Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars

Ten Mainsail Tips for Short-handed Cruising

by Nancy Knudsen on 25 Nov 2011
Cruising short handed often means a different approach .. .
Most long range cruisers are trying to sail downwind when we can, but it doesn't always happen. Many cruisers are also sailing short handed. So handling the main on a cruising boat differs in many ways from that for a racing boat. Whatever your configuration you have to use the big sail to balance the helm and create or decrease power.

Here are ten reminders of aspects of handling the main that will make your boat faster, safer, more comfortable, or, sometimes, all three.


1. Be under- not over-canvassed.
Unless you are in VERY benign weather, make sure you are not OVER-canvassed in the main. Getting the main reefed, particularly when short handed, in forty knots, is not much fun.

2. Experiment with the usefulness of the main.
If you are embarked on a long journey, experiment with how many extra knots the main gives you on your particular boat. Particularly when reaching, you may find that the boat actually sails faster with less main. In many boats, sailing wing on wing, with two headsails and no main, especially with a short-handed crew and the possibility of storms, is almost as fast without any main at all, and there's no possibility of being caught out reefing or having to douse the main in heavy weather.

3. Adjust as you go.
To get optimum speed, make sure that you are using the main at its best, by adjusting it when you adjust the rudder. In other words, as you sail closer to the wind, trim the main as you go. Then when heading off the wind, ease the mainsail early so the bow can fall off without having to battle the main to do it. These small adjustments can make an immense difference to your daily run.

4. Keep watching the telltales.
There should be telltales streaming from the ends of the battens on conventional mainsails or from the leech of the roller furling sail. If the sail is trimmed properly, they will stream together, straight aft. If the telltales start fluttering on the windward side of the sail, pull the mainsheet ON. If the telltales start fluttering on the leeward side, let the sail off, until they stream together again. You will get to know your own sail, and the way it behaves – which telltales are the most important, etc. The telltales will also not flow freely if the outhaul, traveler and vang are not adjusted correctly.

5. Watch the adjustment of your outhaul.
In a stronger wind, the outhaul needs to be on more to flatten the sail, while in softer air, letting the outhaul off will soften the sail and give it more shape.

6. Don't forget the traveler.
The traveler in stronger breezes may need to be let off, while in lighter breezes, bring the traveler on, again to give the sail more shape to catch and use the lighter air.

7. The boom vang will help.
The boom vang also needs to be eased in light air, again to shape the sail, and in heavier winds, bring it on.

8. Rigging a preventer.
The preventer – the line that runs from the end of the boom to the foredeck or bow when you are running downwind – serves two main roles, and should be used whenever necessary. In heavy weather its main purpose is to stop the sail from accidentally gybing the boat. In very light weather it can also prevent the mail from flopping back and forth in a manner that is not only annoying but wearing on the gear.

9. The boom brake.
For short handed cruising, the boom brake is invaluable, as it enables gybing in a controlled manner. In terms of priorities, it probably comes only after a good anchor in the shopping list for short-handed cruisers.

10. The old Adages:
Reef early, reef often. Experimenting will tell you when is the best wind speed to reef, but in many cruising boats it's around 15 knots. If you ever wonder whether you should be reefing, you should! You'll never be sorry you did, but you may be very sorry you didn't!
Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearPredictWind.com 2014Zhik ZKG 660x82

Related Articles

Spain’s Xabi Fernández to skipper MAPFRE in Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18
Xabi will return to the Volvo Ocean Race after finishing his work for Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup campaign. The 40-year-old Xabi, who has taken part in the Volvo Ocean Race four times, won Olympic gold in Athens 2004, and followed that up with a silver in 2008 – both times alongside his long-term sailing partner Iker Martínez.
Posted on 17 Feb
Volvo Ocean Race - MAPFRE name Xabi Fernández as skipper
The Basque sailor Xabi Fernández will be once again skipper of the VO65 MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 The Basque sailor Xabi Fernández will be once again skipper of the VO65 MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, a responsibility that he undertook in the last edition of the race, alongside Iker Martínez. Xabi, born in Ibarra (Basque Country, Spain) in 1976, has a lengthy professional career as an elite sportsman, and an outstanding list of achievements in all the major world sailing events.
Posted on 17 Feb
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ give first look at the pedaling AC50
Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. The team has been sailing for the previous two days making news headlines after it was revealed in Sail-World.com that the AC50 would become only the second yacht in America's Cup history to use pedal power.
Posted on 16 Feb
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ christen AC50 100 days from Cup
Emirates Team NZ christened their AC50 in a rain-marred ceremony at the team's Beaumont Street base Just 100 days out from the first race of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, Emirates Team New Zealand accomplishes the most significant milestone of its challenge for the 35th Americas Cup by christening their America’s Cup Class catamaran that will begin racing in Bermuda in May.
Posted on 16 Feb
America's Cup - Images from Oracle Team USA AC50 launch + Video
After unveiling their AC50 yesterday, Oracle Team USA launched their Defender today in Bermuda. After unveiling their AC50 yesterday, Oracle Team USA launched their Defender today in Bermuda. Top international photographer Carlo Borlenghi was on hand to capture the moment. Catch the moment on video, too
Posted on 15 Feb
Just 100 days to the start of the 35th America's Cup
Right across the beautiful island of Bermuda, preparations continue apace for the incredible events. Right across the beautiful island of Bermuda, preparations continue apace for the incredible events that will unfold, with racing taking place on the Great Sound.
Posted on 15 Feb
America's Cup - Images from Oracle Team USA AC50 unveiling in Bermuda
.Top international photographer Carlo Borlenghi was present in Bermuda at the Oracle Team USA unveiling of their AC50 Top international photographer Carlo Borlenghi was present in Bermuda at the Oracle Team USA unveiling of their AC50 and provided this gallery of images of the occasion. The AC50 was revealed for the first time, but was not launched or sailed.
Posted on 15 Feb
America's Cup - Kiwis sign Olympic Cyclist for the Tour de Bermuda
Ttop cyclist Simon van Velthooven, a 2012 Olympic Bronze cycling medallist had been signed by the America's Cup team Emirates Team New Zealand put in a second foiling display on Auckland's Waitemata harbour ahead of the official launching of their AC50 tomorrow. With brighter skies the cycling team took their places on the pedalstals and used leg power to provide the hydraulic pressure necessary to run the AC50's control systems for the foils and wingsail.
Posted on 15 Feb
Oracle Team USA celebrate completion of new America’s Cup Class boat
Oracle Team USA held a ceremony at its team base to reveal its new America’s Cup Class boat, “17” On Tuesday evening, Oracle Team USA held a ceremony at its team base to reveal its new America’s Cup Class boat, “17”, the foiling catamaran the team will race this summer in Bermuda.
Posted on 15 Feb
America's Cup - Emirates Team New Zealand reveal big AC50 breakthrough
Emirates Team New Zealand have splashed their new AC50 in Auckland this morning and revealed another break-though. Emirates Team New Zealand have splashed their new AC50 in Auckland this morning and have revealed another break-though. In the 2013 America's Cup the team designed the first foiling catamaran even though that concept was not contemplated in the rules. It was widely reckoned that they revealed their secret too early and other teams were able to copy in the time available.
Posted on 14 Feb