Tricks to tame the chute
The lower the tack, the straighter the luff. The cruising chute will behave more like a headsail; this is what you need for reaching.
The further off the wind you go, the higher you want the tack so that the sail flies fuller and wider, which is what we need for running. For optimum performance, we want the tack line to be vertical. With the sheet trimmed, ease the tack line off. If it goes straight up then you can continue to ease the line as you are sailing dead downwind.
Too far To windward?
If the tack line starts to go to windward of the forestay then you are sailing dead downwind and you need to sheet in and sail a little higher to get the tack line vertical. As the chute oscillates from leeward to windward, it pulls the rig one way then the other, inducing uncomfortable rolling and in extremities, causing the rudder to lose grip on the water.
Too far To leeward?
The tack line pulling off to leeward means you are sailing too high for your sail setting. Either bear away or, if this is the course you want to sail, pull in on the tack line to lower the tack until it becomes vertical, then sheet in. This will help to pull the luff forwards and the sail will have better forwards drive rather than pulling sideways.
Gybing the cruising chute
If you are put off handling the large sail area of the cruising chute through a gybe, you can always snuff the sail, set it on to the other tack and then unsnuff it. It’s a safe way of going about things and there is nothing wrong with that. But you can also go for a ‘live’ gybe.
Start by centering the main. As you take the stern through the wind, gybe the main and ease the cruising chute sheet, allowing the sail to fly ahead of the boat. Then sheet in on the new leeward sheet. You’ll turn the cruising chute outside itself ahead of the boat. You can of course gybe the cruising chute by turning it inside itself between it and the forestay but you may need a member of crew to feed the clew and sheets through the gap. Allowing the sail to fly ahead of the forestay is by far the easiest way.
From a handling point of view, I find that the cruising chute is workable shorthanded in anything up to 20 knots of wind. After that, the loads become too much and it becomes harder to snuff the sail. If the snuffer does jam, you’ll realise how much power there is in that sail as you try to wrestle it to the deck. Don’t panic though – you can still drop the chute without the snuffer. Head downwind to put the chute into a good wind shadow. Ease off the tack line and then the halyard while taking in on the sheet. Bundle up the sail, either on the foredeck on into the main companionway hatch.
Watch out for apparent Wind
True wind is the wind you would feel if you were standing stationary on the ground. If the air was completely still and you began moving, you would be moving through the air and would perceive this as wind – we’ll call it motion wind. Apparent wind, the wind you feel on deck, is the combination of true wind and motion wind and can vary depending on your direction, speed and the tidal current.
As soon as we come off the wind, the boat comes more upright and our apparent wind reduces. Close-hauled in 14 knots true wind speed with a boat speed of 6 knots, we may have had an apparent wind speed of up to 20 knots. Now running downwind at 6 knots, that apparent wind speed could be down to 8 knots. If doing 6 knots downwind and the apparent wind speed is 20 knots (F5), that is a true wind speed of close to 26 knots (F6). Turn into that and start sailing close-hauled at 6 knots and the apparent wind will increase to 30 knots (F7) or more.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security sailing downwind. It is easy to get caught out with too much canvas up, so keep an eye on true wind speed as well as apparent wind speed, and set your sail area accordingly. Of course, if you’re not in too much of a hurry, unfurling the headsail on its own is not especially taxing and it’s a peaceful stress-free way of going downwind.
The right tack line tension is crucial to prevent excessive healing and rolling