Less engine, more sail. How to go fast on a cruise

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Ph: Guido Cantini / Beneteau

Nice sailing cruise. But didn’t you sometimes feel that you were sailing a little too much by motor? It happens to everyone that out of laziness, or due to lack of time, or poor performance of the boat in certain conditions, we utter the fateful phrase, “let’s give motor.” Difficult, when the heat is beating and the wind is little, to resist this temptation. Yet something can be done to navigate that extra half-knot that turns us off. By being careful about the weights of what we take on board, by having a few right sails, and by changing our mental approach toward sailing.

We talked about this with Vittorio D’Albertas, president of Quantum Sails Italia, a sailmaker and sailmaker, racer and lover of cruising as well.

How to prepare the boat for cruising without penalizing sailing performance?

Sometimes when we set out on a cruise we reach a point where accumulating things and weights in the boat becomes “harmful,” both to space on board and performance. Tender, sup, boards and other water toys are beautiful, maybe not everything is essential. There is a point beyond which having all these things on board, in addition to the galley and everything else needed for cruising, undermines livability. Above all, having the deck reasonably clear is important, because the moment you happen to have strong winds, with all these accessories in the hawser, it also becomes dangerous to handle and we risk losing something overboard. For example, if we have to work a sheet on a winch it has to be free and not get stuck under something, or woe betide having a sail run into a board or something else. Another behavior to avoid is keeping the dinghy perpetually in tow. Improving these things will help us make the boat sail better.

How important is the mental approach to increasing the number of hours we sail?

When we do cruise planning, by imposing tight schedules on ourselves, we are condemning ourselves to often motor cruising. Meticulous planning, while important from one point of view, also becomes a limitation. Relationships with the crew should be channeled in this sense, considering time as a relative factor that should be dealt with without anxiety. That way we can enjoy sailing more without the stress of getting to a place early. Mentally, our approach should be with fewer constraints and more directed toward the pleasure of sailing. The route of a cruise can also be studied according to the prevailing winds in the area where we will sail, so that we will often have favorable conditions for doing so under sail. The nagging of daily miles to go is not a friend of sailing, nor is the anxiety of getting to port as quickly as possible to find the place. So having equipment and accessories that allow us to be more autonomous from the port is another thing to seriously consider.

If you had to choose one must-have sail to have on a cruise, what would it be?

The typical sail to have to achieve that decisive half knot, or more, between going motor or turning it off is the classic cruising Code Zero, perhaps quite large in area. It should be at least 2 1/2 times as large as the staple. It is a sail that we can keep furled and hoisted, that is the great convenience. With the Tails we can navigate fairly well at portals with wind, but even a wide upwind with little wind you deal with it smoothly and with excellent speed, it can give a new life to a boat that is perhaps slow and poorly sailed. If it is well structured and with a nice internal cable it stays hoisted and coiled without snags. Especially on a boat that does not have a super powerful sail plan it can be the real solution.

A boat sailing with Code Zero
A boat sailing with Code Zero

And when the wind is really light, how can we not resign ourselves to the engine?

We should try to reason more like a “tactician” and less like a commander. The engine is unavoidable to turn on now and then, but maybe we can go a little windward and plan our movements based on that, listening to the forecast and trying to figure out what is the favorable time of day to move. We may put fewer overall miles, but we will sail them more. Sometimes we tend to do too much traveling and enjoy beautiful places less, if a bay is beautiful staying there even two days is no big deal. In short, let’s go back to the point of the mental approach to cruising: in my opinion, doing fewer miles, if we have little time, is the best way to enjoy the sea, the vacation more, and especially to do it while enjoying the sailing.

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