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

Published on 01 august 2014 at 0h00

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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 ...

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