The cruising world is increasingly witnessing the demise of spinnakers. There is little that can be done, no one uses them (almost) anymore. And perhaps rightly so, because, outside the regatta, it is an “uncomfortable” sail. The solution is often the white sail, which is practical but limited. And indeed there is a better option: the Parasailor. It is hoisted in a minute, scaled up, and then smooth sailing, with all the advantages of three sails in one: Spinnaker, Gennaker, and Code 0 together. Its secret? The wing. To learn more about it, we tried its latest evolution, the New Generation Parasailor, with a hybrid wing. We tell you about it in the next few lines and in the video below.
New Generation Parasailor
Derived from light aviation, the Parasailor is a spinnaker equipped with a paraglider-type wing, thanks to which the wind is translated into a pulling and ascending force. In short, the wing “lifts” the bow of the boat and “drags” it forward, providing propulsion, stability and safety on board. Fundamental characteristics in significant winds, but which allow the sail to perform even in little air. All without a tangon, so manageable even short handed.
Imagine two people on a 50-footer, with more than 25 knots and 140 square meters of sail to manage, and imagine being able to do it with ease. The gait is indifferent, the range is from wide upwind (60/70°) to full stern (180°). Not another sail is up, the boat is stable and roll and heel virtually nil. The autopilot holds the course, and adjustments are minimal, to be managed as the pace changes. No tangon, so only a few fathoms are needed and, the sail, once on target, does its own thing. This is the summary of New Generation Parasailor, a stroke of genius that has been disrupting the physics of carrier sails since 2004. Istec manufactures it and, indeed, we tested its new generation, hybrid-wing, in just under 10 knots of wind.
For the test I am in the Gulf of Tigullio, on a 50-foot ’67. The sail is commensurate with her 15.2 meters, about 140 square meters of surface area. The crew, more than short-handed: just me and Ezio Grillo of F&B Yachting, an Italian Parasailor dealer. Seeing few arms and a sail larger than my house honestly perplexes me. Instead, brilliant choice, because the ease with which we handle the Parasailor will win me over immediately.
As soon as it is hoisted and scaled, the sail inflates and, from a standstill and sail-dry, we make 6/7 knots in a couple of minutes, with 8/9 knots of true in 70° of apparent. The boat glides as if on two rails. The wind turns suddenly and we have to cast down, to bring us back to open water. E. accompanies the resting by squaring his arm, I shy and slacken sheet. The sail changes walls, always puffy, and settles itself into one of the calmest downs ever. Abandoned by the wind, now on 3 knots, the Parasailor still catches every puff. Thanks to the wing, the sail remains inflated and, the speeds, similar to real wind speeds. Against 3 knots, we make almost as many, with an apparent 5 kn at 80°. A couple more maneuvers and I am won over by the simplicity and efficiency of this sail.
Secrets of the New Generation Parasailor
Let’s start with the basics. The Parasailor is a symmetrical carrier sail for cruising or long offshore racing. Its qualities, we have seen, are versatility (60°-180° on apparent wind), stabilization and performance range (3/5 to 30+ knots). Not forgetting course stability, no tangon, and short-handed manageability. Notable strengths, as our evidence also highlights. But the physics behind it also fascinates.
The key to the whole thing is the wing. Even more efficient in the New Generation Parasailor, where it is hybrid, consisting of single-skin caissons and sections, rather than the single option as it was in earlier models. Sailing, however, is also crucial. Displayed as if it were a spi, it is opened by a “cut” at the point of maximum wind pressure. This surface acts as an energy convector: it channels air into the opening where, downwind, it then flows around the wing, creating a low pressure that the wing translates into upward tractive forces. Propulsion is thus no longer by “thrust,” but generated by a 45-degree “pull” forward and upward. The opposite of spinnakers, which are as glorious as they are neurotic as the wind rises, where they crush the bow, generating instability.
With the Parasailor, on the other hand, as air increases, the bow is relieved of load, raised. A result that increases stability and critical speed (retracts the center of drift), contributing to the overall comfort and safety factor. Thanks to a continuous recirculation of air between the caissons, the wing remains inflated, and with it the sail, a factor that simplifies every maneuver, limiting rolls and heels and working on multiple swells and wind intensities (from 3/5 kn and up).The result is a load-bearing sail with multiple qualities, simple to rig and even more so to use. The litmus test? It is often used by short-handed crews and/or engaged in ocean racing, such as the ARC, where there is no shortage of significant winds, which it also tackles for days, thanks to the wide ranges it allows.
As far as prices are concerned, they vary from boat to boat, but to get an idea, for the sail including its special stocking, we are talking about figures around 20 percent higher than those for a new gennaker complete with mainsail. To keep in mind, though, here you have 3 sails in one.