Sailing Efficiently In Stronger Winds


Fife 'the truant' skating along well with one reef

By John Simpson

We have a normal share of strongish winds on the west coast in Scotland. Often a deep low causes much damage to some yachts just after they’ve been put back in commission this is hardly surprising living as we do quite far north. One thing is for sure though for any of us when we are out sailing in a strong wind, is that we need a small but efficient sail plan. A setup that reefs easily and works properly to give good sail shape. Particularly, a rig that can generate enough drive to take the boat upwind well, when necessary!

For most of us on modern yachts higher wind strength means rolling up some of the jib, and reefing the main and possibly the mizzen. The main either fitted with a slab reefing sail (which might lead back to the cockpit!), or a sail that goes into the mast for many of us.

What can really make a big difference going upwind is ability to change down from your 150,160,170% lapper quickly to a higher cut, much smaller sail. Perhaps a 100% cut sail or working jib size, which will also fit onto your normal roller furling system. One of the major problems on most modern boats is that, although the sails furl up very quickly, the foot of the sail as well as the top is rolling up! The centre of effort of each sail becomes much higher. This tends to heal the boat over even further in stronger winds and doesn’t produce really efficient, forward drive.

Also as the sea the boat is beating into builds up and heavier deluges of water rather than just spray land on the bow. If the 150% Genoa you have just rolled up is still quite low along the foot, a big wave could burst it! Why not ask your sail maker to measure up for a smaller jib for your boat. Then test this sail out in a strong breeze close to home, before that fateful day arrives when you really need it to drag you back on a long upwind haul.

It could be money well spent, and might be why we have the expression ‘I like the cut of your jib’ in our language.