TECH­NIQUE

A spin­naker stay­sail can be a pow­er­ful ad­di­tion to your downwind pack­age, but only when con­di­tions are right.

Sailing World - - Contents -

A spin­naker stay­sail is a pow­er­ful weapon, says Andy Horton, but don’t set it and for­get it.

Spin­naker stay­sails have three spe­cific tasks: clean­ing up the wind go­ing around the front of the main­sail, mov­ing the cen­ter of ef­fort for­ward to help bal­ance the helm and adding more sail area. Genoa stay­sails are also used when jib reach­ing, but that’s mostly an off­shore setup, and we’re go­ing to fo­cus sail­ing around the buoys. A spin­naker stay­sail has a sub­tle ef­fect. It’s never go­ing to make the boat just light up and re­ally go, but if you av­er­age your speed with a stay­sail over the length of a leg, you’ll dis­cover you’re def­i­nitely sail­ing faster, and the boat will be more con­trol­lable. On the TP52, we think it’s im­por­tant enough to have the stay­sail on deck, plugged in and ready to go at the start of any race in which we might use it. On some boats, such as the Melges 32, the jib func­tions as a stay­sail, with much the same re­sults.

For most high-per­for­mance boats, the stay­sail’s sweet spot is usu­ally some­where in the 9- to 15-knot range and 140 to 155 de­grees off the wind. On smaller high-per­for­mance boats, they work best when you’re in the mid­dle of the reach­ing range — not too tight and not too broad. With a sym­met­ric spin­naker and sail­ing deep, say 160 or so, such as you might on a Santa Cruz 70, tack the stay­sail on the wind­ward side of the boat, three-quar­ters of the way to the bow, which is like pulling the pole back. If you sail with the pole back 45 de­grees, the stay­sail needs to be tacked to wind­ward as well. It fol­lows the pole. As a rule of thumb, how­ever, any­time the pole is on the bow, then the stay­sail of some va­ri­ety should be up.

At the top end of the stay­sail wind range, heav­ier boats start sail­ing deeper an­gles, and most high-per­for­mance boats just leave the jib up as a stay­sail in­stead of switch­ing. Do­ing so saves the com­mo­tion of get­ting the jib down and the stay­sail up at the wind­ward mark, then hav­ing to re­verse the process at the lee­ward mark. It’s pos­si­ble to do it ef­fi­ciently, but you have to bal­ance the com­mo­tion with just us­ing the jib. The jib might not be as great a sail, but you al­ready have it up, and in switch­ing sails, you might lose more than you gain. If it’s right at the cross­over for spin­naker stay­sail use, one trick is to set the stay­sail on the fi­nal leg, so it only has to be de­ployed and not taken down.

At the lower end of the stay­sail wind range, there’s a risk the stay­sail will take pres­sure off the spin­naker. As the wind drops, there will usu­ally be pres­sure on the stay­sail sheet, but the spin­naker sheet pres­sure will get lighter. To com­pen­sate, the spin­naker trim­mer will end up over-sheet­ing. The spin­naker be­comes un­sta­ble, and things quickly go bad. So, the tough­est part is at that tran­si­tion point, which varies from boat to boat. You might dis­cover that the mo­ment you put the stay­sail away, spin­naker sheet pres­sure in­creases, the trim­mer can ease the sheet out again and you’ll be able to sail a bit lower.

The type of spin­naker you’re us­ing and the con­di­tions fig­ure into when to use a stay­sail, es­pe­cially in the lower-wind tran­si­tion range. If you’re sail­ing with a light-wind spin­naker at the top of its range, you can de­ploy the stay­sail at a lower wind­speed than with a heav­ier spin­naker at the bot­tom of its range be­cause you can main­tain pres­sure with the lighter-air spin­naker, but that will be more dif­fi­cult with a big­ger chute, with its heav­ier ma­te­rial. If you’re in a build­ing breeze with a lighter chute and you’re think­ing, I wish I had the big

spin­naker up right now, that’s a re­ally good time to use a stay­sail. The key is to use the stay­sail to add pres­sure to the boat but not take too much away from the spin­naker.

If it’s choppy and the boat be­comes un­sta­ble, the stay­sail will not help be­cause it once again takes wind away from the spin­naker. It’s also tough to use a stay­sail in puffy or shifty con­di­tions, or if you’re hav­ing to mode and reach around. If you get a big header, it’s time to furl the stay­sail. Or, if you come into some dirty air, such as at a lee­ward mark, or the wind gets light, your spin­naker might start get­ting a lit­tle soft, so furl the stay­sail. The same is true if you have to be­gin sail­ing a deep to get away from the bad air. If in doubt about whether the stay­sail is help­ing, try furl­ing it. If the other sails im­me­di­ately start show­ing more pres­sure, then you’ve made the right call.

Trim­ming

If the stay­sail is trimmed cor­rectly, it will clean up the flow on the lee­ward front side of the main. The stay­sail does this like a

bi­plane wing, es­sen­tially bring­ing the breeze around the lee­ward side of the main and mak­ing a slot for the wind. When you look at the sail from the back, the trim of the stay­sail should match the trim of the main. While the goal is to match the twist of the main and spin­naker, it’s tough to do that be­cause they’re com­pletely dif­fer­ent types of sails. The stay­sail is kind of half­way be­tween, cre­at­ing pro­gres­sion of twist from the spin­naker to the stay­sail to the main.

Rule No. 1 is to never, ever over­trim a stay­sail. You al­ways want the luff a bit soft, so the wind­ward tell­tales are al­ways lift­ing. The top of the sail has to be re­ally twisted to match the spin­naker, and the bot­tom of it must be flat­ter to match the main, so it’s very com­mon that the top of the sail will ap­pear un­der­sheeted and the bot­tom over­sheeted. It’s tough to get it just right be­cause the sail has a re­ally short chord length, and it’s a re­ally high- as­pect sail. If you get a big header that causes the spin­naker to start to luff, quickly burp the stay­sail sheet. That will mo­men­tar­ily take the stay­sail out of the equa­tion and al­low the flow to reat­tach to the spin­naker. Once the chute is full, re­trim the stay­sail.

The stay­sail tack po­si­tion and the size of the stay­sail are crit­i­cal. Usu­ally they’re tacked about 45 per­cent of the way aft from the spin­naker tack to the mast. Tack the stay­sail too far for­ward, and it will take away from the spin­naker. If the stay­sail is too big, you’ll end up tak­ing pres­sure off the spin­naker as well.

Jib­ing with a Stay­sail

Most boats furl the stay­sail just be­fore the jibe and un­furl it af­ter the boat is to the new downwind an­gle. One com­mon mis­take is to open the stay­sail too early af­ter the jibe. Be­cause the stay­sail is set up to be sheeted at a lower sail­ing an­gle, un­furl­ing it early only heels the boat and ob­structs flow through the slot. For in­stance, if you typ­i­cally come out of the jibe 10 de­grees higher than your ac­tual jib­ing an­gle, the stay­sail is go­ing to be too full in the bot­tom for the cor­rect sheet po­si­tion. So, keep the stay­sail rolled up un­til the boat gets down to its nor­mal downwind an­gle.

Us­ing Jibs as Stay­sails

A non­furl­ing jib can be used to act as a stay­sail, al­though not as ef­fi­ciently. The prob­lem is that they don’t have enough shape in them to re­ally do the job, plus they aren’t sheeted in the right place for a reach­ing stay­sail. But they can still help. Just be care­ful dur­ing spin­naker sets or when com­ing out of jibes. If the jib is up and sheeted, you’ll have to sail pretty high to get air be­tween the spin­naker and the jib, mak­ing it very likely you’ll wipe out. To pre­vent that, ease the sheet un­til the sail luffs, or drop the jib hal­yard a few feet just as the spin­naker is go­ing up. This al­lows the top of the jib to twist open. Of course, the sail will also come down a bit, al­low­ing a lot more air be­tween the spin­naker and the jib. Ba­si­cally, you’re pre­tend­ing only the bot­tom half of the jib is there, which still helps bal­ance the boat, al­low­ing you to turn down more ef­fi­ciently and, once again, al­low­ing more air to get to the spin­naker. You’re ba­si­cally mak­ing the jib dis­ap­pear for those few key sec­onds.

Think of stay­sails this way: There is only a cer­tain amount of pres­sure you can get from any given wind ve­loc­ity. A stay­sail will give you a lit­tle bit more, but it takes a per­cent­age away from the spin­naker. If you’re sail­ing in mod­er­ate air with­out a stay­sail, you might be get­ting 80 per­cent of your pres­sure from the spin­naker and 20 per­cent from the main­sail. Add a stay­sail, and you take 10 per­cent away from the spin­naker, just a lit­tle from the main, but add an ex­tra 5 per­cent to the whole equa­tion. It’s a small net gain, but as long as it’s used at the cor­rect time, it’s a gain. Q

PHOTO : MAX RANCHI / 52 SU­PER SERIES

Spin­naker stay­sails on the TP52S are used when the wind strength and an­gles are just right, help­ing to bal­ance the boat and add more sail area.

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