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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
No, I'm not thinking of punching a hobo. :D I am, however, trying to figure out a light-air sail arrangement for my boat for those frequent low-wind days here on the Chesapeake.

I am trying to decide between an asymmetric spinnaker and a drifter. Here is the situation:

1. Limited budget
2. my genoa is on a roller furler
3. No 2nd forestay
4. No bowsprit
5. Singlehanding
6. I'm Still fairly new to sailing


From what I understand a drifter might be a better all-purpose light-air sail. Is that accuate?

However, I'm not sure how I would launch or recover a drifter myself (especially if the wind picks up). Due to the above, it seems an asymmetric spinnaker with an ATN sock would be the easiest to install and handle.


Would an ATN sock work over a drifter? At Bacon sails there's a drifter that I believe I can set flying (it has a covered wire luff) that would run approximately half the cost of a new asymmetric for my 28' boat. If I could sock the drifter, it is my thought that I could rig and launch the drifter just like an asymetric spinnaker, but I'd get the benefit of a more versatile sail at a lower cost. However, things don't usually work out that well for me..

I would sincerely appreciate any input or guidance on these thoughts!!
 

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No reason why a sock wouldn't work over a drifter, but I think by choosing a drifter over a cruising kite you're limiting yourself everywhere but 'close hauled'... this assuming you don't/won't have a symmetrical spinnaker as well...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Faster,

Actually, I only have the 2 sails (genoa and main). From my google-fu, I got the impression that drifters were good all-purpose light-air sails. However like your post says, the folks at my local sail loft seemed to find this idea dubious and highly recommended a 0.75 oz asymmetric for a general purpose light air sail. Is there a type of cut (less full) that I want to look for in an asymmetric?

I am not trying to race, I really just want to keep moving on the light air days and I can only afford 1 sail this season (lots of other repair projects etc).

TIA!
 

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Yes, asymmetries can have different cuts. Some are cut more "full" like a symmetric, others more toward a code zero. Tell your sailmaker what you want to do and they can build the sail to suit.
 

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What mike sez.... you decide what your priority is.. is most of your real light air sailing upwind? If that's truly your condition then perhaps a drifter (which to me, means a ripstop nylon genoa, maybe a 170) is the right call. However if you're just as likely to be reaching or running then, while a drifter will be better than your regular genoa, it's not going to be as satisfying a sail as a proper midde-of-the-road Asymmetrical.

Your sailmaker's job is to make you happy....
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
This information is great - thank you!

If this is going to be my only one, do you think should I lean towards a middle-sized asymmetric or should I try to get the very biggest my boat can fit? I figured in light wind it might be better to have a moderate one - not sure though.
 

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Yeah the drifter is for a very narrow wind range. if the wind picks up beyond very light conditions you must take it down or you will destroy it.

An all purpose asymetric will be much more useful to you. You don't need the biggest one possible, because you want it to be manageable even when the wind picks up a bit. Don't worry, you will have plenty of horsepower; far more than a drifter will give you!
 

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Keep an eye out for the North Sails Direct Cruising Gennakers.

They show up used pretty often. The North Sails sock is very nice (the only other one that is as nice that I've seen is the ATN) and they usually come with them. The sails come in 3' luff length increments that cover most both lengths (it looks like your San Juan 28 would want the 36' luff length sail). The cut is designed for cruisers and covers many wind angles. They aren't pushing the limits on size, so they are easier to handle on a short handed boat.

I've owned two, one on the Catalina 25 (30' luff) and one on my Pearson 28-2 (36' luff). Both were bought used and in very good condition for a fraction of what a new one costs. I've played with drifters too, but really didn't like them.
 

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an asym is a lot more fun. a drifter is just that, to be used going up wind when you really are just drifting. unless you are racing or have no engine most don't really want to have to sail when you need a drifter up, on goes the engine and the drifter remains in the bag yet another day. it is not much fun. the a sail will be a lot more versatile and will be used a lot more often. they are just more fun to sail with, be it downwind or on a reach. when the wind is light going downwind without one can be very slow.
 

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My boat came with a drifter and double spinnaker poles for sailing with double head sails downwind. Should you feed the drifter luff into the furler or fly it with a free luff?
 

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baDumbumbum
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We love our 145% drifter (something between a nylon genoa and true Code Zero). We built it specifically for upwind work and shorthanded flying; it's as useful as any other genoa downwind, and you can pole it out to good effect. It won't stand below about 120 degrees without help, but that's not what we wanted it for. We like its versatility and ease of handling, and it gives us a solid 1kt over the working Dacron jib.

You don't need a sock for it, tho. If you choose a nylon genoa over an asym, the area and draft are such you can easily douse it solo in the conditions you'll be flying it. Probably w/out leaving the cockpit. Just attach the tack to a strop with a snap shackle on it, & lead a light cord aft from the shackle.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5951930878/" title="drifter1 by Wyoming offgrid, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6023/5951930878_2a3030e1d0.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="drifter1"></a>

To douse, bear away slightly (even a beam reach will do), grab the working sheet ahead of the car, and tug on the release cord to blow the tack. The sail will stream free of the rigging and spreaders. Then I just release the halyard in a run and arm-haul the sail into the cockpit. Literally takes ten seconds -- no stress, no foredeck work.:) Consider replacing any luff wire with Dyneema. We use doubled 1/8" Amsteel Blue. Lighter, packs much easier, won't rust or meathook.

We love, love, love our drifter. Best single improvement we made on the SJ21. It can't replace the downwind muscle of an asym or traditional spi, but from 50-120 degrees, 3-10kts true wind speed, it's a perfect solution for us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
We love, love, love our drifter. Best single improvement we made on the SJ21. It can't replace the downwind muscle of an asym or traditional spi, but from 50-120 degrees, 3-10kts true wind speed, it's a perfect solution for us.
Very cool! Neat to see another SJ, I'm on a SJ-28.

If you are heading up wind as far as the drifter allows, do you have a way to tack it? (I assume not.) Do your control lines run to aft spin blocks or to regular genoa cars?
 

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baDumbumbum
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Very cool! Neat to see another SJ, I'm on a SJ-28.

If you are heading up wind as far as the drifter allows, do you have a way to tack it? (I assume not.) Do your control lines run to aft spin blocks or to regular genoa cars?
Oh yeah, tacking is no problem. Nylon is pretty slippery, and we use ultralight (& slick) sheets which slide over the furled jib real easy. Takes a bit of forethought and timing, & you are hauling tons o' line, but once you get the clew past the headstay, the sail 'letterboxes' right thru the slot & deploys cleanly on the other tack.:) We use genoa tracks on the coamings; getting your cars just right is important close hauled, because the leech on a nylon sail will 'hook' if the cars are too far forward.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5952169984/" title="drifter2 by Wyoming offgrid, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6123/5952169984_530072c783.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="drifter2"></a>

In fact, soon after I took the photo above, I shortened the strop about 6" because the leech was curled & the foot was motorboating. Even with the cars full aft. Clew is a bit higher on this sail than on the stock 150% genoa -- typical for a drifter. Cars have to be shoved forward aggressively to maintain sail shape on reaches -- more so than with the dacron genny. Luff tension also requires more thought on a free-flying sail than you may be accustomed to. Ain't brain surgery, tho.:D (In the pic above, we have both the fabric tension and halyard tension slacked off for maximum draft. That much luff sag means we can't point above 60* or so, but that was fine for our destination. A glance at the draft shows the sort of power a sail like this can generate. We're doing 2+ kts close reach in about 3kts TWS with a boom-slatting 4' swell.)

Now jibing inside -- that's a challenge! Your timing has to be impeccable. But in light winds from aft, it's easy to just bring the boom over, turn on the tiller pilot, & stroll up to the foredeck to pull the clew thru by hand. Since it flies in front of everything & has high luff tension, serious wraps are not a big issue. You can jibe around the front if you are doing all downwind & your sheets are long enuf. Tho with this sail on this boat, leech twist & blanketing become unmanageable below 120 degrees, so we just pole out to windward or change to the normal spi.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Oh yeah, tacking is no problem. ...
Wow, thank you for that detailed explanation. The handling is a lot more clear now.

What I'm not clear on is how much of a "slot" you have between your furled genoa and the luff of your drifter. Would you happen to have a photo of your strop and tack setup?

Is the strop and tack (and luff) naturally pulled forward of the forestay/furled genoa, or do you have a bow-sprit or other mechanical device protruding ahead of it?

I really appreciate your effort with all these newbie questions!
 

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baDumbumbum
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Huh. I don't seem to have a photo of the bow fitting.:confused: It's 18F & snowing hard right now, but I'll try to get one today. Basically, we replaced one of the stem-fitting bolts with an eye bolt, and the strop hitches around that. Strop is a cheap, tubular nylon climbing sling. So it isn't a sprit as such, but the strop does attach 4-6" in front of the furler. The drifter is masthead, while the working jib is fractional. We added a tang and block up high for the drifter. You could use the spinnaker halyard, if you prefer. We wanted masthead for more sail area up high. (Forgive the lateral distortion caused by camera movement:)

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8673951316/" title="drifterweb by wyooffgrid, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8537/8673951316_c6e6a55de8.jpg" width="493" height="500" alt="drifterweb"></a>

Also, our sail differs slightly from a nylon genoa for having what UK Sails calls a 'knuckle', or positive luff round at about 50% height. You can really see it in this pic. This is common in Code Zeros & allows high luff tensions w/out robbing the sail of all its draft. Since nylon stretches a bunch, that luff pocket moves aft as apparent winds increase & you end up with the draft right where you want it. Unlike an asym, it hasn't got a shoulder up high, nor a positive leach round. It's a nylon genoa with a tummy pooch.;)
 

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baDumbumbum
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Couple more pics for ya. This is the bow eye we hitch the strop around:

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8673164153/" title="eye by wyooffgrid, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8529/8673164153_4346e9ac78.jpg" width="274" height="302" alt="eye"></a>

Just a tow eye with some UHMW behind it. And here is the sail's tack arrangement:

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8674268060/" title="tack by wyooffgrid, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8546/8674268060_d9b77b7637.jpg" width="397" height="500" alt="tack"></a>

The Amsteel loop runs full height & is sewn loose into the luff sleeve. It forms a nice, crisp foil while allowing you to tension the fabric independent of the halyard (which is what the webbing & buckle are for.) A light cord leads back to the cockpit, so we can blow the tack from there. Hard on the wind, halyard loads can exceed 500#.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Couple more pics for ya. This is the bow eye we hitch the strop around...
.
Oh! Very interesting and informative. I had assumed you had a block arrangement attached to the tow eye with a normal sized tack-line to control tack position. When you said "blow the tack release", I thought you meant to uncleat the tackline and let it run free. I had been wondering how you could pull the sail into the cockpit without tangling up the tackline - now I see. This is very clever! Thank you for the photos; I wouldn't have quite understood what you meant without them.
 

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baDumbumbum
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Some folks do use an adjustable tack strop so they can change height. Maybe more critical on an asym than a drifter/Code0? On big boats, you may need a 2:1 halyard or downhaul arrangement to get sufficient luff tension on a true Zero. That's for boats over 40', tho. We doubled the luff cord because we thought we might want a removable furler. Turns out releasing the tack is so easy, we don't want one. Still considering one for the thirty footer, where the 150% runs 350sqft.
 
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