Undersized mainsail

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Undersized mainsail

Postby Watson » Mon Jan 08, 2024 4:51 pm

Does anyone use a smaller main instead of full size? If so, what would work on a DS? A javelin, widgeon?
Was thinking that would be easier than reefing when I go out solo since I always reef singlehanded. I think I saw the CYANE owner used an undersized main on his blog. It would just be as an extra main to have, not my primary. Thanks
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Re: Undersized mainsail

Postby tomodda » Mon Jan 08, 2024 7:15 pm

Hi Watson:

Honestly, I'm not understanding your question, or at least what you are trying to do. If solo reefing while underway is hard, then you should work on rigging and techniques to make it easier (and the forum can help you here!). I'd think that swapping mainsails while underway would be even harder than reefing. If, on the other hand, you are thinking of rigging a smaller sail for "big wind" days and your regular sail for regular days, launching with the appropriate sail for the day.... then why not just launch with the regular mainsail already reefed? This is where I'm confused about your intention. Anyway, a well-set-up Jiffy (Slab) reefing system will help you a lot. The original roller-reefing setup (if you still have it) is worse than useless, so that may be your issue? As for when to reef in general, the old saying holds true - " Before you need it. If you are even wondering about it, then reef."

That being said, have you considered other tools to depower the sail prior to reefing? Both outhaul and vang are powerful methods of flattening the sail, which really helps "tame the beast," without having to reef. In the right conditions, flattening the sail is difference between being comfortable in a 12-knot breeze (solo) instead of feeling that you are at the edge. But if it's 12kt gusting to say 15kt with a nasty chop, then you should be reefed already! Again, you can find plenty of information about outhauls and vangs on this forum.

Wishing you fair winds,

Tom
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Re: Undersized mainsail

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jan 08, 2024 8:05 pm

I read the question as not about replacing a sail under way, but as wanting to start out with a sail that has a smaller sail area to begin with. That could be an appropriate strategy whenever conditions are such that you would start out with a reef in the main, but without the prospect of ever shaking it out before returning.

I leave my main on the boom, even when the boat is not rigged. That would make it awkward to swap out the main, even if done before the launch. The situation might be different , only if winds were consistent enough that I'd never need a full sail for weeks. If you end up never sailing without a reef, then, yes, downsize.

Often, when singlehanding, I like to take it easy, and a reef goes in in conditions where I could still manage the peak gusts with all the other techniques. I just don't want to, sometimes. And in the right conditions, it may not be as slow a you'd think. I've managed to hold my own against another DS in a beer-can race, while sailing singlehanded with a reefed main against their full main with crew.

But our winds are too unsteady to irrevocably commit to a smaller sail plan. So I get to practice reefing and unreefing on the water and consequently, it stops being a big issue. I also practice heaving to any chance I get.

Back to the original question. If locking in to smaller sail size isn't an issue given local conditions, then any main that's about 18" shorter (if my memory serves when it comes to placement of the reef points) would do. Depending on how variable things get, I'd put a set of reef points even in that sail, so you get the effect of a second reef in case of an unexpected blow.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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Re: Undersized mainsail

Postby Watson » Mon Jan 08, 2024 11:03 pm

Yes, it would just be to put up before starting out and not dealing with reefing. I’m on Illinois side of Lake Michigan and full sail is too much for DS most of the time, especially singlehanded. Was just checking if there was a compatible smaller sail out there that people use, but it sounds like it’s not a widely used technique. Thank you both for the quick responses.
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Re: Undersized mainsail

Postby GreenLake » Tue Jan 09, 2024 7:18 pm

You are right in that this is not a very widely used technique, but that doesn't mean anything.

My inclination would be to assume that any sail that you can raise using the existing tracks would work.

We forgot to mention that you may need to reposition (or create and alternate position for) the outhaul, especially if your replacement sail does not have a slider at the clew to take up the leech tension. Without that, and the outhaul in its original position far in the back, the leech tension might manage to pull the clew up, jamming the boltrope.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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