April 2012 Issue
Table of Contents
Where Credit is Due
Mailport: April 2012
I so agree with Webb Chiles’ letter in the February 2012 Mailport and his “think of yourself as a sailor” comment. But every day on the water, the sailor will see lovely yachts with elegant lines and tall rigs motoring with a fair wind. What is wrong here? Why?
I can identify two practical reasons. One: Downwind rigs: All our lovely sailboats are designed to sail upwind. But we are gentlemen; we don’t like to go to weather! As soon as we bear off—once past 140 degrees off the wind—the jib collapses, then the boom comes up against the shrouds. So in addition to the 90-degree arc to windward, there is an 80-degree arc with the wind behind that is not comfortable either. And 90+80=170 degrees, almost half the possible courses with a given wind direction. No wonder people are motoring!
If you don’t want to motor, or gybe-tack for miles, you need an efficient controllable rig that will allow you to sail fast and safely dead downwind. You need a sturdy whisker-pole, so you can run wing-on-wing. This rig is powerful and stable. It can be handled safely by one person. Forget the extra diesel tank, spend the money on a sturdy downwind rig.
For many cruisers, learning to sail well never reaches the top of the agenda. But you cannot learn to sail on a big boat. You get this skill by sailing a dinghy round the buoys over and over until the relationship of wind and rig and rudder is subconscious. Once you have it, the responses of your big boat will be laughably slow, you’ll be able to surf your 40-footer downwind like an F-J while your crew cooks up crepes down below all unawares.
Neuromancer, C&C 30
You make a good point about needing downwind sailing ability. Wing and wing is great in tradewinds, but it’s not an effective light air-tactic. The best solution is having a rig, sails, and hardware that let you sail in all conditions.