Racing the cruising boat, what to do with sails


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racing the cruising boat
Itacentodue, Ice 61 (18.85 m) by Adriano Calvini designed by Umberto Felci, an example of how to successfully race the cruising boat

In the first installment on how to race the cruising boat, we talked about the work to be done on rigging and hull. Now let’s take it a step further and go into the sensitive topic of sails and some important concepts about mast adjustments.

Racing the cruising boat – the sails

Let’s not freak out, it is not essential to make sails from carbon or ultra-sophisticated materials. If our budget is small, we can choose Dacron or otherwise inexpensive materials. The important thing is the design and shape of the sails.

It will be essential to rely on a sailmaker who places great importance on “matching” the new sails with our boat’s sail plan and rig. The more “custom” the design, the more effective the new sails will be. For this reason, it is essential that the sailmaker come on board and take the necessary measurements, including assessing, for example, how much the mast flexes and how powerful the backstay is. It will be used to determine how much thinner or thinner to make the profiles of a mainsail, with its mast turn, or a jib. A good triradial dacron mainsail, inferred without carriages, with partial battens as used on racing profiles, more luff than a cruising one, will do the trick. With the mainsail inferred and more luffed we would gain a few more horsepower, we would have a more eared boat and therefore more bolinier already in light air.

Racing the cruising boat – jibs and carrying gaits

For the headsail, if we sail with a furling, we will need to opt for a choice that is not too extreme, allowing us to sail without rolling the sail even in 18-20 knots of wind. Dacron is fine here as well, but what was said above about design and shapes applies.

For load-bearing sails, if we opt to have gennakers, it will be crucial to choose the profile well. Sailmakers have codes, which usually for nylon sails start at A1, a sail for tight corners and light winds. For a cruising boat that wants to participate in stick racing, it serves little purpose. It does not allow us to lean enough, it would only be worth considering if we intend to do coastal or offshore racing.

Better to opt for an A1.5 or A2, sails with a rounder, deeper shape that allow us more effective lean angles. A cruising boat struggles, because of its weight and hull shape characteristics, to sail fast beyond 140-150 degrees if we have the gennaker and not the spi and tangon. For this reason, it is important to choose gennakers with generous depth and ear, which will allow us to make good speeds at the lee as well.

Racing the cruising boat – watch out for the rake

The last measure will be the adjustment of the shaft. Let us preface this at the outset by saying that it will be appropriate to perform it with a professional rigger, who will assess based on our tree what tension to give the shrouds, and whether or not they need to be replaced.

Adjusting the rake, which is the distance there is from the masthead and a point positioned in the center of the stern, is crucial. Very often, cruising boats have masts with too little rake, almost tacked up. This will prevent us from having good upwind angles, so with our rigger we will evaluate the maximum possible rake measurement to give the boat based on its characteristics and also taking into account the type of sails we have.

Mauro Giuffrè



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