The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules

Once again, I set out to write another part of my review of the Outbound 46, but then realized that it would be better to add a chapter to our Buying a Cruising Boat Online Book on how much sail area is optimal for offshore voyaging, while using the boat as an example.

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More Articles From Online Book: How To Buy a Cruising Boat:

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Selecting The Right Hull Form
  8. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  9. How Weight Affects Boat Performance and Motion Comfort
  10. Easily Driven Boats Are Better
  11. 12 Tips To Avoid Ruining Our Easily Driven Sailboat
  12. Learn From The Designers
  13. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  14. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  15. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  16. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  17. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  18. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  19. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  20. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  21. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  22. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  23. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  24. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  25. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  26. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  27. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  28. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  29. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  30. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  31. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  32. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  33. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  34. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  35. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  36. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  37. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
  38. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
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James Greenwald

Dear John,
Another fantastic article! I have recently purchased a new suit of sails (North 3Di Ocean) and talked them out of the big overlapping Genoa. I went with a 130% with high clew. We also set a removable staysail on a continuous furler, which serves us well for heavy going upwind or broad reaching with the MCO. It is a Swan 53 with short rig and shoal draft keel. We come in loaded at right about S.A/Disp @ 17.5 We are really happy with the setup, mostly me and the wife operating.

James Greenwald

Hi John,
Yes for sure having the versatility of a cutter has worked very well for us. As for North it was strange they wanted to go initially with a big overlapping Genoa. I think they where looking at the original sail plan Frers had designed. But admited that the big sail was old school. I considered a 120% or even smaller. But we do carry a #4 and #3. If you see Chris out there tell him hello from me.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
As you probably have memorized from my many repetitions, I’m also from racing, and mostly on multihulls the last 3 decades. A majority of generally available opinions on multihulls versus monohulls are either heavily prejudiced, one way or the other, or poorly informed, usually both. I’ve already noticed that you have no prejudices about multihulls. Here I can observe that racing and dinghy experience combined with an interest for understanding “the why” of things is good. 🙂 Everything you say is fair and true.

There’s a lot more to say, of course, if the target is to give the audience the knowledge needed to decide if a cat might be the right choice for them. To achieve that, I think several articles would be needed. Much of the knowledge is already available in articles and discussions here at AAC, but the uninitiated will have trouble seeing what is relevant and how.

I especially love what you say about learning the basics on a dinghy, mono or cat. One of my favourite ways to insult “old salts” is the following claim: “There has never been a really good sailor without extensive experience from fast dinghies!” Apart from being meant provocative, to get some awareness combined with entertainment, 🙂 I really think it’s true. It’s the only way to get the “sensors” activated and the understanding into your spine.

That is needed, especially for performance multihulls. In really heavy weather, all boats behave a bit like dinghies. If we never sailed a dinghy, we’re as competent at surfing big waves in a survival storm as a monkey is at driving a big motor bike. So, I’d be willing to argue that anybody without fast dinghy experience is unsuited for running a boat in heavy weather. The nice side of that a bit too strict judgement is that very few things in life are nicer than sailing a fast dinghy to fix that shortcoming. 😀

Matt Marsh

My understanding of the multihull yacht market right now (having very little direct experience with it) is that a significant fraction of the boats are “Condomarans” – they’re built for luxury accommodation first and foremost, with sailing ability as an afterthought. From a hydrodynamics & performance standpoint, they don’t have enough length for their weight, and they have too much windage for their weight. In an attempt to compensate, they carry sloop-rigged single masts that are too tall for their length & beam, moving the centre of effort of the sail plan high above the water. Substantial twin engines make up the rest of the motive power, and these boats really can’t get by without those engines. The net result is a boat that can make decent speed on some points of sail in moderate air, and is a fine motorboat in calms, but has no good way to tackle rough conditions in high winds.

Much of the rest of the multihull market is oriented towards performance, with sail areas, dimensions, and weights that give ratios comparable to a fast flighty dinghy. This yields a light boat with a very tall rig and lots of sail area high up – fun to sail, as long as you’re on your game, but also not a great rough-weather combination.

Relatively few cats & tris are designed around efficient long-distance voyaging. The physics, in that case, points you toward very long, slender hulls with a wide beam, high bridgedeck clearance, and low windage, with a versatile rig that lets you spread out a fair bit of sail without raising the centre of effort. Some of Chris White’s big cats are like this, but even Chris has been known to fall victim to the “hey, we have SO much stability, let’s give it a taller mast! and more sail!” line of thinking – a high roach 800 sq.ft main on a 70′ mast against a 48′ LOA and 21,000 lb displacement is going to be a bit of a handful no matter how well you design it.

Stein Varjord

Hi Matt,
I agree with most of your comments, with one important exception: Rough weather issues. The light extreme racers, where I have significant experience, are a handful in any circumstances. Knowing how to sail is far from enough to handle those safely. In heavy weather, they can actually be sailed very safely, but it’s not a holiday….! 😀

The condomarans do have some important issues with their priorities, but when the wind is up, most of them actually arrive at their sweet spot. They can then frequently outperform much bigger and much more performance oriented monohulls, also upwind. The reasons are simple: Righting moment, giving huge power, and relatively narrow hulls, giving no clear “planing threshold”.

Lagoon (Groupe Beneteau) is the leading brand of Condomarans, as the corporation is in most other segments. They use top name designers. VPLP are the main designer. They have also design most of the extreme racers in most classes the last few decades. The warf and designers really know what they are doing. That means that a well handled Lagoon 38 can sometimes beat a cruiser/racer 50 foot monohull to windward in a blow and blast it off the water when downwind. That seems like bullshit, but I’ve done it. I’ve seen 18 knots and steady 16 on one of those.

I’m absolutely not a fan of the “condomaran” dominance of the market. I see it as a parallel to if camper vans became the dominant type of car. That would not fit the needs of they car buyers. The catamaran market has become streamlined into what is the most profitable for builders, bling and inside furniture, not what the market would ask for, if it knew better… In reality, most of the cruising catamarans are motor sailors, even more so than most of the monohull versions of that concept. They sail well for that target, but still a wrong priority for most.

The market is a bit brain washed to think that is what a cruising cat is. The reason for this narrow market is probably that the builders have waiting lists anyway, so they prefer selling what gives the best margins. The multihull market is an underdeveloped / immature market. That would indicate that there is plenty of room for new companies on the market. I’m one of those who have ambitions of starting a catamaran brand that will achieve world dominance with its revolutionary great solutions and design! 😀 Well, perhaps I will actually make a cat again, some day, we’ll se. 🙂 Pretty expensive undertaking…

Maxime Gérardin

About maturing the multihull market, there’s a company that recently brought an interesting option, especially with its 45′:
I’m not sure the focus on all safety features was sufficiently strong, it seems that some of the firsts had quality issues, I don’t know how they will age (as is often underlined here, getting a clue would require in-depth investigation!), and the large glass door likely precludes running a gale on a JSD drogue. But still very interesting!

Stein Varjord

Hi Maxime,
Neel have been around for quite some years already. I like that they present an alternative and also think they look a bit better than many of the condomarans. Still, in reality it’s mostly an alternative take on the same concept. Compared to the standard similar cats, a Neel has about 40% less interior space and about 30% more max width. That way it’s a loser.

However, it has a bit more focus on performance than many of the cats. A bit lighter, a bit more sail area, a bit better rig. There are cat makers doing the same, like Outremer and Gunboat. They are faster than the similar Neels (because they try harder) and still have more space. The trimaran configuration means it heels more, which gives more feedback and feel than on a similar cat. That’s quite an important benefit.

I’ve never used a JSD and never sailed a Neel, but I actually don’t think the door is a problem. It seems as waves don’t really land dramatically into the cockpit of monohulls when on JSD. The door on the Neels is far higher up and further forward. Most similar cats also have a similar door. Aparently none have ever been smashed by a wave, JSD or not.

Many believe that Neels must be faster because trimarans are inherently faster than cats, but that’s just a misunderstanding. Cats and tris have different advantages and disadvantages, but their speed potential is equal.

I think Neel has their justification in the market mostly by just being an alternative to the standard. I also think that many monohull sailors might find it easier to like the aesthetics of a trimaran, making it easier to take the step into multihulls. Fair enough. As mentioned, even after 40 years on cats and tris, I find it hard to like the looks of many of the condomarans at all and mostly like the looks of most trimarans better than most cats. The racing boats I’ve built were tris.

Still, I have a cat and if the future sees me building a cruising boat, it will be a cat. In my opinion, that’s just the fundamentally right solution for a cruising sailboat. My complaint about condomarans lies in the “condo-“ part of the word. They just have the wrong priorities, not the wrong solution.

Maxime Gérardin

Hi Stein,
many thanks for the input!
Good to hear that JSD plus large door should be safe! Of course it would be worth understanding why, before relying on it.
I don’t doubt Outremers are faster than newer Neels (although my experience of them is limited to one day aboard an older-generation Outremer), since they are more performance-oriented. But compare a Neel 45 to a same-vintage Outremer? Then I’m not so sure. Anyway, it seems that Outremer, being older, are ahead of Neel on the learning curve.
More importantly, I know that if someday I sail one of them, I will be very happy to be much faster than a monohull, and worry more about safety, ease of handling and peace of mind, than about a few additional knots. In fact, I’m not even sure I would be able to harness an Outremer, while many features of the Neel would give me confidence: greater total width, centered and lowered weight, smaller distance between the two in-water hulls, feedback through heeling, ready-to-unroll staysail, probably lesser consequences of having one hull flooded (if the right provisions have been made)… But maybe these are just prejudices of another monohull-oriented guy. Plus, given your huge experience, we obvisouly don’t have the same priorities!
I also feel like the lower position of the main cabin of the Neel (thanks to the narrower gap between hulls requiring less height clearance, and to the main floor not extending all the way to the outer hulls) is an advantage, although only on the 45′ it is put to serve sailing performance.
This morning they announced a new 43′, likely replacing the 45′, but with the same performance/comfort trade-off as the 47’… not something you will like!

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
I completely agree that the cruising multihull builders seem to have a too relaxed attitude to windows. (I must say I’m at least as sceptical to hull windows on monohulls!) There is no doubt that there are situations where several of the large cat windows or doors could be compromised. I assume the idea is that the type of boat isn’t for expedition type conditions and should not experience the worst there is.

However, there are some factors that might mostly “fix” this potential weakness. The big rear facing sliding doors are not able to handle a serious wave hit, of course, but they are located very differently from a similar monohull. They are way higher above the water surface than the hatch of any similar monohull. The difference may be as much as 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) higher. The “cockpit” floor is just as much higher and also many times bigger, meaning that a wave might spread out more and loose much of its energy before eventually hitting the door.

Lastly, the most important factor is that cruising monohulls essentially sin “in” the water and mode “through” the waves, while even heavy cruising multihulls mostly tend to bob on top of it all. They react quicker to the “shape of the water surface” and follows it immediately, meaning that the toerail is never much closer to the water surface than in calm water.

I think these factors mean the big windows work fine most of the time, but as mentioned, I think some producers seem like they might need a better attitude to do a better job in general.

Stein Varjord

Hi Maxime,
I think I answered some of your questions in my answer to John…?
About comparing Neel to Outremer and Gunboat, that’s not a way to say that I feel I can judge the boats fairly. I’ve never sailed or even been aboard a Neel, so I’m obviously not competent. I think they are probably good boats that have a place in the market. What I can do is a bit of one sided comparison:

I have sailed a brand new Outremer 45 across the Med (La Grande Motte, France, to Tunisia and back) on a test run with the owner who had no multihull experience. He wanted to know what it was good for and how to handle it. I brought a friend who is also a skilled multihull racer. We pushed the boat very hard, including doing some changes to the rig layout to allow better sail shape control while reaching.

We had varying conditions, but beat a 48 foot version of the same boat with 15 hours, if memory serves me right. Top speed was 25,5 knots, with an ecstatic owner at the helm. We averaged 21 knots for a bit over 10 hours and the whole trip was around 15 knots straight line average on about 550 nautical miles. That is seriously fast cruising, but no normal cruiser will actually sail that hard, so it’s not a fair estimate of normal speed.

If I was the builder of those boats, they would be about one tonne lighter, mainly from less “luxury” bullshit inside, and much faster, but then I’m a fanatic. I’m convinced that they know better than me how to make money.

The Neel can not be pushed in the same way that we did on that trip. It would definitely have pitchpoled over the leeward bow. The reason is that the trimaran configuration means it has the leeward bow quite a bit higher than a cat, so the boat has a considerable heel when that bow reaches its maximum resistance to being further depressed. That resistance is also much smaller, as a catamaran bow is normally far bigger volume than a trimaran bow. The Neel has a larger beam than a similar Outremer etc, which is great for giving power upwind, but that doesn’t help on a reach, when the bow starts disappearing.

Still, you really don’t need to worry about being able to handle any cruising multihull in any relatively normal conditions. They are actually very easy to sail. Not really too different from the condomarans. It takes some experience to exploit the last drop of power on any boat, and obviously there’s more to find on a more potent boat, but that isn’t mainly a complicating factor.

In really bad weather, however, that’s a different story. Then all boats get nervous and start behaving differently. They behave more like small dinghies. To get experience with this issue, sail fast beach cats in some wind. That’s a far better way to learn all the issues than to read my claims. You will certainly experience pitchpoles. As mentioned elsewhere, learning to handle sailing boats (especially fast multihulls), when the heat is up, by sailing a cruiser, is like learning to ride a bike by being a passenger on a bus. 🙂 This sounds like an exaggerated joke, but it really is an exact allegory…

Maxime Gérardin

Wow, the speeds you mention are truly frightenning. We may be speaking of the same boats, but not of the same use of said boats!! I can see that the “rigidity” of cats, I mean them developping a strong righting moment even from the first degrees of heel, something that I perceive as a drawback, is an attribute you look for. Granted, if you sail these boat like a beach cat, then there’s no reason to go for a trimaran!
I take the point on bow volume! Seems logical.
And I have just the right amount of experience of beach cats in wind to know that I still have a lot to learn about how to handle these situations 🙂

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
Yes, I have sailed some of the older versions, but none of the newer ones. I used to have a 26 foot Dragonfly Mk II 1989 to 1992, after that I had no more time for cruising, since the Formula 28 etc took off. There I got aquainted with Jens Quorning from “Nielsen Trio”, then the son of the Dragonfly owner, now the owner himself. He’s a very nice guy and very skilled at both sailing and building good stuff.

The Mk II is the second model, and has rigid aluminium beams, no swing wing system and a folding keel. The Mk 1 had a proper daggerboard, smaller floats less beam and was very light. This 25 foot model set an absolute record in the Round Britain Race, beating boats 3 times the length. The later models mostly got more comfort and are significantly heavier but also more “professional”. After Jens took over, they have awoke a bit of the racing genes in some models (he’s a very good racer) and the whole company been more professionalised. I haven’t had contact with him for 20 years, but the boats are great, no doubt. Very expensive for the space inside, and rather cheap if speed is the issue. 🙂

Depending on which model you choose, I’d say they can be a handful or just perfect for an old skilled couple like you two. Some of them can be trailered easily. That seems like a very interesting option that I would look into well. That opens up the opportunity to cruise exactly where and when you want to, without the transport before and after. Corsair in the US is the main competitor, I think, with their Ian Farrier designs. Also great boats. Their swing in system is different, which has advantages and disadvantages. I can’t say which one I’d prefer.

Matt Marsh

John, I’m sure you know my own thoughts on trailers:
There’s something to be said for switching boat types from time to time.
I grew up with small open boats on small lakes. Then I spent some time switching between sailing dinghies and trailering a small powerboat around. Now we’re buying a monohull sailboat for the Great Lakes. A larger trailerable multihull powerboat, coastal capable but optimized for inland lakes & canals, is partly built in the garage. At some point I’d love to cross a few oceans, which calls for yet another different boat.

I think you miss an awful lot if you spend your whole life with just one kind of boat.

Lee Corwin

I have an Outbound. As liveaboard cruisers much of the year in spite of our best intentions she’s usually heavily overloaded. Tools, spares, full provisions and various toys are the culprits. Although we try to pay attention to gyradius we do put weight in the ends (JSD, extra water jugs in case the spectra fails and such). In spite of it all she sails. The other important concern in hull design is how the vessel will tolerate additional weight. This is especially true for passagemakers. Because fuel tanks(4) and water tanks (2) are below the sole in the center of the boat it’s relatively hard to distort trim to a point the Outbound will sail poorly. Knowing our program we went with Hood vectran an oz. heavier than standard. The Genoa is used very rarely. It needs to be rolled up to tack due to the Solent. It comes out only when the wind is behind the mast and it’s a long leg. However with minimal attention to good trim and a proper slot you lose little if anything if the wind is above 10kts. Being dust farters both primaries are powered. With autotack you have no trouble singling without having to leave your position behind the helm. Know some folks are enamored by fractional rigs thinking with hydraulic backstays less need to reef. Also the smaller fore triangles easier to handle. I never want to have a main sail I can’t pick up by myself and prefer a dedicated set up for snotty weather but I’m curious of your opinion about fracs. . It seems that frac rig is now seen with less rocker in the hull especially aft and a slice of pizza hull with less wetted surface when heeled. I was taught “flat is fast”. It also makes it easier to cook dinner. So we”re at 20 degrees or less most times. Here again part of the calculus should be what heel angle is required for the boat to sail at or near its polar.

Matt Marsh

Purely from an aerodynamics standpoint, large overlapping sails aren’t great. They get you more power, yes, but they don’t do it nearly as efficiently as something with a higher aspect ratio (i.e. more luff, less foot). They really are an artifact of rating rules, rather than an inherently sensible design.

Frankly, I don’t think boats should be designed to a rating rule at all, unless they are specifically intended for racing and nothing else. The various attempts at gaming the calculation almost invariably result in a worse boat than if the design had been governed purely by physics, as applied to the intended purpose of the boat. I’d rather race in a good cruising boat and take whatever rating hit PHRF yields, than to cruise in a racing boat designed to finesse the last 1% out of a rulebook.

John, please do share your thoughts on split rigs. Personally, I can’t quite bring myself to like yawls, but I’m rather fond of ketches and schooners – both from a balance standpoint, and an ease of sail handling standpoint in sizes where a single main & giant headsail would become hard to manage without power assistance.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

I can’t comment on the multihull stuff but I agree with you on overall sail area and overlap.  I mentioned in a comment to another post that we switched our largest jib from a 150% bought by the PO to a 130 this year and now that I have sailed with it a bunch, I am quite happy to be rid of the 150.  I am sure that there was a narrow range of conditions where it was better but overall the 130 is much better and it doesn’t interfere with trimming the main nearly as much.  The 100% we have is still a much better sail once the wind is up but having the 130 is great for lighter air days, probably 30-40% of our sailing and means that we will use it a lot more than the previous 150.  If we were to switch to roller furling and have to commit to a single headsail, I would definitely go less than the 130 for our boat, probably in the 110-120 range.

All this works because our boat has a pretty big rig for its size, 52′ mast height on a 36′ boat.  We are on the low side of your range when fully loaded and I certainly wouldn’t want to be much lower unless I moved to San Francisco or something.  You can tell that there is a bunch of weight aloft and I am certain that the sailing and pitching characteristics would improve dramatically with a carbon fibre spar.  When replacing standing rigging 3 seasons ago, I looked at synthetic options as the rigging is pretty heavy but didn’t see anything that really made sense to me, hopefully next time around.

Quite a few of the boats I have sailed with relatively low SA/D ratios also need to reef on the earlier side.  My take is that one of the rarely discussed issues with encapsulated keels is that they often put quite a bit of buoyancy down low which hurts righting moment, you want the buoyancy high.  These same boats also often have less form stability so combined, they can actually be quite tender.  The Bristol 32 would be a perfect example of this, by 15 knots, its comparatively small sail area needs reefing.

Split rigs are an interesting topic and one I have a fair amount of experience with, probably half of my days underway are on some form of one.  It would certainly be interesting to hear your thoughts at some point.  I know that for myself, in the size range we are talking about they don’t make practical sense but they sure can be fun in the right circumstances too.


Mark Ellis

Yes, I would be very interested in hearing your views on the split rig. We have a clunky but slippery 44′ Dutch steel motorsailer, ketch rigged. It’s never going to perform but I would like to get the best out of it that I can. Just for the fun of sailing.

James Cockburn

Hi John
I am coming off a 2 year refit on a Alden designed Ketch and am now turning my attention to the sails and sail plan (Cutter option to reinstate?) and your thoughts would be most appreciated .
Your insight’s to date have shepherded me through Engine , gearbox ,VP prop, electrical 12/24/120/230 volt systems , un-bonding and navigation upgrades reducing the self inflicted grief substantially.
Jim Cockburn SY Evening Star

Cyrille Rio

Hi John,
Too bad Canada hasn’t opened borders earlier, would have liked to visit you in NS with our condomaran !
Works up there, but for sure we would not follow you to Greenland, nor we would make a race against Quetzal for an North Atlantic crossing in November. It is a lot about goals & perspective!

Too often people make comparisons on multi which have nothing in common (even GB and outremer), especially pricing.

You should check out marsaudon TS5.

Back to topic of sails, this is quite challenging too on a cat or condo, especially with shrouds positions. Would love to see more on this actually.

Stein Varjord

Hi Cyrille,
I don’t think Marsaudon boats will sell well to the average condomaran customer, but I love them. I think they are a great alternative for those looking for what is actually an enthusiastic sailors cruising cat. The wharf has its roots in real racing boats and knows how to make good solutions with good materials and methods. They are far sportier than the other “performance” cruising cats, though, so will probably scare a lot of otherwise interested people. The friend I mentioned above, joining on the Outremer trip to Tunisia, has been at the wharf several times, sailed their boats and love them. I have not.

Another friend was close to buying a TS5, and went to the Caribbean to do a test sail on the first one built. The result was a big disappointment. However, that’s not because the model is bad. That specific boat was very bad, though. It was built on customer specs, a charter company, saying the cheapest possible build, no limit. The boat was built from remaining materials from other projects, polyester (normally vacuumed epoxy and high end fibers) and equipped with whatever gear they had lying around, including some second hand. The weight was almost double the design weight. That boat is a pig, so it’s strange that they sent customers to it… This story is also another reason why we should never buy ex charter boats.

Anyway, as mentioned, I love the Marsaudon boats and hope they succeed in transforming some of the market into what cruising cats can really be, for those who want true performance, and accept the costs that can have, like less space, fewer comfort items, more vulnerable daggerboards, the need for constant attention while at speed, etc.

One issue worth mentioning: A very fast boat is challenging to sail, but only when the potential is being used. If we sometimes want to relax, the very fast boat can be reefed down and be just as calm to sail as a pure cruiser, while still sailing much faster than the cruiser would in full racing mode. The important differences then are inside space and ability to carry cruising “trash”. 🙂

Drew Frye

Is that Grateful Red in Solomons Island? Anyway, I see her at my home marina all the time.

No, I don’t think you are a multihull hater. You just called it straight. Charter cats are under canvased and often pathetic sailors because the renters want a party barge and they can’t be trusted to exercise seamanship. I’ve never had a multi that I would let a non-multi helmsman handle in a blow.

I second no big overlaps. But I would add that many of the self-tacking jibs are at least as bad. Specifically, in addition to often being too small, they generally cannot be roller reefed and twist off terribly the moment the sheet is cracked, making them useless off the wind. Both are the result of clew angle compromises, and in theory could be addressed with a barberhauler, but that kind of defeats the whole self tacking thing.

Better, just a nice size jib with reasonable overlap and some clew height.

Drew Frye

Lots of interesting options. You understand the sailing and handling. The other big difference for older sailors is that the motion is a lot quicker in certain conditions. It changes how you move. I have a bad knee some days, today was one of those days, and I tweaked it a bit. My fault. I anchored somewhere very exposed intentionally to do some testing, and I must have stepped wrong. I don’t even remember doing it but you know how it is. It’s sore now.

But I do like the easy handling, small anchors and small sails. It’s just fun.

Oh. I drove by the shop on the way out, and Grateful Red is still there, on stands, looking great. She seems to spend 85% of her life on the hard and is worked on constantly. And it shows.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
It’s certainly true that the motion is much quicker on multihulls, especially light cats. In some conditions that can be quite annoying. A monohull in the same conditions will normally move slower, more pendulum like, and thus be easier to predict. Still, the motions always have far greater span and each movement contains far more motion energy.

What we all prefer is linked to preference and habit, of course, when it comes to average motion comfort on a sailboat, I think most will think multihulls win by a big margin. Life is just far easier and less tiring on a multihull. However, if you were to compare a 28 foot Dragonfly with Morganscloud, (I know you won’t), the smaller and extremely much lighter boat has no chance to match the motion comfort in waves, of course. Still, they might surprise you. If the option is tempting, do a weekend test cruise?

Stein Varjord

Hi Drew and John,
I completely agree that big overlapping headsails should have no place on a cruiser. They are inefficient, expensive and give more trouble than benefit. The only exception might be a flat code on a flying furler for light wind, and then only on quite performance oriented boats, with enough speed potential to benefit from the apparent wind increase. Still then it’s frequently more hassle than results.

When it comes to self tacking jibs, the story might be more mixed. A lot of self tacking jibs are indeed not optimal, but it can absolutely be done very well. I often use the Formula 28 class as an example, because it was a very experimental free box rule. Sail area, rig type, hull configuration, weight and most other issues were sort of unlimited. That means insanely wild boats, but also that only very efficient solutions were used.

By 1990 all boats had moved to self tacking jibs. Partly because a boat like this is very work intensive. A self tacking jib was one task removed, but also meant predictable performance. When it was tuned, it stayed tuned. That meant that perhaps a slightly overlapping jib might give more power, but the self tacking jib got us to the mark clearly faster. We also lost very little speed in the tacks, which matters a lot on 28 foot ultralight boats sailing 12+ knots full upwind.

My conclusion is that if the self tacking jib is done well, it can be the best solution, but not on all boats. Relatively fast boats with a generous sail area might be the target group. I don’t know…

Rob Gill

Hi Stein,
Do agree with you on the self-tacking jibs. The Hanse range of performance cruisers seem to have executed the self-tacker well, but have a sail plan and rig designed to exploit it. Yachts with self-tacking jibs as an “option” seem wrong, except perhaps for charter use. The Hanse mains appear to be larger to compensate for < 100% jib, and then a lighter 7/8 rig is needed to control the main without frequent reefing, and then a larger deeper bulb (often with T bulb) to keep them upright. I'm not convinced this is a great offshore combination, needing to be "handled" more like a performance multi-hull than a traditional cruising boat. We have friends with a Hanse 40 footer that has sailed around the SW Pacific twice now with a careful skipper. Great combo for coastal short-handed sailing and racing though, IMO.

Rob Gill

Hi Drew?
We run a 103% jib (not-self tacking), that our slight first mate can safely handle on a sheet winch in any breeze with four turns. And she can reef it on her own, offshore at night. If we had our old 120% genoa, this would not be so.
The jib being low-cut for upwind performance, we run permanently attached outboard sheets (so two sheets per side) to a track on the rail. Works beautifully with the sheets eased. Not sure why barber hauling is even an issue (except the occasional sheet tangle if we are lazy through a tack) ?
What I have experienced as offshore crew with a cutter was a staysail rigged as a self-tacker. I wasn’t overly impressed with the sail control or sail shape, with eased sheets or hard-on the wind. It seemed to me that a 105% staysail sheeted on the coach-roof would have performed better. My friend and skipper seemed not the slightest bit concerned. So with the spray flying, I never felt the need to say anything.
Br. Rob

Rob Gill

Hi John,
Didn’t know a “twing” was a thing…interesting. I could see a modern carbon frictionless ring being great for this purpose, but how would you shorten up the twing, so the sheet was barber hauled outboard as far as possible on to the rail , yet still taking much of the load on the inboard sheet? Thinking about a cruisers lifelines that a 505 doesn’t worry about?
The secret to our system is the inboard jib sheet runs through a winch-feeder lead to the cockpit winch, and has an integrated jammer underneath. As we bear away, we ease the inboard sheet right out clearing the lifeline easily, engage the jammer, swap to the outboard sheet, then take up the load on the outboard sheet and the jammer then automatically disengages. The lifelines are never stressed, no chafe, and we have just a matter of seconds with a wayward leech. Hardening up is the reverse of this process…so easy even cruisers will do it IMO. And we often overtake cruisers with much larger genoas, simply because our leech is in play and theirs is … well cruising.
Br. Rob

Drew Frye

Barber hauling can mean so many different things it is small wonder we either disagree or misunderstand each other. On monohulls it generally means to haul inboard in smooth water. Or it can be like a tweaker, where much of the force is downwards. On a multihull, it is different.

You have a lot of beam. The barber hauler is generally anchored on the rail about abeam the mast. The jib tracks are set up for tight windward work. If the conditions are rough you might pull the clew out a few inches, still sheeting hard. But normally the function is to pull the clew WAY out when sailing deep. Like 3-8 feet outside the main track. It is an adjustment I use many times every day, every time I change course. And it is fast; ease the sheet and tug the line. They don’t hit the lifeline, because that is even farther out.

Twin sheets generally don’t work on multis. I’ve had them. The problem is the cap shrouds. Multis have high roach mains, no back stay, and cap shrouds that are anchored all the way out. They get in the way of twin sheets. They get in the way of overlapping headsails (the sail cannot sheet inside because it will hit up high). They can even get in the way of reachers on a tight reach.

Multihulls can use twings on the chute. Just depends on the cut and the boat.

Just different. My last boat had a ~ 135% genoa, and I had to roll it up about 2 feet to sheet it up wind. Otherwise it the cap shrouds. I would always keep the genoa shy of the cap shrouds, but I didn’t spec the sail.

PnL Niemann

Hi John,
Adding a voice to welcome your split rig discussion. My wife and I circumnavigated aboard our previous boat Marcy, a 47 foot sloop, and are halfway around for a second time on our 50 foot ketch Irene. After plenty of miles with just the two of us aboard in all sorts of conditions under both rigs we definitely prefer the ketch overall.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
Maybe I’ve already filled my quota of words in this thread, 🙂 but I can’t resist adding one more comment: In the article you mention the solutions chosen to fit racing rules and how it trickles into cruising boat norms, even though they are often just flat out wrong and give flawed boats. One story I remember being told (probably not accurate on details), shows how this influence might be more fundamental than one would think.

In the IOR One Ton Cup 1987(?) which was at the time the pinnacle of offshore racing, one boat (German if I remember correctly) entered with an unconventional rig. They had no headsails upwind, only the mainsail. They had increased the mainsail area by the same as a 100% jib. That meant considerably less sail area than the others with big overlapping genoas upwind, but less drag and an ability to point higher without loosing power on the biggest sail. Downwind, when the others lowered their headsails, the bigger main meant they had more sail area. The committee allowed them to race. They were generally ridiculed and laughed at.

On the first day they mostly started poorly, being not top class sailors, but in all 3 races they had caught up with the leaders at the first mark, were first on the first downwind mark and sailed in solitude to the finish line. Conclusion: They were much faster both upwind and downwind. On the morning of the second day, grumpy competitors had made a big fuss. The same people who laughed the day before. The rules were changed so the new boat was disqualified.

If that rule had not been changed, there is no doubt that all IOR boats would have changed their rig. This would fairly quickly have changed the norm among cruisers too. Sloops are still the predominant rig type, perhaps not because it has been evaluated as the best solution, but because rule makers try to stop improvement, which they call “unfair advantage”.

If the rule had not been changed, many cruisers would definitely have looked different today. Some would have been better boats that way, and some would have been poorer boats. There are some good reasons for having split sail planes, like most boats have now, rather than “cat rigs”, but efficient use of a limited sail area certainly isn’t one of them! In general, racing classes innovate and cruisers should pay attention to what they do. But we should mainly look at the knowledge behind the new solution and adapt to that, not copy the solution itself.

James Evans

I recall Dick Newick saying, with regard to multihulls, “Speed, comfort, low cost. You can have any two of three”.

Drew Frye

I’m not sure you can always have two;). Speed and low cost, and comfort and low cost don’t really pair up so well. I guess it depends on how you feel about cost.

Robert Hellier

Hi John,
The swing keel metal sailboat we’re purchasing for coastal and ocean cruising has 160% and 130% genoas, as well as a decent sized main for her displacement (I haven’t done the math, just looking at the mast and boom lengths). The owner says he hardly ever used the 160% for reasons you’ve already illiterated. For light airs, would you consider the addition of a code zero sail? There’s nothing mentioned in this article about this option and yet we see them increasingly used by cruising sailors. The attachment point at the bow would be fairly easy on this particular boat since the bow sprit is a part of the welded structure and looks to be very substantial. In reading about code zeros, the sail makers state that they can be cut to perform according to the point of sail that most needs to be improved in the particular boat. I’d love to hear your and other AAC members’ thoughts/experiences on this.

BTW the boat we’re purchasing also has in inner removeable stay which will sport a hanked on storm jib when conditions necessitate. The storm jib looks like it never left its bag and the owner says he’s never attached the inner forestay although he’s crossed the Atlantic twice in this boat. Can/should such a set-up be converted to a true cutter or solent rig? There’s a decent distance between the attachment points on the deck, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. I know it’s hard to comment on a boat you can’t see, but maybe you could let me know what to consider in deciding if such a conversion is a a wise thing to do.


Kevin McNeill

Just a tiny nit pick, you said that,”the yawl rig came to be because the CCA rule did not measure mizzen staysail area, so yawls were another rule cheater to gove more working room,” I beg to differ, yawls came from fishing boats to clear the deck of booms and rigging to give more working space.