I'm a little new to all of this and I have a Catalina 22. I usually use a jib and a main, but sometimes I will sail with just the mainsail or the jib alone. If you are only using one sail and you're in no hurry, which one should you use?
Dan Dickison responds:
The answer to your question really depends on a couple of factors. First, the point of sail that you'll be on most of the time is important, as is the specific sail plan of the boat. With your Catalina 22, you'll find that the boat will balance better with just the mainsail rather than just the jib most of the time. However, if you were sailing off the wind in relatively strong breeze, you could probably do pretty well with just the jib, particularly if you weren't trying to maneuver too much, but just go in a straight line.
I own an E-Scow, and some time ago I discovered that my boat doesn't balance well with just the mainsail up, so when I need to get to the dock and I don't want full power, I'll drop the mainsail first and use just the jib. Of course I won't be able to sail very well to weather with that arrangement, but the boat does perform in a more manageable fashion with just the jib. This all has to do with the relationship between the center of effort in the sail plan and the boat's center of lateral resistance. (If you're interested in a more in depth discussion of these concepts and how they work, you might want to glance at John Rousmaniere's Annapolis Book of Seamanship, Chapter 1, or C.A. Marchaj's Sail Performance.)
By and large, given the choice of one or the other sails, most keelboats balance best under the mainsail. I hope this information helps you. You might also want to take a look at all of the informative articles we've published at SailNet over the past several years to help you gain more knowledge about the sport. And for information specific to your boat, you should consider joining the Catalina Discussion Group on our E-mail Discussion Lists. Best of luck to you.