruising boats these days...) but it''s so integral to the kind of lifesytle we sought that it''s easily justified...and also troublefree. Guess I was suggesting that WRT rigging and sail handling, it doesn''t need to be full of hardware to be effective and safe.

"One question, what is a Solent Stay? is this a removable stay?"
Yes. You might visit and read the article I wrote on Boat Modifications; it includes a short write-up on a Solent Stay and also a rigger''s website where I found helpful info. For your anticipated level of cruising, I think it''s quite appropriate.

"Another question, the Ketch rig used to be the rig of choice for cruising. But this seems to be changing. In Jimmy Cornell''s "world Cruising Survey" the cutter rig is the favorite. I would asume this is due to better reefing, furling and sail construction. What is your experience?"
The trend to cutters began two decades ago altho'' the whole rig choice thing IMO takes on a ''black & white'' tone to it (one good rig, all the others are lousy choices) that bypasses lots of distinct differences. Cutters earned their rep on sailing better to windward than ketches, and also offering a well-stayed rig that could be semi-easily reefed down in a blow. Everyone likes the idea of a smaller sail, set closer to the CE, being available when the wind starts to moan and you need to roll up the genoa. The fact that these different rigs are all equally easily reefed, and can each offer an inner stay, somehow seems to have escaped the debate.

I''ve never been a fan of ketches but ironically both our larger cruising boats have been ketch rigged. The fact we''re pleased with the rig we have, for us, tells me there clearly must be benefits. We sail short-handed (just the two of us, now both 60) so having a lower profile sailplan with no sail truly huge in size is just fine by me (the sail handler). We have a low SA/D ratio, yet with a 135 and a mizzen staysail, the boat can be moved well in light winds. We don''t point as well to weather as single-masted boats, but it''s more due to our shallower draft and beamy hull than to the ketch rig, and we find - at least for the kind of sailing we do - this isn''t the limitation it might seem as the boat sails acceptably to weather when reefed down and the mizzen stowed and in lighter winds and shorter runs, we motorsail (as, we notice, virtually all other boats do). Today ketches are ignored by builders and yachtie magazines (seemingly more complex, more expensive, rarely discussed in the mags) but that doesn''t mean they don''t have their advantages, as they always have...and disadvantages, too. Cutters are less versatile on all points of sail and wind strengths than their rep acknowledges, so perhaps someone will ''discover'' the benefits of a split rig once of these days.<g>

03-15-2004 04:34 PM
Furling Main Sails

Thanks for your reply. Sounds like K.I.S.S. theory is what your suggesting. Makes sense to me, if I can''t fix it, do I really need it.
One question, what is a Solent Stay? is this a removable stay?
Another question, the Ketch rig used to be the rig of choice for cruising. But this seems to be changing. In Jimmy Cornell''s "world Cruising Survey" the cutter rig is the favorite. I would asume this is due to better reefing, furling and sail construction. What is your experience?
03-15-2004 01:18 PM
Furling Main Sails


My wife & I have also narrowed it down to the Brewer or Bristol. If you have not done so, I suggest that you go to:

You will find some very helpful info. It seems that many people call the final generation of Whitbys (that were built in Florida) Whitby/Brewers, when in fact there is a difference in these boats and the "true" Brewer 12.8; primarily the skeg hung rudder and modified keel.

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