One of our website readers sent us the following email which reinforces our desire to keep writing and also emphasizes several points about using a nylon headsail to keep moving in light winds. (Light winds are a common problem in the South Pacific.) It also shows that sail makers will try to sell you sails and equipment such as roller furling gear that give them the highest profit not, as Ian’s letter shows, what you prefer or even what you need!
We have a yankee headsail on our Oyster 406 that is great above 15 knots of wind and below 10 knots is pretty useless so I needed something to take us along in light winds. I went to Southampton boat show last year and spoke to all the sailmakers about a drifter like you discuss in Cost Conscious Cruiser. Most of them didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Eventually I found one company that did understand and gave me a quote. But they all said we wouldn’t be able to take the sail down – most said that I would need at least a snuffer if not a furler. When we said we would put it in the wind shadow of the mainsail they looked at me as if I was slightly mad and clearly thought that this was not a workable option. Having not done this I wasn’t in a position to really argue!!
After a lot of discussion the company persuaded me that I also needed a furler for the drifter. So I ordered the sail with furler. Quite a lot of money! It arrived but they had
cut the sail wrong, with a low racing type clew. The furler was a complete disaster – I returned it all and wanted my money back for the furler and them to recut the sail correctly. To their credit they did all this and the refund was made immediately. the sail arrived back a week later. We left Guernsey to head down to Trebuerden in France and the wind was blowing 10 knots at first then dropped to about 6-7 knots. (We are on a trip from UK towards Spain, the Med or somewhere south.) Although we hadn’t tried it beforehand I decided to give the drifter a go. We used wool ties to stop it unfurling while we hoisted the sail – that worked great and a tug on the sheet unfurled the sail. We were off making about 5-6 knots in 7 knots of wind at about 60 degs to the apparent wind. Fantastic! I was really pleased that we had followed your advice.
Next how to get it down? We decided that we would take it down when the wind settled at 10 knots and certainly have it down by 12 knots. As the wind picked up and reached
11 knots it was time to get the sail down. We headed off downwind with the wind about 30 degs off the stern. Myself on the halyard and Carol-Ann on the sheet and clew. In spite of our concerns, and using your method the sail came down really well and most of it ended up on the foredeck – pity a bit of the foot went in the water but nonetheless I was pretty happy with the takedown. This sail now has a definite place in our sail inventory and I think will be more useful than a cruising chute.
A bit of a lengthy story but just to say thank you for the great advice in your Cost Conscious Cruiser book about the light air sails, it all worked as you said it would – fantastic.
Ian and Carol Ann BraynSmith
Larry and I have always carried both a drifter and a spinnaker on Taleisin and Seraffyn and tried MPS type sails during deliveries. We find the drifter far more useful and versatile for short handed cruising because it can be used on all points of sail effectively in light winds.
To elaborate on Ian’s discussion of dropping the sail – by turning downwind, the mainsail forms a lee, or blankets the headsail. This takes the power out of the sail and lets it basically just fall on the foredeck. We use this technique not only to take down light air headsails including the spinnaker, but also in heavier winds to get the jib down effectively.
This is Taleisin’s nylon drifter at work in the Bay of Islands. As you can see, we have the added complication of a bowsprit. But, as the sail is dropped in the lee of the mainsail, we pull the clue in, gather the bulk of the sail into its bag, then go out onto the bowsprit and let go the tack.
Photo courtesy of Ocean Photography