In the last chapter I covered why a true cutter is a great rig for short-handed offshore voyaging.
And since I have infinite confidence in my powers of persuasion, I'm assuming that you are all now chomping at the bit to convert your sloops and ketches to the cutter rig.
But before we get into the how of adding cutter capabilities, let's look at a bigger question: When does a cutter make sense, both when buying a new boat and considering a conversion?
What are views on making the staysail self-tacking? I have been considering installing one for short-handed and leisurely sailing when close quarters are involved. Would this impact performance? Complicate the setup?
Many thanks for your insightful articles! As a fairly new sailor they have been a great resource and motivation!
Generally my thinking is that a self tacking system is more trouble than it’s worth, and just something else to trip over.
Even on out 25 ton boat, tacking the staysail is a very quick and easy business . Usually we get it almost all the way in by snubbing the winch, and then a couple of turns on the handle and we are done.
And don’t get me started on that invention of the devil, the jib-boom, AKA the ankle-smasher.
Pauline and I are really looking forward to the coming cutter articles. We are considering fitting an inner forestay to our ketch and are interested in your experience. Especially the mast fitting for the running backstays, inner forestay and halyard.
Steve and Pauline
This decision tree makes sense. Does the intent of the designer come into play? Our Pacific SeaCraft Dana 24 is set up as a sloop. However I understand that she was designed as a cutter. Many owners insist that the pleasure and performance of converting to a cutter rig is worth it.
Hum, I really don’t know enough about the Dana 24 to have a valid opinion, so if I were in your position I think I would be guided by other experienced owners of the boat.
What I can say is that on a boat that small there is no overwhelming need to convert, so it comes down to balancing off the work and expense (considerable) against the benefits.
I have a Dana 24 that came with a removable stay. The first season I sailed her with a 80% yankee and staysail but found light air performance wanting (summer on east coast has plenty of light airs in my area). I now sail her as a sloop with a 130% genoa, and use the staysail only in strong winds. I have had a luff flattener installed on the Genoa to improve partially furled shape. Genoa is less convenient than high clew jib but I like the performance it gives me, compared to staysail+yankee.
Think that you must install running backstays if you plan on sailing her as a cutter. Also join the Dana 24 yahoo group you will find people with more experience than I and very helpful.
Thanks for answering that.
One thought, I wonder how performance would have been if you had replaced the 80% jib-top with say 100-110% and kept the cutter rig? Probably not as good in smooth water inshore, but I’m thinking it might have worked well offshore. Of course, you now have the best of both worlds, as I mentioned in the post, so that’s good too.
yes I thought of that but I’m still merely using the set of sails that came with the boat. With the combination you’re suggesting I might need to add a light air sail (e.g. drifter). In my experience (mostly inshore) the genoa is good in light -> moderate airs whereas the staysail + furled genoa is good in strong winds (esp. going upwind).
my experience with cutter rigs is close to non-existent although i recognize their superiority as so capably described above…so my question concerns tacking the genoa around the inner stay…how is the best way to do that ? furl in the genoa enough to clear the inner stay and then unfurl the genoa once the maneuver is complete ? thanks mucho
richard in tampa bay (but counting down til late nov return to virgin gorda and beyond)
See Dick’s reply below, exactly the way we do it.
Hi Richard, Going to wind you have both staysail and jib topsail in use. Just tack leaving the ss in place. The jib will slide along the ss easily and you can sheet it in. Then tack the now backwinded ss which usually just takes snubbing it in and a few moments with a winch handle. Done.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
I agree with Dick here and would only add that the triangular “cracker” shape of the Yankee-cut jib topsail (feel free to Google if my meaning is unclear) wil actually get blown *into* the slot by sliding (lightly) over the surface of the as-yet untacked staysail. In other words, not only is leaving the staysail sheeted in while tacking the jib easier and more leisurely for the crew, it actually aids the process, in our experience, of encouraging the jib to smartly transit that slot between the forestay and the staysail stay.
You have two choices when tacking the headsail/yankee on a cutter. One is indeed to have the staysail deployed, then sheet it it before tacking the yankee. However in stronger winds you may not have the staysail unfurled and may not want to increase sail area. In that situation, I take in a few rolls on the Yankee before tacking and then unfurl again once on the new tack.
Sure, that will work. That said on a cutter I have always found it an advantage to have the staysail set when the wind is forward and up, and either no Jib Top or at least some reefed, so it has never come up.
Kinsa (Rustler 36) is rigged as a sloop, but has an inner forestay which can be quickly fitted (Highfield lever) to 2 positions on the foredeck: one about 15″ back from the forestay, the other about 45″ back. The fwd position is for running up a hanked on genoa 2, to match the genoa 2 on the furling forestay. The inner position is for mounting the storm jib. In the outer position the inner forestay is parallel to the roller furling forestay. Its position on the mast is about 30 ” below the masthead, and there are no running backstays. Can anyone tell me who the appropriate specialist would be to discuss a possible conversion to cutter rig – sailmaker, rigger, designer etc? Both genoa 2’s have a high cut foot, and the genoa 1 is also cut fairly high, so that the foot clears the guardrails. Maybe I already have a cutter and don’t know it? Any advice would be very welcome.
Sounds like a cutter to me! I was wondering when the term “Highfield lever” would come into play; I’ve only ever seen one on old race boats still common here on Lake Ontario. You should definitely consult a rigger, but with no running backstays, your first job in my view is to check the backing plates and any tie-rods or straps beneath the Highfield lever’s deck padeyes. The forces on that stay, irrespective of its position, are impressive and it is essential that those loads are spread and, if possible, tied into the hull strongly. I speak as someone who had a genoa track tear through the deck at a mere 28 knots AWS and learned a) they don’t make that type of track anymore, and b) recoring and putting backing plates along part of the length of a side deck can be labour- and time-intensive. Of course, it’s easy to adjust the Highfield apparatus to get a nice and desirably taut stay, but that immediattely puts a great upward force on the deck. Throw in the pumping on the mast and even the flexing of the hull in heavy stuff, and you really want that foredeck to be strongly backed and tied firmly into the hull.
Let’s wait until the next post, in which I will deal with specific recommendations and the nuts and bolts of a conversion, before we get into this.
Good point! The after position is attached to a large underdeck backing plate, L-shaped with a knee, which is bolted through the bulkhead to the anchor locker. This is as originally fitted by Rustler. The forward position I fitted myself, and that has an equally large stainless backing plate, this one attached with a rigging screw to an eyebolt which passes through the tang of the stem fitting. This rigging screw is in a straight line under deck with the angle of the stay. The tang bolt is one of 4 M12 bolts and the tang is 6 x 50 mm cross-section stainless. I subscribe to the rule “nothing too strong ever broke”.
The rigging screw is pretensioned so that on tensioning the inner forestay the load is carried by the stem fitting rather than the deck. No question that the wire would part before the fitting gave way. Now there’s an uncomfortable thought!
Bill, your description is so reassuring I have no doubts that the execution is fit for purpose. The rigging screw idea is great, and I’ve seen it in “owner modifications”, but very rarely in production boats. I could deal, with difficulty, a parted stay, but a torn up deck would spoil my sail. Fair winds.
In an effort to have our cake and eat it too with removable staysail and furling, we had our staysail built on a dyneema luff and use a continuous line furler, flying the sail without a stay, so we can lower the rolled up sail and stow it in a locker when we need to do lots of tacking with the jib. The halyard is doubled up through a block at the head of the sail to get sufficient tension. This setup works well on our 50ft, 50,000lb boat, but truth be told, we don’t actually lower it very often, usually leaving it up for ease of deployment and redundancy peace of mind should the forestay fail.
That’s an interesting idea, but is there a cover on that Dyneema line? I know of all the similar types of synthetic rigging, it’s at or near the top in this regard, but I believe when used as lifelines, it’s got a five-year lifespan in full sun.
Yes, the luff rope is inside the luff of the sail, so protected by the fabric, and the sail has a sunbrella sun shield like a typical roller furling jib, so the sail itself is protected too. But for longer periods of disuse, we store it in a locker to avoid any exposure.
That’s interesting, although I think I prefer our separate staysail stay so that support is available even when there is no sail set and also so that we can set a storm jib, should that be required, say due to a damaged staysail.
Good points. I wouldn’t recommend this approach as a replacement for those who already have a stay, only as an option for those thinking to add a staysail. To set a storm jib, we lower and stow the rolled-up staysail, and hoist a rolled-up storm jib, unfurling it using the same furler, which is easy to move from one sail to another. But my hunch is that in that situation, a stay with hanks would be easier to work with, as you wouldn’t be hoisting anything until it was securely hanked on, and you’d have that stay to hold onto during the mayhem.
It would probable be a good idea to leave the discussion of the nuts and bolts of the cutter rig for the next post, where I will be looking at just that. That way all the great ideas and discussion of such things will be in one place, rather than on this post, which is more about whether or not to go with the cutter rig.
We rigged our 1984 Baltic 38DP with a removable aramid stay to fly a small jib with soft hanks. For a 38 footer she is light (only 7 tonnes), so the staysail is 17m2 (compared to our 58 m2 genoa which reefs down to 33m2), but we’ve added a traditional slab reef at the bottom to reef down to 10m2. With this set-up we feel very comfortable that we can deal with 9 – 10 BF. On our first big crossing over Biscay after restoring the boat we had gusts up to 45 knots true and we were very, very happy with our stay. It all performed flawlessly. The stay is very light and because it is well-coated aramid, it does not slam or make a noise when not in use. It was expensive, though!
As an aside, I am deeply indebted to sites like this which allow an inexperienced ocean sailor to prepare himself properly – provided they take the time to understand the advice offered properly. We took about 2 years of research before setting off and it turned out we were very well prepared. The new sail plan was based on some input from North Sails, but mostly based on my own ideas which were all theoretical. It was very satisfying to see it work so well in tough conditions. So thanks again, we love this site!
At the risk of going a bit off topic, I would be interested to hear views on the rationale behind the Boreal” style approach (vs true cutter) where although there is a staysail it is not intended to be sailed as a cutter.
I did discuss this briefly with Jean-François Delvoye. He said that the velocity prediction program he uses showed that the cutter rig would be a performance hit going up wind so they went with a low cut overlapping jib and a staysail that is used in heavy weather. The thing is that these performance programs are not very good at taking into account the effect of waves, and particularly swell, where the cutter excels. See this comment and the one under it for a technical explanation (thanks Colin and Stein).
Having said that JFD was not in any way dogmatic about this and agreed that there were advantages to the cutter rig.
In the end I’m going to guess that the tipping point reason was that, as I understand it, the cutter rig is not that common in France. So the reasons are probably at least partially marketing related.
I believe Colin had quite a task to get Ovni to rig his boat as a cutter. Is that right Colin (Speedie)?
I have long admired cutter rigs, but we bought a sloop with a second removable inner as described by Onno above, tensioned with a Highfield lever as described by Bill, and hoisted conventionally. The inner forestay attaches just below the masthead so no runners needed. We hoped this would provide us with the best aspects of both rigs, but in reality – not so.
Without runners, we could never get the staysail luff tensioned properly, even though our back stay has a tensioning ram. With a small gap between the two forward stays, the rolled genoa disturbed the flow over the staysail. Further, unless we un-hanked the staysail and removed the inner stay, we couldn’t tack the genoa without furling it first.
Interestingly, our 12 tonne, 15 metre boat did not meet John’s criteria for meriting a cutter conversion (our offshore use being less than our coastal), and in any case we did not want the added complexity of runners. We did however want to get rid of our 130% overlapping genoa for short handing.
Our solution was to replace both genoa and staysail with a 100% (non-over-lapping) jib on the roller forestay (moderately swept back spreaders are helpful here so the leach can be straight). The new jib sheets inside, and forward of the side stays on the forward track, so is quick to tack by hand for all but the last few inches. Better still, it allows us to sail about 5-7 degrees closer to the wind with significantly less heel and same speed as before in 12+ knots of wind. The new jib has vertical battens in the leach to aid longevity whilst still rolling and reefing neatly. I am installing an outboard track on our rail for eased sheets as we have easy access for through bolting.
Our only hesitation was light wind performance, but our sail maker advised replacing the old asymmetric chute with a new Code 0 on a furler. This allows us to point almost as high upwind as with the old genoa in up to 12 knots of breeze, with noticeably more boat speed (off the wind it also outperforms our old chute). The removable inner-forestay remains for setting the storm jib and as a backup offshore.
Whilst possibly not as flexible as a true cutter rig at sea, we are pleased with our “zloop” rig – the code zero really is a game-changer.
Makes a lot of sense to me.
Hello, this is my first posting as I have just subscribed to this site. Congrats on a wonderfully informative and well designed forum.
I have recently purchased an 87 Goderich 37 that is set up for use as a cutter but at presently sloop rigged. I have purchased this boat fully intending to sail her to all points possible and am in the planning stages of a refit.
I need to replace all the sails and I am likely to rig it as a cutter.
In your and opinion would there be much benefit to increase sail area with the addition of a bowsprit to accommodate larger sails?
Thank you for any comments
As a general rule, I’m not in favour of making rig modifications. My thinking is that Ted Brewer knew what he was doing when he designed the boat and therefore it’s best not to mess with it. Also, adding a bowsprit is not trivial, if it’s done properly.
Having said that, there are incidences where a rig modification has improved a stock design—although I can’t think of an example off hand—and has therefore become common for that particular boat type. If that’s the case for the Goderich, it might be worth considering, but if so, I would strongly recommend that you hire a real naval architect to spec out the change.
If you want to take it further, I would talk to Brewer himself: http://www.tedbrewer.com/consulting.html
What an excellent idea speaking to the designer.
Thank you for your thoughts.
You might want to find out first if Brewer actually drew the 37. His partner at the time, Bob Wallstrom, drew the Goderich 40 for Huromic Metals, the builder of the Goderich line (35, 37 and 40), and may have done the 37. Ted drew the 35. Bob Wallstrom was still kicking four years ago. https://books.google.ca/books?id=D6-vOYPKOvcC&pg=RA3-PA204&lpg=RA3-PA204&dq=goderich+40+huromic&source=bl&ots=6N2ITwVhpj&sig=l-0kpFlgf1Bz9Bx3sq5Bt-ZoKQM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjX7ZTSkJHKAhVEJh4KHYMcDsgQ6AEIQDAG#v=onepage&q=goderich%2040%20huromic&f=false
do you have any intentions to discuss ketch and ketch cutter for small crews as well? Would be interesting to read your (and others) thoughts.
Not specifically. I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of ketches, too much complication and clutter for very little benefit, except perhaps with boats over 55 feet. And this is not just theory in that I did a lot of miles on a ketch back in my ocean racing days. The problem, at least for me, is that there are very few apparent wind directions where the mizzen does any good. Up wind it just adds more drag and often weather helm and downwind it blankets the main.
So, in summary, I think a cutter is a better way to break the sails down into more manageable sizes and the problem with cutter rigged ketches is that except in the above mentioned much larger boats, the fore-triangle ends up too small to make a good cutter.
It is often light at sea, sometimes light wind and a leftover sea. What is easier to keep set and driving in these conditions: Genoa or Jib-top & stays’l?
Don’t think there would be any difference. The keys to keeping going in light air and waves are sail area and weight of sail cloth. So if you really want to sail in light air the answer is a larger lighter sail specifically for that purpose: code 0 type for upwind work and/or asymmetric spinnaker for down.