Don't miss the slide show at the end of this post
One of the things we like most about the OVNI 435 is the well-stayed cutter rig. In light of experience aboard our previous boat we opted for a yankee (jib-topsail) rather than the standard roller genoa knowing that the yankee maintains its shape and drive far better when well rolled, and is stable and easy to handle when poled out. However, we knew that the trade-off would be a loss of light air performance, but felt that this was a suitable compromise that we could address in the future, once we’d got some miles under our belt and decided on the best course of action. As we don’t want to use our engine any more than we have to, and don’t have huge fuel tanks in any case, this wasn’t an option, but a must.
Having put some miles on, it was clear that we had to do something to address the boat’s main weakness, which was in less than 10 knots of wind when our heavy sails and cruising hull lines conspired against her.
The fix for off the wind sailing was straightforward, and we went for an asymmetric kite (spinnaker) mounted on a gennaker furler, set from a short bowsprit. This set up works well for winds from slightly forward of the beam to broad reaching, and is very easy to handle.
We then looked at what would be the best option with the wind farther forward of the beam, gradually leaning towards a Code 0, set in the same way as the spinnaker.
While over-wintering in Camaret in northwest France last year, we moved towards our new buy. In the main, I prefer to work with a smaller, local sailmaker if possible, as I find they tend to be more receptive to owner’s input, and (on a practical level) they are also close by when the sail is first tried out, which makes any modifications necessary easier to achieve.
So, I approached the local sailmaker, La Camaretoise, run by the charming Marco and Julie, who, with the benefit of a circumnavigation in their own boat behind them, were well placed to advise and enable us to achieve our aims. When I said I wanted a Code 0, they laughed and said no, I didn’t, too costly, prone to damage, hard to handle, not so effective with our relatively low aspect rig etc, so we were off to a good start!
Code 0 or Lightweight Genoa?
After several lengthy chats, with me returning to the Code 0, and them gently putting their own case, the message began to sink in. To start with, there were a number of practical factors to be considered. The first being that in order for us to get the best from the Code 0 upwind we’d have to convert the spinnaker halyard to a 2:1 purchase, and weld a plate on to our bow near the waterline to attach a bobstay to the end of the bowsprit to take the additional strain generated in upwind mode. This would, in turn, make life difficult with our Rocna anchor and its rollbar. Further, our gennaker furling gear, whilst fine for offwind work with our spinnaker, was marginal size-wise for use with a Code 0, due to the higher load factor, and would probably need replacement. And taking into account the sophisticated taffeta cloth and substantial size of the Code 0 we were now looking at a serious amount of expenditure.
But what we did have already was a second ‘lazy’ forestay that attaches just behind the roller furler, with its own dedicated mast fitting and halyard, from which we can set a second headsail for downwind work. Marco was adamant that we should go for a large light weather genoa (around 155%), with a low foot, which would not only give us more power and pointing ability in light conditions, but would provide plenty of drive with the sheets eased on a close reach, at around half the cost of the 0. And, in the end, that was what we went for.
The New Sail
The new sail is made in cross cut lightweight Hydranet which they advised was the most durable option, and uses conventional piston hanks for attachment. Due to the long parallel spreaders of our rig, the sail is slightly fuller cut than it would be on a more recent swept spreader boat, but it has good shape and responds well to tweaking.
We’re delighted to find that upwind with the new sail Pèlerin is much faster and points higher. Reaching the sheet is led through an adjustable barberhauler mounted at the toerail, to bring the clew outboard and down and so maintain drive in the upper panel of the sail, with excellent results–so far so good.
On the downside, the new genoa is time consuming to move around and set, although not much more so than the spinnaker on its furler, especially when that entails installing the bowsprit. But at least the new sail is inboard, and so things are less precarious for the crewman than out at the bowsprit.
Like all of these large low cut sails, visibility forward is drastically reduced, so whoever is on watch has to be sure to keep a far more physical and active watch to look out for other vessels or fishing gear.
Tacking is not too bad as long as we remove the detachable staysail stay. We’ve also had to go to considerable lengths to reduce the effects of chafe along the guardwires, pulpit and spreader ends. And whilst it’s another big item to stow, Julie made us a really good zipped bag in which we can stow the sail folded in three to minimise the space required.
It Pays To Listen
We can now keep the boat moving well with the wind forward of the beam in light airs (up to 8 knots), which was the main objective, and we hope to gain a little more with the installation of our new feathering prop. And whilst it may be true that we might have gained more with a Code 0 when reaching, the genoa almost certainly has the edge upwind.
So whilst we’ve taken what some might consider to be a step back from the cutting edge, so far it is a compromise that works for us. And all credit to Marco and Julie for not just telling me what I wanted to hear, but giving good unbiased advice to enable the right decision to be made for our needs–for which I owe them many thanks. And whilst we might have got a cheaper sail by ordering from an ‘offshore’ loft, I’d have my reservations as to the wisdom of doing so for such a one-off sail.
But I still like the idea of the Code 0, and wouldn’t rule out the idea of trying one in the future. Maybe once they become more widely used (or not), we’ll look again.
What is your experience with light air sails in general or Code 0 sails in particular? Please leave a comment.
Slideshow requires a reasonably up to date copy of the Adobe Flash plug-in or iPhone/iPad or Android and that java script be enabled.