Sailing main alone

Boat handling, ideas, questions...

Sailing main alone

Postby Belanich » Fri May 13, 2016 1:56 pm

On weds my wife and I went to the boat to rig the camberspar and finish some other odds and ends. The only problem - wind (15-20kts)! After months of not sailing we could not resist. So instead we went sailing with main alone. Here are some observations.

1. I was surprised how well she sailed upwind with main alone (31-33 apparent, is this possible?) but I'm sure she'll point even higher with the jib.
2. She's is like a Lincoln Continental in the puffs. What I mean is the mast absorbs the puffs making the ride smoother without rounding up. With my Oday31 you had to drop the traveler in the puffs or you would round up and experience weather helm.
3. With main alone there is significant weather helm. I could feel the rudder slowing her down. I assume the jib will lessen weather helm. Also I have to rig a cunningham to flatten the sail.
4. The main has power over a broader range of angles. This makes it more difficult to find the most efficient angle. This is most likely because I'm not use to a full batten main. Luff tell tails should help.
5. Harken battcars with full battens and lazy jacks = easy!

Overall I'm very happy with performance so far. :D
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Re: Sailing main alone

Postby bobr » Fri May 13, 2016 6:58 pm


Coming from conventional sloops (Pearsons) I was amazed how well our 35 does under main alone. As a confirmed cruiser I am not ashamed to leave the jib down when the wind is high and the course is not upwind. I think of it as the first reef. And tucking the actual first reef into the main eases the pressure on the helm.

And +1 on this "Harken battcars with full battens and lazy jacks = easy!"
Bob R.
1995 Freedom 35 (Pedrick)
Old Saybrook, CT
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Re: Sailing main alone

Postby gamayun » Sat May 14, 2016 3:46 pm

Isn't it grand when everyone around is taking a knock and the Freedom just lets out a little sigh like, "is that all you got?" and then settles back down? I am curious how old your main is and whether you have it loose footed or not. The reason is because I have two vastly different experiences between an old bed sheet of a main sail that could not be flattened and did not have a downhaul; and a new, higher performance racing/cruising main sail that is stiffer, can be flattened more easily, and has a downhaul. When I first got my boat, I wanted to see what it would be like with full main, single-handed, in 32 knots of wind. At first I tried not using the jib, but I could barely get any steerage. When I put the jib up with the old, baggy main with a lot of camber, I was seriously over-canvased. It ended well, but was an interesting experience and I was aware of a CG vessel that remained on station to watch while I got the boat under control. Not my best day. Then, contrast that during a time when I went out in 35-knot gusts with a single reef in the new main. I had some friends on board so wasn't relying on auto pilot and everything was pretty calm -- what a world of difference. I also race on the bay doublehanded in up to 28 knots before reefing, but any higher winds and there's too much weather helm. My take away on the Freedom sloops is that you need the jib to keep the bow into the wind and you have to be able to flatten the main. My rule of thumb is to reef when the gusts require a bit more muscle to hold the helm, and I'm female so it's not like I'm man-handling it :lol: The boat will definitely round up, but with its beefy rudder and the CF mast dumping wind, it seems to require a whole body effort to hold the helm to make that happen.

Because you don't have luff tell tales, it's not going to be that easy to figure out all the mechanics. I pay close attention to them now and work the traveler and vang for the best power. I bring the traveler up high to windward in lighter winds and the middle or lower in high winds. The vang is sheeted in hard when going to windward. I also use a lot of downhaul because when the mast bends, there's a big pouch in the sail. (I'm sure there are nautical terms for all this, so forgive me because I don't know them.) The foot is flattened only in the highest of winds; this is where the loose-footed main sail shines.

As to pointing ability, this also vastly improved with the new main. I certainly didn't realize how significant the change was going to be, but now I understand why nutty racers change their perfectly good-looking sails as often as they can....
Kynntana, Freedom 38
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Re: Sailing main alone

Postby CaptLen » Mon May 16, 2016 5:34 pm

Gamayn- well written, and excellent observations. Years ago I got a low stretch fabric genoa on my Ranger 33 and the sailmaker told me that when I did the main I'd reef much less due to the sail's ability to hold it's shape. Certainly true with the jib.
I never got the main as I got an F36 instead (same designer- Gary Mull). I found the Freedom much more able in heavy air. Having suffered a very damaging lightning strike, the insurance company took that boat (a ketch) and I'm about to sea trial and close on an F38 cat sloop. Should be fun transitioning to the one-mast group.
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