Part #1: Cruising sails? Why we chose the sails we did for Nashira.

We are relatively new to cruising and yachting and thought it may be helpful to others to understand what we have done to prepare ourselves and Nashira for our adventures.

Series Part #1:  Cruising sails? Why we chose the sails we did for Nashira.

First and foremost we joined the Cruising Division of the Middle Harbour Yacht Club in Sydney to learn from others who have been doing it for many years. Books are one thing but nothing beats talking to those that have been doing it for years. And what a fantastic bunch of people we have met. Those who are only too willing to share their knowledge and wisdom.  Many of whom have become great friends. More on this later.

As for Nashira she was in pretty good shape for cruising when we bought her.  A lovely Bavaria 40 Ocean Centre cockpit sailing yacht. She needed new rigging, fixing up a couple seized electric motors, removal of a dying generator, general love and maintenance one probably encounters with most older seagoing vessels.  She was although a little light on in the sail department as we only had the main and a furling number one genoa. The main was in good shape but after another year of sailing in all weathers the genoa was nearing its end of life. I would not be surprised if it was the original sail from 2001.

So one of the main dilemmas we faced was what should our sail inventory look like for our cruising boat.

The MHYC Cruising Division requires yachts sailing in offshore events to have a Category 4 rating. As we are headed offshore it seemed a logical requirement to gain a Category 4 rating which means we needed a storm jib. I settled on Doyle Sails making the storm jib and had the type made that wraps around the furled headsail as Nashira does not have an inner forestay and we did not want to have to take the furled headsail down, particularly if we were hit by an unexpected change.

What about light wind? I was enthused with the idea of getting a furling cruising spinnaker but that involved working out how to fit a prodder pole to the bow which sounds straight forward but with the Rocna anchor I prefer to use, and our current set-up, the “roll” bar becomes an issue. [add photo here of current set up] Then with the proper furler and gear required the cost of this option mounted to be more of a luxury than a necessity.  So I deemed that it was not required for our initial cruising adventure.

So back to basics, it was obvious we had to replace the furling headsail.  But what style, material and size of sail to get?  With style, Cross-cut sail construction is cheaper and has less stitching while radial sails are a bit more expensive but should retain a better shape, at least in their early years.

Then there is the material. Do we get Polyester, Cruising Laminate or one of the more modern Dyneema/Polyester blends. Polyester will be the cheapest but will stretch the most, weigh the most and have a long life of over 10+ years. The cruising laminates look like a good option, won’t stretch but are apparently subject to mold in the tropics and will have a life of 5-7 years and cost more than the Polyester. Then there are the newer hybrid materials which still based on Polyester but have varying percentages of Dyneema for strength and reduction of stretch. These hybrid material sails can weigh less than the other options due to the strength added by the Dyneema, they won’t go mouldy in the tropics but they do cost a lot more than the other options.

Research into what others use included club members, internet forums, some sailing expos and talking with various sail lofts. Most of the lofts indicated they would tend to go with the cruising laminate. I was not convinced as I wanted something that would last longer and did not like the idea of mouldy sails if/when Nashira goes to the tropics for an extended time. There was very little information on forums regarding the hybrid sail cloth other than the manufacturers words; “that a normal #1 genoa with polyester sailcloth uses a 10oz cloth and the Hybrid can use a 7oz cloth and remain stronger”. Sounds good in theory.   The few I found that said they were using the hybrid materials were happy with them.

The cheaper option of polyester appealed except I like a sail that holds its shape even when used in heavy winds over a period of time. This probably comes from my early dinghy and skiff days where performance was paramount.

Additionally, because we sail shorthanded, if we need to change sails the weight and storage size will be an issue.  So based upon the desire to have a sail that holds it shape, is lighter in weight and still retains its overall strength and durability in all climates I decided to go with a Radial construction sail built with the Contender Fibercon Hybrid sailcloth which is the polyester/Dyneema blend.

With regard to size:  a number 1 genoa can be up to 150% but for cruising many prefer smaller overlaps which make them easier to handle. So we looked at getting something in the 135-140% range. Think of it as a small no.1 or a large no.2.

In the end we went with Doyle Sails in Sydney ( ). Shane Guanaria was easy to talk to and discuss the options. He did not push our decision one way or the other but provided the data we needed to make our own choice. So we now have a Radial 135% Furling Genoa made from the Contender Fibercon Hybrid fabric ( ). This sail has been on Nashira now for about 2 years and has been used in winds up to  48 knots. Even after being heavily furled for a number of trips in these strong winds the sail has retained its shape.

Why are we out in winds like this? Well because the dodger (”shed”) on Nashira is so well protected we find ourselves out in weather that most cruisers would avoid as we stay dry and are not buffeted by the constant wind when on the helm.

But when a 135% genoa is furled to greater than 35% the sail shape is not great for going to windward and this made us think about getting a smaller headsail.   if prevailing winds for a trip are generally in one direction it is likely there will be a work to windward at some point that may last for a few days.  A fully unfurled headsail gives a better foil shape and performance in these conditions.  Also as we were planning this trip to southern Tasmania where the air is heavier, hence has more power for a given wind speed than northern latitudes, I felt the 135% genoa was too big and would be heavily furled a lot of the time.

So about 6 months ago (October 2016) we had Doyle make Nashira a No. 3 headsail of about 110% which is also radial cut and made using the Contender Fibercon Hybrid sailcloth. This has been a great sail to have.  In 18 – 22 knots of wind in Sydney this No. 3 with a full main has Nashira well balanced on the helm when working to windward. We muck around in the MHYC Twilight races and the first 2 races with this sail had those winds and Nashira won her division both nights.

[photo of number 3 sail to come]

So sailing to Tasmania in late January we had the No. 1 genoa on the furler and the No 3. stowed below. When we were heading down D’Entrecasteaux Channel we had a very quiet morning in Randalls Bay with no wind and took the opportunity to change the headsail down to the No 3. ready for the passage south around to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. We also practised putting the storm sail up over the furled headsail as Kelly had not seen it done before.

We have left the No. 3 on the furler for the trip home as it is easier to handle on the overnight passages we have been doing when only one of us is on watch. Also as we sit in Jervis Bay with a 30+ knot southerly blowing over us, while moored at Hole in the Wall, I know the smaller headsail will do the job for us when we start heading to Sydney on the tail end of this blow.

As for the longevity of these new headsails only time will tell but so far so good.

Add your thoughts?