Technical

Genoa, Solent, Staysail, Code Zero….which does what?

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Are there so many combinations that the possibilities seem endless? Everyone is giving you different advice? Stop! In order to simplify the subject a little, and even though they complement each other, let’s start by separating upwind and downwind sails. And let’s have a go at solving the first part of the equation.
This mainsail is very practical. You hoist it when you set off, you drop it when you arrive, and at worst, you have had to take in one or more reefs and then let them out again. But up forward, you remember all too well from your youth, the waves crashing over you on the foredeck as you changed one genoa for another, and then back again…according to the wind, and also the mood of the skipper! Of course, in the early 80s the furling genoa came on the scene, initially for single-handed racers, then on all our cruising boats. But while we acknowledge that we don’t have to swap sails every time the wind changes by a few knots, neither the sailcloth nor its shape can do everything satisfactorily: either you have a genoa which is too flat and too heavy when unfurled all the way, or you have one which has too much depth and is too light when partially furled as the wind picks up. Or worse, both these faults together!
Another constraint comes from the design of our multihulls: for years, the sailplans have favored mainsail area over that of the genoa, which is, more often than not, self-tacking. If, in the last couple of years, designers have been shifting masts back a little, to rebalance things a bit, at less than 12 knots or so of wind, the feeling like there’s “more horsepower under the hood” does no harm. Rest assured that a solution does in fact exist.
Several round the world racing nutcases, while exploiting a loophole, which gave it it’s name, invented the sail that you need: the Code Zero. A lightweight genoa, set on a bowsprit, overlapping the mast, but coming inside the capshrouds to allow you to go upwind on the open sea, even in light airs. It can also act as a gennaker when there’s more wind, by easing it out as the wind picks up.
More traditional is the combination of an overlapping, furling genoa with a staysail. The difficulty with this is that when the staysail is set, the windage is increased, as is weight aloft, and it fouls the genoa every time you tack, often to the point that you have to resign yourself to rolling it up every time. If the staysail is not set, you have to go and bend it on when the wind picks up as the bows are starting to dive a little and the spray is coming up through the trampoline…those with delicate stomachs can pass!
To conclude, at the magazine, we like:
-Using our headsails to the max, with an “all or nothing” approach, partially furled as infrequently as possible.
-More making sail-changes when the wind is light, rather than when it is picking up.
Also, on condition that your boat can take it, or have the necessary modifications made, we would vote for the combination of a ...

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