Two Toscanas have provided me with adventures enough for a lifetime. In 1979 the predecessor to this boat, a Swan 47, took us safely through the Fastnet storm of painful memory. Eric later moved up to the bigger boat, an aluminum Frers design, which I raced to Bermuda in her original stripped-out racing configuration. After Eric installed a cruising interior, in 1996 I helped him deliver her back to the States—a passage whose general sweetness was marred by the grim mystery (described in my new book, After the Storm) of a derelict 27-footer that we found drifting in the Gulf Stream, hundreds of miles from land.
The problem with long cruising reaches in an easily-driven boat like Toscana is not so much with getting decent speed as it is with securing healthy comfort. Speed comes fairly easily. When even a moderate wind is slightly forward of the beam, surprisingly little sail area is needed to get going. Any boat that has the slows on a moderate-air broad reach will respond wonderfully to sharpening up 10 or 20 degrees to pull the apparent wind forward, get the sails working with aerodynamic efficiency (rather than serving merely as walls against which the wind pushes), and build boat speed. Once you’re moving, slowly head off, keeping the apparent wind abeam. You’ll sail a longer course, but get to your destination faster and more comfortably, too.
While bringing the apparent wind forward may get the boat moving, it usually does not ease her motion if there is a swell or big chop. A comfortable motion is no small consideration offshore, when you’re living aboard a boat for days on end. A heaving, pitching boat not only is slower than a steady one, for all that motion absorbs energy that should go in to forward drive, but it’s far less safe, too. Sailors in a tossing boat roll about in their bunks and lurch around on deck. And less rest and poor morale produce careless seamanship.
That’s why sail selection should be keyed not only to speed, but also to steadying the boat. Aboard Toscana, we had three options: Option 1, genoa on the headstay; Option 2, smaller jib on the headstay; Option 3, forestaysail alone or in a double-head rig.
Option 2 was a choice between a couple of smaller jibs to set in the genoa’s place. The problem here was the necessity of making room for one of those sails on the headstay by dousing the genny—a risky enterprise at night with a big headsail and small, relatively inexperienced crew. And once doused, the genny had to go below.
Here’s a good rule to remember: in open water, keep people and doused sails off the foredeck—unless, of course, you don’t mind worrying about shipmates’ mortality or are eager to discover how quickly a wave can wash a sail overboard, taking the leeward stanchions with it.
We never did set a smaller jib on the headstay, so we were left with Option 3, which meant finding a sail to set aft of the headstay that had enough sail area both to give us speed and to steady the boat, either alone in fresh air or in a double-headsail rig as the breeze moderated.
|"The main benefit of the double-head rig is its flexibility, and that’s why we came to rely on it during our sail up from Bermuda when the wind rose into the high teens and the genny proved too big."|
Carrying two jibs forward of the mast—a jib on the outside, a forestaysail inside—is sometimes and somewhat misleadingly called a "cutter rig" because it’s closely associated with cutters. These are single-masted boats whose masts are stepped more than one-third of their overall length abaft the headstays. But sloops, whose masts are stepped farther forward, can also carry two headsails, too, even if there’s less area for them. This rig does not make a boat faster. Contrary to popular opinion, the aerodynamic effect of this rig is less powerful than that of a single sail of equal or near-equal size. (Forget all you’ve ever been told about the beneficial effects of the so-called "slot effect." What makes a sail effective is clean air flow around its outside, not compressed flow on its inside.) The main benefit of the double-head rig is its flexibility, and that’s why we came to rely on it during our sail up from Bermuda when the wind rose into the high teens and the genny proved to be too big.
We had two types of forestaysail, one set without a forestay and the other set on a stay (sometimes called an "inner forestay"). Both types have been touted as the answer for cruisers, but after our experience I have come down firmly on the side of forestays.
First, we tried setting a reaching forestaysail halfway back from the headstay on its own roller furler, without a forestay, but with its own low-stretch luff. No matter how hard we ground the halyard and tightened the running backstay, the luff sagged off, and that made the sail break or collapse early, often, and very loudly unless we over trimmed it. After a while, we decided to douse this sail in order to check for chafe on the halyard aloft, which led near the upper roller-furling device on the genoa. But when we tried to roll the forestaysail up, its own roller furler was too small for the job and, as two of us hauled on the furling line, the flogging sheet succeeded in grabbing almost every loose line near the mast. We eventually dropped the sail unfurled.
We quickly discovered that when the true wind was 18 knots or stronger, we got by nicely with the storm trysail and forestaysail alone. As the breeze dropped, the boat came back upright, developed lee helm, and began to roll about. That’s when we pulled out the genoa and carried both headsails. With the heel and the genoa’s overlap, the boat had a little weather helm. The speed rose to 7.5 knots, the boat’s motion eased, and along we rolled very comfortably toward Newport, a happy crew in a happy ship with an easily controlled rig.
If I were heading offshore, I would set up the forestay permanently with a smallish forestaysail on a powerful roller furler. It needs a running backstay to steady the mast, but that’s a small price to pay for such seamanlike flexibility.
Using Riding Sails by John Kretschmer
Optimizing Your Downwind Performance by John Kretschmer
Considering a New Mainsail by Brian Hancock
SailNet Store Section: Mainsail Batten Traveler Systems and Components
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