The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?

I was working on Part 3 of our review of the Outbound 46, but when I got to thinking about the rig, I realized that the tradeoffs of the solent rig against sloops and true cutters—there are always tradeoffs—should actually be a chapter of this Online Book, so here we go:

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More Articles From Online Book: Sail Handling and Rigging Made Easy:

  1. Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often
  2. Don’t Forget About The Sails
  3. Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  4. Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
  5. Reefs: How Many and How Deep
  6. Reefing Made Easy
  7. Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  8. Reefing Questions and Answers
  9. A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  10. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  11. Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  12. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  13. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?
  14. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  15. Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  16. Sailboat Deck Layouts
  17. The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  18. UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  19. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  20. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  21. The Case For Hank On Headsails
  22. Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  23. Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  24. Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age
  25. Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  26. Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
  27. Rigid Vangs
  28. Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1
  29. Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  30. Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  31. Keeping The Boom Under Control—Boom Brakes
  32. Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  33. Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  34. Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
  35. Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm
  36. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  37. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  38. Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  39. Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  40. Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  41. Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  42. Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  43. Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  44. 12 Great Rigging Hacks
  45. 9 Tips To Make Unstepping a Sailboat Mast Easier
  46. Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  47. Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  48. Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  49. Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  50. Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  51. Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist
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Eric Klem

Hi John,

No surprise, I generally agree with you conclusions.  Cutters are certainly king offshore in many conditions.  I have never sailed a solent rig offshore but I will admit to being intrigued by the possibility of 2 headsails poled out for the tradewinds even though I understand your reservations about being locked in with this rig.  To me the question is always how do you fly storm canvas on a cutter rigged boat.  Do you make the staysail and furling gear so heavy that it can do it, do you undersize the staysail and make it heavy so that it never needs reduction, do you make the staysail hank-on or do you plan to swap sails in a furler.  I have sailed on boats set up for all and all have their issues but I think that if I were really planning to sail hard offshore, I would be tempted to go hank-on for the staysail up to 50’+.  Doing a trade-winds run, I would put the staysail on a furler and then plan to swap for a storm sail well in advance of any weather.

Since you mention coastal, I think that fractional sloop rigs can be great coastal rigs.  Even 40′ boats can run hank-on sails in many cases and they are small enough that they don’t force you to swap the jib often, you can do most adjustment in the main.  If roller furled, it also has a wide wind range before you are too furled and shape goes to heck.

One of the most important points you make is about importance of jib shape and how closely tied it is to whether it is roller reefed or not.  Our boat is a sloop with hank-on sails and my absolute favorite setup is when we go to our 100% blade jib (slightly high cut for a true blade).  Amazingly, on the wind this sail keeps up with a 150% jib by about 10 knots true and by 12 it is faster.  Reaching, those numbers go up but only by a small amount.  The 150% was a basically new sail when we bought the boat and I just bought a new 135% this year as I felt that the 150% was just too big and narrowed the top end of its range too much and was too inefficient otherwise (we carry 3 jibs and an asym).  My own feeling is that most of the boats around us would do better overall with a smaller jib.  If I were going roller furling right now, I think that I would put a 120% on the furler for our New England weather and have a second bare stay for hank-on jibs for higher winds.  Our boat stays more balanced than I would have expected as we change the jib size so I often go to our “storm” (really a gale jib) jib by the time it reaches 30 steady and can simply adjust the main from there.

I realize that my post reads like an ad for hank-on sails and the funny thing is that I don’t totally love them but having 1 smaller headsail be hank-on really give you a lot of flexibility.  However, for a genoa on a 50’er, there is no way I would consider hank-on, it has to be the right application.


Andrew Craig-Bennett

Agree. I go further: the working staysail is hanked on and the storm staysail is hanked on below it in its bag, which is lashed down.

Marc Dacey

That is how we roll, too, with our cutter rig. Plus a yankee on a furler forward on a short, stout bowsprit.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

I agree that hanked on sails are an age and boat size dependent thing.  I am still young enough and have the advantage of being a physically large guy so that I find it manageable.  Our new 130% is around 450 ft^2 and the old 150 was obviously a bit bigger and only occasionally did I find it to be a pain in the neck (we do almost all sail handling solo).  I also have the advantage of having sailed on some boats with much larger hank-on sails that really were tricky and could be carried in much stronger conditions so that when they finally did need to come down, they could be a handful even with several crewmembers, these boats made everything else feel a lot easier.

It is interesting that you have never had to use your storm jib.  I have had several occasions to use a “storm jib” but in truth I would not consider any of them to actually be a true storm jib and rather just ones sized appropriately for a strong gale.  That said, I have never actually needed to change a headsail on a cutter, all of the changes have been on sloops which is a rig not well suited to heavy weather anyways because of this issue.  This may fall into the category of every 1 in 50 years you are incredibly thankful to have it but all the other times it is more convenient and safer to have a good staysail on a roller furler.  I had missed the post that shows the loops you have, I can imagine that those are critical to managing the sail outside the foil.


Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric,
When I bought my cutter rigged 40-foot boat back when, I was initially disappointed that the staysail was on a roller furler. Fairly quickly, a couple of things started to become apparent.
One, I had the staysail deployed anytime the wind was forward of abeam so I was just using it a lot more than expected. In that way having the staysail on a furler approached the reasons I have the jib on a furler. As my sail plan quickly evolved to a low-clewed staysail and a higher clewed jib topsail, the synchronicity with which they worked together, just made a furler even more sensible. Those boats that sail more like a sloop: jib out and roller reefed till doused when the staysail is then deployed, might more reasonably take to hanked-on sails. But on cutters where the staysail is frequently used I appreciate roller furling.
The other thing was the versatility I experienced. My take is that cruising boats do passages where wind is generally steady and changes gradual, but that, in practice, a majority of time and mileage is coastal cruising. And so many of these day sails start out in mild breezes, only to crank up as the day progresses. Being able to throttle down with no visits to the fore-deck is just really nice, comfortable, and safe. Often, by the end of the day, we are sailing with just the staysail and a reef or two in the main, all without drama and work.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Eric Klem

Hi Dick,

As I mentioned in my reply to John, I find it interesting that he has never used the storm jib on Morgan’s Cloud.  Hopefully my initial comment was clear that I would tend towards a roller furling staysail in normal sailing and my speculation on a hank-on one was for more adventurous places than coastal cruising or tradewind sailing.  Of course, I believe that you and John both been to higher latitudes than I so it is interesting that you both lean towards roller furling.  Interestingly, I really don’t mind the extra time associated with hank-on, we actually take the jib off most times that it comes down so that the foredeck is clear and it doesn’t influence our decision of which sail to use the next time.

All this is said by the owner of a sloop but who has sailed on several different cutters with different setups but I have never actually gotten to set one up myself for my preferences.  If I bought one for my current sailing, I would think that it would be all furler based and it may be that it is overly conservative to go hank-on even for more adventurous places.


Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric,
I have had a fortunate life in many ways, but one is that I have never had to claw off a lee shore in high winds.
I have gone to wind in gale conditions on numerous occasions: often towards the end of day along the Turkish coast when I wished to get to an anchorage (and, of course, when anchored the wind died giving us a beautiful evening). On these occasions, the staysail and main with three reefs have done the trick (and hand steering- fun for a couple hours- allowing me to feather in gusts). I believe I have only reefed the staysail when hove-to and that, in part, so the leach does not rub on the radome.
I do not carry a storm jib and had the staysail made robustly of HydraNet Radial, a material I have been very pleased with for 7 years now.
My best, Dick

Rob Gill

Hi John, love the variety of topics you are covering – good stuff.
To go offshore, Doyle Sails suggested changing from our 135% genoa to a 100% high modulus jib (solent), low cut as you suggest John. AND YES we can see OK underneath the solent upwind, if we duck down (harder in a big sea but not impossible) and we can more easily look around it, being a much smaller jib. From experience in running a low cut jib solent rig, a couple of other points…
On the wind you want inside sheeting for pointing, but even with slightly eased sheets we find we NEED outboard sheeting. As you say the low cut blade shape is not as forgiving as a higher cut genoa off the wind. So we run inboard and outboard tracks and two sheets per side, the outer tracks being on the cap-rail. This gives us great luff and sail shape control at all times, but the downside is if we are careless, having two lazy sheets they can get in a knot, whilst tacking. We could just attach the outboard sheets when eased off, but offshore and shorthanded this doesn’t seem practical.
Secondly, the benefit of having jib battens to hold good jib sail shape – Doyle advised we use vertical battens, which work great and roll perfectly aligned with the forestay, but these make it harder to quickly drop and flake the jib on the foredeck when required. But the relatively flat blade jib rolls much tighter than our old, fuller genoa, so we don’t often feel the need to remove it.
For completeness, we run a high cut Doyle “Code 0” forward of the jib / forestay, on an extended and much strengthened bow roller-fairlead with solid support strut under. So I do call ours a solent rig as when out cruising, the Code 0 stays rolled up ready to use (except on long windward legs, at anchor more than overnight, or if a gale is expected). And we use the Code 0 a lot.
Similar to Eric, the VMG performance cross-over between jib / genoa for us came at about 13-14 knots. But we can hold the Code-0 upwind to around 12 knots (12-14 if the wind is stable), so a small performance hit. Overall I think it is a good compromise for production boats designed with genoas, looking for a more manageable sail combination offshore.

Steven Schapera

An additional advantage of cutter vs. sloop, certainly for offshore work, is mast stability. The additional stay, and running back stays, add stability and redundancy. The mast is much less likely to be lost if one support snaps for whatever reason.

Anthony Baird

I recently sold my Xc45. It was a solent rig set up, and had a pretty tall, powerful mast for a boat that size. The furling staysail was set on a 2:1 halyard on the inner stay. On three occasions in my first 2 years of cruising, when we had over 35 knots of wind on the bow, the furled staysail would unfurl from the top. Once when trying to motor around Cape Lindesnes in Norway, once when trying to get out of Rorvik en route to the Faroes, and once in a marina in Spain. Apart from the marina episode, both other episodes required crew to get onto a pitching foredeck to secure the situation. I thought it to be an unsafe rig. The high angle of the stay sail given the mast height on the Xc45 made it impossible to get an adequately tight furl at the top. I would add this to your list of Solent rig negatives.

Lee Corwin

Have an Outbound 46. Have a blade, 130 and a parasailor. Have expandable cf pole. The parasailor virtually never comes out of its bag. Find with no main and both head sails out can go nearly DDW. The Hydrovane tracts fine with this set up at all wind speeds . I can roll up or out either headsail as conditions require in a second or two. Can sail the boat by myself and not leave the cockpit. Allows me safety so even at night can sail the boat near its potential not being scared of a line squall coming through. I went oz. up and in vectron so after 7 years minimal creep and no sag. Windward Dyneema runner is used only to prevent mast pumping when it occurs. Rig is tuned for the solent with a little backstay on. Genny stay is tuned with a slight bit of sag when no backstay on. Underway you tune genny stay with hydraulic backstay. You put more backstay on when you roll the genny. Then let if off if you’re going downwind.
I’ve had several cutters previously. Like many sail mom and pop which means you’re singling much of the time. Most people do a few passages each year but sail frequently once cruising grounds are reached. With a cutter found we got lazy. Handling 3 sheets plus mainsail shape controls means you put the coffee or drink down frequently. So for short hops may even power sail not wanting to deal with tacking 3 sails. Having the solent means you put the coffee on with the bride asleep. Leave under sail. Get your coffee. Have breakfast when she wakes up.
Before passage rig our removable inner dyneema storm jib stay and sheets. Running backs line up to its stay. With third reef on the main ready to go and the stormjib deployable by one with no bother that’s great. Having that inner stay up means like with the genny you need to roll up the solent to tack but you very rarely tack on passage. Very much happier with the solent than the cutter rig for mom and pop sailing.

Lee Corwin

Sorry to hear that Anthony. On 69 Outbounds have never heard that happening. Must be particular to the boat or just insufficient angle of halyard to stay. Think that’s a generic problem with any roller furling headsail not related to the type of rig.
John curious as to why you left out split rigs in your analysis? For the cruising sailor they still have desirable characteristics.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I would hope, with your writing, that someone would start building a true cutter (mast almost amidships) once again. I do not know of any in production, but it is not really a loop I am in, nor have I noticed any one-offs lately.
It is my take that the term “cutter”, as a boat description, has evolved into a romantic term that gets bandied about with little regard to an agreed upon definition: hence the recourse to the awkward “true cutter”. Many of the sailboats that call themselves cutters are more accurately described, to my mind, as double head-sail sloops (mast farther forward). This is not just a splitting of hairs as on boats my size (40 feet) with the mast almost amidships, I can successfully fly both headsails going to wind (jib topsail over a low clewed staysail) whereas a double headsail sloop (in a similar boat length) has trouble doing so. Its J is just too short (with the mast forward like it is) and the sails set too close to each other and turbulence results slowing down the boat. I have sailed next to double head-sail sloops who have called me on the radio to ask for suggestions as to why they slow down when they fly their staysail. My observation is that their J is just too small to allow for good clean air to work on both head-sails until the boat overall gets large. They go faster flying only one head-sail.
I would suggest that the Tayana pictured in the article can fly two head-sails together as pictured because of its overall length (52 feet) which also lengthens the J and allows both head-sails to works with clean air. I would also call the Tayana pictured in the article a double head-sail sloop, or a cutter rigged sloop, but not a cutter: its mast is just too far forward.
Random thoughts, my best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Taras Kalapun

So what is the ideal J and J2 relationship in percentage?
And mast set more amidship- in what percentage? Say 40% of LOD?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Taras,
Interesting question and I suspect it changes with boat length.
I do not know ideal, but years ago I worked out my mast position and (from memory) it was 47% back from the bow on a 40-foot LOD (Valiant 42). That said my boat has a substantial anchor platform that kicks the forestay out ~~2 feet which results in a larger J. I will try and check out those figures.
This design has proved “ideal” for me and I have not wished the mast to be elsewhere. My J length allows enough room for both headsails to work together synergistically (higher clewed jib topsail and lower clewed staysail). It is my very casual observation that this may be about the lower boat length that allows both sails to fly together going upwind without generating turbulence resulting from the sails being too close
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Chris Daly

I also have an Outbound 46. I concur with Lee Corwin’s comments above. I don’t have a light air sail and have missed this on a few occasions only. Downwind I use poled out Genoa and Solent to leeward – all three sails flying. This works up to almost 160 degrees true wind angle. The result is a very stable boat with minimal roll. I have secondary winches installed to facilitate more sail configurations than the standard OB46 which has primaries only. I also have a high wind staysail on a removable furling stay, which is set up for long offshore passages. The Solent rig can be easily configured for all points of sailing in winds from 5-45 knots with minimal effort and no heroics with hanked on sails, which is simply not an option for me and my wife! I agree with your pros and cons of the Solent rig – there is always a compromise. Yawing at anchor in high winds is definitely a negative and I’m planning to get a FinDelta anchor riding sail. The risk of high wind unfurling the headsails is not an issue with the OB46.

Chris Daly

John, your comments are spot on of course. When I said 5 to 45 knots, I was referring to the versatility of the rig and the ease of setup. 12-14 kn is the lower limit for downwind with both headsails flying. Upwind on flat water we get 5kn boatspeed in 5kn wind. Recently, a 50kn front was chasing me up the NSW coast. I put in 3 reefs and set the pole in readiness. We ran with just 3 reefs for a few hours until it eased to 35kn, then let out a small triangle of headsail. AP steered the whole way.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
One of the advances in safety most appreciated over the years on Alchemy was to get rid of the aluminum spinnaker pole and to buy a carbon fiber whisker pole (I do not own a symmetrical spinnaker). The alum pole was just a beast, sized to racing rules, and scared me when handling on the foredeck before it was adequately secured, especially offshore in swells. The cf pole weighs just over 14 lbs/6.5kg and is sized to stretch my jib topsail out fully.
It seemed outrageously expensive at the time as it needed to be custom made, but this was 15-20 years ago and I know that cf tubing is much easier to come by these days.
In any case, it was money well spent, as I felt much safer deploying the pole and we found that we used to pole far more often. I have found many cruising couples wary of a pole and nervous enough so they rarely use it, in large part because they find the aluminum pole a challenge. This is a shame, as with a cf pole, added to Colin’s fine article on downwind wing and wing sailing in years past on these pages, using a pole can become a doddle.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Ps. Agree that extension poles are unwise buys (I have owned two, push button and line control).

William Balme

I love the solent arrangement on our Outbound 44. Ours has high cut 125 Genoa and low cut 105 jib. For offshore work we always hank on the storm jib to our removable inner stay and much like Lee, have three reefs available on the main. The benefit of a dedicated storm jib, rather than the dual purpose staysail we had on our previous Crealock is I believe very significant.
We also have a reacher on it’s own furler as well as an assymetrical – so we’ve got the bases covered!
On our last trans-atlantic, we had great success (a 2 day run) with reacher ‘poled out’ on the boom to starboard (with main with 2 reefs), genoa poled out to port and storm jib held tight amidships (to reduce roll)! The combinations are endless!

Roger Neiley

Saga 43 owner for the past 20 yrs here. We love our Solent rig and I’ve added an inner “storm” jib on a free furler that’s easy to hoist on a 2:1 halyard. The head of that sail aligns nicely with the head of a double reefed main which seems to reduce the need for runners.
With the little jib sheeting to the self tacking track it’s also a perfect sail for harbor tours (lots of tacking) with inexperienced (nervous) guests aboard.
John, you’re right on the money with the headstay tuning comment. I’ve set us up so the inner forestay is as tight as possible but that means the genoa stay has quite a bit of sag. Not a big issue off the wind but when closehauled under our 100% jib the genoa does bounce around too much.
I’d say the main downside to the Solent rig is the large amount of windage far forward which exacerbates sailing back and forth at anchor. But the Saga is nicely set up with twin anchor rollers and dropping the secondary anchor, even on short scope, quiets the boat immediately.
Keep the great articles coming, John!

David Bangsberg

Hi John,

Thanks for the great analysis. I have sailed on plenty of sloop rigged club boats and seen the limitations you describe firsthand. I’ve sailed most of my offshore miles on a cutter rigged J42 with a yankee foresail and a blade staysail. Your article helps me better understand why this rig is so versatile.

I am under contract for a new Boreal 47 which has a low cut genoa and a blade staysail. What are the pluses and minuses of rigging a Boreal 47 low cut genoa vs a yankee ? Why is running w both low cut sails not advised? I assume you would characterize the Boreal 47 a solent rig, correct?


Maxime Gérardin

It also looks like turning a Boréal into a true cutter to John’s requirements would require moving the foot of the inner forestay slightly to the aft. Not a minor change!
So sad that (in general, not specifically on a Boreal) it looks impossible to get the advantages of a true cutter while keeping a self-tacking staysail!

Christopher -

Same happened with the Garcia Exploration 52.

Since #6 they have got rid of the self tacking staysail (which was too small) and installed a bigger jib instead. Jib + Code Zero is also a perfect combination for light winds.

Maxime Gérardin

Wow, this is my kind of sailing!
(and the on-roof jackline looks great)

Thank you for the information! It looks like they have kept the genoa-intended track, but it’s probably less of an issue, since this is not a true cutter, and you don’t often sail upwind with the jib on flat water(?).

Terence Thatcher

I have a removable inner solent stay, which we keep rigged offshore. Hanked on solent jib and storm jib. But for cruising among BC islands, the solent stay most of the time is back at the mast because my Morgan 382 needs the bigger jib in light inshore winds and there is no way to short tack with the solent stay in place. (Ted Brewer designed sail plans to make the boat a cutter, but very few have ever been so rigged.) We have inner and outer tracks. If and when we go offshore again, I may put the solent jib on a permanent furler for all the reasons you discuss. Anyway, your discussion of blades reminded me of my one disappointment with the rig on which perhaps you can comment. I told my sailmaker I wanted a blade for the solent jib. He told me could not make it work and would have to make it a higher cut, very much like the Outbound solent. He said that was because I was going to sheet it to the inner track, which begins just behind the aft lower shroud. To use a blade, I would have to move the sheeting point forward. He is a very good sailmaker and I trust his designs. Now, having lost a lot of solent sail area, I wish I had figured how to put in a forward sheeting point. Nonetheless, I generally like the arrangement for inshore sailing, where the genoa is primary our headsail, but having the solent available makes long days tacking upwind in anything above 15 knots a joy. I hate partially rolled in furling genoas.

Philip Wilkie


A much appreciated article; I’ve spent a lot of time researching many views and ideas on the foresail enigma and I was delighted to read that I had stumbled to an identical conclusion to the one you had reached via decades of real world experience.

My Adams 40 was always set up as a true cutter, but it came with a sodding great 130% genoa on a furler that I’m not fond of at all and I’m definitely replacing with a high cut jib. The staysail is hanked on and there is a storm sail which looks good. The staysail track is nice and tight and it trims well.

But currently there is nothing forward of the main furler, nothing to mount a true downwind sail on. I’m planning on adding that (and extending the bow roller a bit) soon.

My question is this; for a specialised downwind sail the obvious choice is a cruising code zero. On the other hand I’m also attracted to the idea of a twin ‘blue water runner’. A couple of variations are around but the best described one is this :

Which would appeal to you more?

Philip Wilkie


I think I’ve come to rely on you for my ultimate sanity check.


Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
I am curious whether others share my instinctual (meaning I have a hard time completely justifying it logically) wish to have some main deployed when underway. I write this presently as there is this talk of running under just tandem headsails.
I certainly have operated Alchemy under just a headsail. In fact, I enjoy those days when coastal cruising and on a day hop when we just roll out the jib or, better yet, deploy the asym in light air and leave the mainsail furled and covered.
That said any longer sail, and any sail overnight or where there might be unsettled weather, I always want to have the mainsail up, at least part way. Even if I choose to not have the main working very hard, I might pull it up and set the third reef. As soon as I do this, I am much happier and feel like I am better prepared for surprises.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

P D Squire

Roll-furl vs hank-on is always an interesting q. If I’ve understood this discussion the cutter seems to offer a sweet spot configuration: Roller jib and hank-on staysail. The rolled up jib is smaller than a rolled genoa so presents less windage. And, it’s easier to go forward to handle a hank-on staysail because you don’t have to go so far forward.

Gregory Silver

Great article John, thank you. My Niagara 35 came to me with a detachable Solent ‘bob stay’ that got me making a lot of enquiries during our refit. As a long-time cat boat sailor, a foresail, let alone two of them, presents new challenges. We have only a little experience testing this rig since recommissioning late last year. We have a 90 and 140 jib for the roller furling headfoil. The 90 has proven to be enough in last summer’s brisk winds around CapeBreton. I have a hank-on tiny storm jib for the Solent stay and assumed that would be the stay’s main purpose. Since reading this article I am thinking perhaps to get (Or recut my 90) a hank on blade for the Solent stay and leave the 140 on the roller for light air. And to use both Wing on wing with no main, DDW. As a 2 handed geriatric crew we will not carry a poled spinnaker. BTW our removable bob stay has a quick release shackle to deck, with turnbuckle. I assume that enables tuning the rig when Solent Sail is in use. Thanks again. AAC has given me a lot of ideas and info during my refit, and it continues.

Edward Sitver

Ha!! I’m certain that I’m the guy Andy is talking about at the beginning of the clip. He and I were hanging out last summer, I believe aboard Ice Bear in Lunenburg, when we had the discussion about whisker poles. Well, I took his advice and found an appropriately sized $100 aluminum pole.

I’ve finally filled a big gap in my downwind sailing arsenal, and it’s been fantastic to have aboard! That said, you guys are right about there being a learning curve, and I’m glad it’s an inexpensive pole I’m bashing about, rather than one that was really not in the budget to begin with. When the time comes to upgrade to carbon, I’ll be more confident I’m bringing the right pole aboard.


Peter Mahaffey

Am ever so slightly surprised that ketch rigged boats weren’t considered in an article comparing rig benefits for cruising boats. Am I missing something?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Peter,
I never had a ketch, but I had a yawl for 15+ years and have now had a true cutter for 20 years.
I consider split-rigs as existing, in large part, as a reflection of the gear that was in use in days past. The split-rig argument for a simpler, more user friendly, array of sails reflects old gear. Modern equipment makes handling sail area on spars a doddle compared to 40 years ago. I would never return to my old yawl for offshore sailing as on the cutter, with modern equipment, the ability to carry large sails and then to reduce sail to meet conditions is so very easy.
In addition to the ease that modern equipment allows for larger sail handling, there is, with two masts, the rigging/spar inspection, maintenance and expense which approaches almost double a single mast rig. There is enough that can go wrong without doubling the chances. Also, I had all that “stuff” aft that always seem to be in the way, especially at anchor. My friends with ketches felt similarly even as they loved their boats.
I also loved our yawl in most ways and for coastal cruising it checked most of the boxes for me and my family. I don’t miss it, however, except those moments when I think fondly of that beautiful old yawl sitting at anchor with me gazing at it as I row away in our dinghy.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Interesting fun fact: thanks for sharing. Never heard that bananas on board were bad luck.
One season I sailed my yawl with no mizzen (my mizzen was bigger than most yawls and was 12% of the sail plan if I remember correctly: still a smaller sail compared to ketches). I do not remember missing it in most sailing (sailing characteristics seemed largely unchanged) except for the occasional fun of flying the mizzen staysail and throttling down to jib and jigger. I do miss the looks and I do miss how steady she was at anchor with the mizzen out.
I finally determined that the mizzen mast was a great place for the radar and for mounting a soft pleasant down-light for cockpit illumination.
My best, Dick

Mark Wilson

Hi Dick

I disliked my mizzen mast so much that I left it behind in a boatyard in Guernsey. Could it still be there ? This was my second ketch in a row. It was a time, 1984, that most second hand steel boats in Europe were ketch rigged. And I really wanted a steel boat to go south in.

The space between the mast and the bow was big enough to support an existing cutter rig so I reasoned that I could dispense with the clutter aft. I bought a longer boom and had a bigger main made. We seemed to cover just as many miles every 24 hours for a lot less effort. And when we shredded the new main and reverted to the old sail the daily mileage still remained the same for the last 10,000 miles.

They used to say there are three things you don’t want on a yacht: an umbrella, a stepladder and a naval officer. I would rather have an umbrella than a mizzen mast.



Dick Stevenson

Hi Mark,
Good thought about switching the words.
And interesting story of your not missing your mizzen on a ketch where the sail area is more significant than a yawl. And creative thinking on extending the boom.
Too many of us (I believe) are hesitant to make changes and are willing to accept that the boat as it came to us was the way it should be.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Lisa Rowell

Thanks for pointing out the advantages of lowering cut of the Solent sail on the Outbound 46 you pictured. That’s the actual boat I’m in the process of buying and she has the same sail on her now, though not in anywhere near as good shape.

Martin Minshall

When I left the Pacific NW in 2011 heading for NZ my cutter rig had a hank on staysail and consequently only got used occasionally when conditions got rough. In 2013 I changed to roller furling on the staysail and now I use the staysail a lot. Because of the relatively small size of the staysail the loads on the furling line are small which means it furls very easily so I can quickly add or subtract it from the sail plan. It is also a great sail for coastal work where the destination is directly upwind and you are trying to get there before dark; you can make good speed and progress, at low heel angles by motor sailing far enough off the wind (30 degrees on this boat) to keep a closely sheeted staysail full. This is 2-3 knots faster than motoring directly into the wind. If anyone has a cutter rig and still has a hank on staysail you will use and enjoy the sail much more if you change to roller furling. It was one of the few boat jobs I have done that came under budget – I did most of the work myself and the cost of the Furler was less than I expected since a smaller Furler is perfectly adequate (based on the square footage of the sail even allowing for using the sail in high wind speeds)

Jorn Haga

Hi John,
just a quick note; a faster boat is, usually, also a more comfortable boat…..


Dick Stevenson

Hi Jorn,
Please explain further your thinking that a faster boat is generally a more comfortable boat.
I can think of many boats that are fast, but that I would not want to be offshore on them. Fast too often means light weight, quick motion and increased work to run offshore: there are exceptions surely, but too often I believe that is what occurs when speed is an excessively important criterion. I generally think moderation and balance in all design provides the best combination for crossing oceans.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Mark Wilson


I may be putting the wrong words into Jorn’s mouth but he may have meant to imply ” a comfortable boat is a fast boat ”



Henry Rech


As beam narrows would the efficacy of a cutter be in question?

I presume narrow beam reduces possible sheeting angles – would this be a problem?

Henry Rech

Morgan’s Cloud’s beam/length ratio is 0.27.

I was wondering how cutters might work on the sort of hull’s that Steve Dashew has promoted with B/L ratio’s around 0.22 – 0.23.

And, yes of course there was Illingworth’s Myth of Malham which had a B/L ratio of 0.25 and was a very successful racer. Illingworth obviously was a big fan of offshore racing cutters.

Henry Rech


Yes, he doesn’t like moving much under 10 knots under any conditions. 🙂

And his yachts were generally underpowered. Apart from Beowolf and Sundeer 64 most of his boats had S/D ratios under 18.

Alexis Jones

John and Phyllis,
New to AAC. Approaching 86. As soon as this blasted virus problem is solved with a proven vaccine, I’m considering scaling down land living, getting a boat that I anticipate will be mostly solo sailing and devoting at least a year getting to know her in as many different situations as possible. Was wondering what you would suggest — you answered w/out a question with your comment:
“. . . I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a sloop for my geriatric boat.” I laughed outloud!
With a limited budget, now to determine best size for solo “geriatric” sailing. Being realistic and considering age, doubtful to be world wide, however, . . . who knows what the seas hold? Perhaps you have written on this and I’ll be looking. Am really enjoying your writings as well as reader comments. Thanks.