Annapolis C&C 30 Clinic


Are you ready for your next C&C 30 challenge? Join Quantum experts for a day full of hands-on training and practice. Please reach out to David Flynn with any questions!

Location: Eastport Yacht Club – Annapolis, MD
Date: Thursday, October 22nd
11:00 AM – Dock review of rig tuning and set-up strategy with Dave Flynn
11:30 AM – On the water rendezvous for drills and practice including:

  • Starting and straight line setup
  • Tacking
  • Jibing
  • Leeward mark turns
  • Short course racing

3:00 PM – Practice concludes
4:30 PM De-brief with panel experts at Eastport Yacht Club with photo and video analysis of each boat. Cash bar to follow.

Quantum Experts:

David Flynn

Allan Terhune

Jason Currie

Doug Stewart

Andrew Scott

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Downwind Sail Choice Made Easy

With all of the advancements in downwind sails, there are a lot of options out there today, but how do you find the best sail for you—especially if buying more than one is not in your budget? Our cruising expert, Dave Flynn, has some great insights to help ease the pain of finding the best fit.


With a little luck and patient scheduling, the majority of extended cruising miles should feature plenty of off the wind work. While standard working sails are fine when the wind is forward of the beam, they are less than ideal at wind angles greater than 90 degrees apparent. Small size, heavy construction, and the fact that they get blanketed behind the mainsail, make them less than ideal tools for the job. Fortunately cruising sails to optimize downwind performance have come a long way in last decade or so, and cruising sailors now have a range of options. Let’s take a look.

Cruising Spinnaker Design

Since time immemorial, the classic approach has been to add a “cruising spinnaker.” But what is a cruising spinnaker? Traditionally it was a relatively heavy nylon sail (usually 1.5oz), with a foot length between 1.65 and 1.8 of the “J” (foretriangle length from base of mast to forestay), and a mid-girth (width halfway up the sail) of 90-95% of the foot length. Shaping was usually pretty much like a symmetrical spinnaker with the leech shortened so that the sail had a distinct luff and leech and was designed for the tack to be set at a fixed point on the bow. This got rid of the pole, and voila, the asymmetrical spinnaker.

The modern world of “asymmetrical” spinnaker design opens up a range of options. Sizing and shaping have become much more sophisticated. The basic concept is this; a spinnaker that is larger and has more shape is better at broad angles. A sail that is smaller and flatter is happier at close angles. Everything in between is possible. The mid-girth measurement is a key guide. A runner will have a mid-girth equal to or even greater than the foot. A moderate reacher maybe 90%. A code zero 60-70%. To support girth you must add depth or the sail will just flutter, so bigger equals deeper.

The other design issue is how the area is balanced between luff and leech, and specifically how much is placed forward of the straight line luff. Asymmetrical spinnakers for running have plenty of positive area forward of the straight luff which can rotate around to weather of the centerline when the sheet is eased and allow the sail to project from behind the mainsail. Optimize for closer reaching angles and this area is reduced. A Code Zero or Screacher (multihull version of the Zero) might have virtually none and be essentially straight or even hollow like a genoa.

There is also the simple issue of size. On a cutter with a big foretriangle (“J”), using 180% as a multiplier to determine foot length gets you a big sail. Maybe too big to handle conveniently. Conversely, on a boat with a small “J” (fractional rigs and modern mastheads) the bigger multiplier may be required to give the sail enough power to be worth it. Many cruising boats are adding bowsprits which open up options even further. With a sprit the only limitation on size might be the “aspect ratio,” or height versus width. Usually you don’t want to get too tall and skinny, or too wide and stubby. A balance is important to the sail’s performance.

Another consideration is boatspeed. The higher the speeds a boat is capable of, the further forward it pulls the apparent wind. Longer boats go faster. Some modern designs, especially on the cruising multihull side of the equation, are getting quite fast. This means that smaller, flatter designs will work well. On a typical moderate displacement design of medium size, the apparent wind angles are usually wider, so there is more need for bigger and fuller.

Finally, what does the rest of the inventory look like? If a big, overlapping genoa is the primary working headsail, then closer reaching angles up to a beam reach and even a little aft will be covered. If the primary working sail is a small, non-overlapping jib or self-tacker, the boat is going to need help as soon as the sheets are eased.


Choosing Your Sail

So, what flavor do we need? Well, there is no free lunch. It comes down to the apparent wind angle you want optimize for. Most cruising sailors want simplicity. One sail to do it all.

The middle road means apparent wind angles of 80-140. Moderate overall size, keeping in mind the size of the “J.” Girth in the range of 90-95%. Moderate depth and projection forward of the straight line luff. This is what, in many sailmakers vernacular, is called an “A3” all-purpose reaching sail.

Want to optimize for broad reaches and apparent wind angles of 110-155? Go bigger and consider a sprit. 180% foot length and 100% mid-girth with lots of shape and luff projection. Often described as an “A2.”

Fabric weight is boat size dependent, but one can assume that the typical cruising sailor will not be using the sail in more than 20 knots apparent so lighter weights makes sense for an A2 or A3. Lighter fabric will also help the sail fly in the target range and make the sail much easier to store and handle.

At the other end of the spectrum are the small, flat, genoa-like sails like the Code Zero. These are really big reaching genoas as much as anything else. Foot lengths will be shorter, 150-165% of the “J,” girths will be in the 55-70% range, shape will be flat, and luff projection minimal. Optimum apparent wind angles will be 50-120. Fabric weight will need to be stronger and more genoa like as well. These sails often require specialized composite materials. Nylon has too much stretch for the loads they see at close apparent wind angles.

The last thing to consider is the handling system. Handling systems come down to a choice between spinnaker socks and top down furling systems. Socks are simple and work well particularly on spinnakers with big girths. Top down furlers work but can struggle as the girths get bigger. They work well on smaller, flatter sails. Big width up high is still tough to get furled tightly and reliably. Top down furlers also need clearance between headstay and furled sail. A sprit really helps. A proper torsional rope is critical. Expense is higher.

So what would my dream, no budget inventory be for downwind sailing? I’d have a big A2 runner in a sock for broad angles. For reaching, a Code Zero on a top down furler. The Code Zero would take the place of a big overlapping genoa allowing me to use a small, easily handled and more versatile headsail for upwind work. Both would set on a sprit.   


Orignally published in Blue Water Sailing, June 2014

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A Quick Guide to Reefing

Good seamanship is about anticipation and planning ahead. When you see whitecaps on the horizon, throw a reef in the main to keep your friends and family having fun this fall.

Taking your friends and family out for a day cruise is just about the best way we can think of to enjoy the fall colors that are about to start painting the northern parts of the U.S. But dragging the leeward rail in the water, saltwater (or any water) spray mixed in with your hot cider, and snacks splayed out over the deck isn’t fun for anyone.

Most people who sail in notoriously windy locals should have a reefable mainsail and headsail. The trick is to put to put the reef in before you need one. Your guests will have a much better time if they feel safe and stay dry, and your boat will be in a lot better shape at the end of the day if you plan ahead for the conditions.

To make sure everyone’s having fun, we put together a few best practices on when and how to reef:

Jib Reefing

An important feature of a roller furling headsails is having a foam or rope luff, that is, a tapered piece of material sewn into the luff that takes up the camber of sail when it rolls around the headstay, ensuring that the sail still has a clean flying shape when it’s rolled down. You can generally roll a headsail up to 30% before it loses its effective flying shape.

When furling, you don’t want to fight the sheet, so before you furl, follow good procedure and be prepared: Get ready to ease the sheet, luff up into the wind to take the load off the sail, take up on the furling line to wind the desired amount of sail onto the headstay, and then tack up slack on the sheet and resume sailing.

Good care and maintenance will protect your sail, make the job easier, and prevent loose sheets from flogging around and hitting someone in the face.

Mainsail Reefing

It is good tradecraft for a sailor to reef the mainsail before they have to—and a lot easier. When reefing, the most important thing is to protect the luff of the sail. Whether you have a bolt rope main or a slide main, something is likely to get broken if you don’t have the luff tension on first. Let the outhaul and the vang completely off, and then drop the main halyard down to the desired reef position. Get the tack of the reef fixed and then winch up the halyard to put good tension on the luff—this keeps the sail pulled forward. Once the luff is taught, you can take up the slack on the reef line on the clew, again making sure to put good tension on the foot of the sail.

If you have a loose-footed sail—most cruisers do—roll the reefed portion into itself and secure with sail ties or a heavy-duty shock cord. Take care not to tie the sail around the boom—it wouldn’t be the first time someone goes to shake out a reef and forgets a sail tie through a grommet and around the boom, ripping the sail down the middle. If you have a fixed foot, using one long shock cord to secure the sail (standard procedure on many racing boats) will help to prevent unnecessary damage. Once the reef is set and the sail is properly secured you can resume sailing.

P.S.—Furling mainsails can be reefed too. Just follow the procedure for your sail and system.

When & What to Reef

If the boat is heeling over and main is washing out, the first thing to do is roll the jib down, but smart seamanship requires looking at the conditions ahead and setting up the boat early before you get overpowered. You’ll see the water start to whitecap consistently between 11-16 knots. If you see whitecaps ahead, you should be thinking about a reef in the main. Look to where you want to go—if the boats already there are well heeled over, put in a reef. Depending on where you live, other telltale signs may include kite surfers ripping across the waves, a low fog blowing in, or racing boats crashing and burning—you don’t want that to be you!

Don’t wait until the conditions are too much. Being conservative is not only good for the enjoyment of your guests; it’s also good for your boat.

Motorsailing Home

If the conditions do get to be too much and you’re ready to head home, you may want to furl the jib and motorsail home. Don’t go straight upwind; it’s not fast or good for the sail. Move the traveler to centerline, and sheet the main on fairly tight. Sail off the wind just enough to keep the sail just filled and have a slight heel. You’ll use half the amount of fuel and go the same speed making the engine more efficient. It’s okay to tack back and forth while motorsailing, and it will be a lot more pleasant than bashing straight upwind.

You don’t have to shy away from windy fall days, just follow these tips and your cruise will be that much more enjoyable for everyone onboard! 

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