White sails to keep it simple
Once we are off the wind and heading for a broad reach with the wind on the quarter, we need to make the sails fuller and more powerful. In essence, we want to hang all the ‘washing’ out to catch as much wind as possible. The trick is to do this in such a way that we minimise the risk of accidental gybes and increase power while reducing rolling.
1 Mainsail setup
In a moderate breeze, when we want the power, we need to put the kicker on to get the top batten to lie along the boom, let off the clew outhaul to allow the foot of the main to curve to give the sail some bag, and ease the mainsheet. This gives a full sail shape that won’t spill wind. If you are overpowered, ease off the kicker to spill power.
2 Headsail setup
We need to ease the sheet for the headsail and move the genoa car forward to close the leech and power up the sail. Without this, the top of the leech will twist and spill wind. The telltales will tend to be jumpy but as long as we have the luff of the sail at 90° to the fore and aft line of the boat, we should be fine.
3 dead downwind
Under white canvas alone, the fastest route may well be dead downwind, where boats with cruising chutes might find it faster to ‘sail the angles’ and gybe downwind. The more directly downwind we go, the more we need to ease the mainsheet until the main is resting on the shrouds. Eventually, the main will blank the headsail and you’ll loose power.
4 Goose winging
At this point and dead downwind, we can set the headsail on the opposite side to the main and run ‘goose winged’ or ‘wing and wing’. This will need a steady hand on the tiller to keep the headsail full while avoiding a gybe but it gets the headsail out of the main’s shadow and can give a surprising boost in speed.
5 Poling out
To help us keep it set on the side opposite the main, pole it out with the spinnaker pole. Keep the pole horizontal and pulled to windward as far as possible. You may need a down-haul, a topping lift and a guy to keep the pole level. Use the pole height to control the tension on the leech and therefore how much twist the sail has.
It’s worthwhile attaching a preventer to the main to stop it accidentally gybing across if you end up running by the lee. Run a line from the end of the boom to a block at the bow attached to the rail or a D-ring, or take the line through a bow cleat and return it to the cockpit so you can adjust it as you adjust the mainsheet.
7 Potential issues
Running by the lee is when you’ve gone past dead downwind but haven’t gybed the main. The airflow is reversed so it flows from leech to luff. You’re very close to a gybe at this point, but it can be fast. Some boats will have a tendency to roll dead downwind, particularly as the wind picks up. To make life more comfortable, tighten the kicker and lower the spinnaker pole to reduce twist at the top of the main and the genoa, which will reduce lateral forces. Secondly, sheet sails in slightly, particularly the headsail, so it doesn’t billow around the forestay to help stabilise the sailplan. Also consider reducing sail area as this will lower the centre of effort.
Many cruisers are happy to run under genoa alone. Simple, yes, but you could be getting much more from your boat
Easily neglected, the outhaul has a significant influence on sail shape downwind