Not everyone can, or wants, to steal away offshore on a large cruising or racing boat for weeks on end. There’s something special about the daysailor – someone who finds the time to enjoy the sport in shorter spurts, but with just as much pleasure and passion. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, an evening adventurer, or just like to head out for a day on the waves, Quantum San Diego's Andrew LaPlant checks in with tips on making shorter sails the best they can be.
The type of boat you have will be a major driver in your sailcloth selection — if it’s an older boat, you can likely get away with more basic materials and cuts, while a newer or higher-performance boat may be better suited for high tech materials.
It also comes down to budget – since most daysailors are staying close to shore and not racing, you can choose a more economical sail that doesn’t need to meet offshore demands. Quantum sailmakers love cross-cut Dacron, an economical choice that is durable and long-lasting. There are also more batten options for daysailers — for offshore boats, it’s a question of if, not when, a vertical batten will get jammed with an in-mast furler, but for the average daysailer the performance improvements will outweigh the risk — if something happens, you’re not hundreds of miles offshore with a bum mainsail.
Consider what’s important for you and your passengers — do you want to go fast, or are you sailing for comfort? Having the right setup for your boat and your chosen activities means more fun, whether that means pointing higher or reducing heel.
Know Your Location
Consider where the boat is kept and where you’ll be doing the majority of your sailing. Will you be beam reaching all day long? Then you’ll want to keep a code zero or AWA sail on board. If you’re often running home, a spinnaker might be a good choice.
Keep weather patterns in mind, too — if you’re often sailing in heavy breeze, you’re going to want a second reef or a foam luff. You may also want to keep a smaller headsail in your arsenal. If you’re in an area with lighter conditions and often don’t sail on big days, you likely won’t need to have second reefing points, and you may want to keep a larger genoa onboard. For example, if you’re sailing on San Francisco Bay, prep your boat for big breeze as those are the regular conditions. But, if you’re down in San Diego, chances are you won’t sail on those infrequent days of heavy wind, so opt to optimize for lighter conditions.
UV exposure is the number one damaging factor to sails, so focus not only on where you’re sailing but where the boat and sails will be when not underway. If your boat is in the water or on the hard but out in the sun, invest in UV-resistant covers. If it's on a trailer, park it in the shade when possible.
When your time on the water is limited, daysailors don’t want to use up precious sailing time with setup, adjustment, and derigging afterwards.
The faster you can get your sails in and out, the more time you get to enjoy on the water. In-mast and in-boom furling are great options, as well as a roller-furler on the headsail. SailPacks are also a great option to keep things simple and are less expensive than retrofitting in-mast or in-boom furling systems. All of these options are fantastic for daysailers, because there’s no fuss putting the sails away.
Consider marking the location of your headsail cars and mainsail halyards for different conditions, too. If you’re headed out for the day and have the forecast in mind, you can make these rigging adjustments ahead of time to optimize the performance of your sails without having to fiddle with them while you’re underway.
For example, with a roller furling genoa, you can partially furl to reduce heel or depower, but you’ll often need to move the lead forward. Putting marks along the track means you can adjust accordingly and efficiently, and don’t have to spend a ton of time moving the car around.
Even though daysailing doesn’t require optimum performance at all times, it’s still important to stay on top of your sail maintenance. Visually inspect your sails every time you take them out — chafe and sun damage can be identified quickly visually – color changes, loose thread, and issues with furling can all indicate sun-damage.
If it starts to become difficult to get a neat furl, it may be time to chat with your local Quantum loft. We can recut the sail or take up the luff to make sure the sail stays flat so it can come in and out more easily. It’s important to address any furling issues sooner rather than later, as they can compound and create snags when getting your sails in and out.
On a headsail, sun wear on the corner webbing on the tack and head tends to be the first sign that the sail needs some TLC. You’ll want to repair it as soon as you notice wear — when these corners fail, it can be dramatic! Look for fraying and brittleness. If you can rub the webbing with a thumbnail and it starts to fray, bring it into your local Quantum loft as soon as possible.
Always keep up with your annual service, as often we can catch problems early and fix them, rather than wait for a failure that could lead to a full sail replacement. Generally, the stitching on a genoa is only going to last three or four years, and can deteriorate much quicker if left in the sun. If it’s been a while, it’s time to get your sails checked out.
Keep a photo log of your sails. When the sails are new, take a picture from the midfoot of your sail pointing up at the head, getting as much of the sail in the image as possible. Then, take photos annually (if not more frequently) from the same spot. You and your sailmaker can compare the photos side by side to see any changes over time — has it stretched, has the draft changed, etc. — and make recommendations to bring back the efficiency without necessarily having to replace them.
Now that we’ve covered the logistics of getting your boat in shape for daysailing, where to?!
If you have a trailerable boat, you’re not confined to just one body of water, so consider what’s within driving distance and explore. Many daysailers have a shallower draft, or adjustable keels/centerboards, meaning shallower waters are also safe, opening up an entire new world of waterways compared to some larger craft. You can get much more creative, getting closer to sandbars and beaches, or exploring further up waterways than larger boats can manage. Many coastal restaurants even have docks you can pull into for lunch or an early dinner — much more easily than with a larger cruiser. You’re also at an advantage if you don’t live close to a large body of water, as even land-locked states have lakes that are perfect for daysailers.
Whether you’re headed to an island, a sandbar, or just off to sail around for the day, pack snacks and some beverages (just remember to not drink and boat!), gather some fun friends and family, and head off to explore.