Sailing in 20-25 knot winds with only the headsail

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Excellent demo of sail trim. Balanced forces don't necessarily mean highest speed. Almost all control issues arise from mainsail trim, and anytime the boat is squirrely first look at the main. And let it out.

Luffing the main also happens to be the key to keeping a little Raymarine wheel pilot happy as the wind builds.


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Hmm... I dunno. When it came to me, the mast was raked an inch or two forward. When I installed the roller furler, I "corrected" it to pretty much plumb. Somewhere I saw that it should be 4 inches back. The only way to do that would be to add a link or toggle under the furler to lengthen the forestay. I could be wrong, but I didn't think a couple of inches would make much difference.


Well, with the chute up in a lot of air, you sort of can do that. Photogenic. :)

More than “Do That” ....Been there and actually did it once with but our cruising chute!

Made the mistake of tacking it down on a beautiful light breeze day. I got caught with an unexpected (unexplainable) and undetected long lasting gust giving us a serious knockdown before I could release the line!

Worth noting was as the boat laid on her starboard side, the cockpit filled quickly and water quickly filled to almost the fully open companionway! Magically (by Bruce King’s superior design) the water failed to be able to pour into the cabin while laying on her side!!

...Lessons fully learned for sure about tying down a spinnaker sheet and major kudos to the perfection of design and engineering by Mr. King!!!!


I got my little boat to balance last time I went out, but only with the main practically flailing...

“Little Boat”????? When I first bought my Catalina 22 back in ‘71, I thought it was the Queen Mary moving up from a Moth Class!

“Perspective” is the key word! That Catalina (Yacht Knot) took us from Miami to West End, Grand Bahamas, Freeport/Lucaya, down to Bimini and back to Miami! Although a DUMB sail in retrospect today, the boat did very well which included a VERY INTENSE STORM midway between Grand Bahama Island and Bimini!

Keep in mind, ...the captain and crew may give up LONG before the vessel!

Anticipation, preparation, determination and reactions are the KEY ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS to getting through the worst of ALL situations!!

It’s more a matter of personal comfort. Hugo Vallin (sp??) crossed the Atlantic in a 6’ sailboat (April Fool) in the late 60’s or early 70’s! ;-))

Simply make your vessel “The Proper Yacht”!


Member II
We sailed about 6,000 miles offshore with just the headsail, and a lot of it furled, in our E38. Most of it was near or at hull speed, reaching, upwind we usually went with partially furled headsail and heavily reefed main. Sailed well and Monitor wind vane steered like a pro. Downwind, we locked the headsail in place with pole because seas were pretty significant, but the boat sailed like a champ.


Member III
I just sailed Cinderella (35-2) from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, arriving yesterday morning at 2:eek:0am. We decided to ride the back edge of a high/front edge of a low to get a nice downwind 120nm run down the NZ coast. It’s winter and you have to pick your windows here carefully. Swell was forecast at .2m, but of course swell was about 1.5m bigger than forecast at departure, and steadily built during our 20hr sail.

Yes, these boats can sail well with only the jib in flat water I used to sail around lake Union is Seattle all the time without hoisting the main. But in a swell, they roll like mad without the main and good luck pointing to weather with just the jib. With the main, however, these boats sail to weather very well even in very shitty swell conditions.

The main really helps calm down the boat’s roll down and lock her into a steady heel. That being said, we are easily overpowered when the winds build, as our boats are relatively light and built for southern California's light air. Adding acouple reefs in the main really pays dividends for long distance breezy passages.

We had a really great passage that started in light air with full sail. By the end our main was down to our very small third reef and up front we carried the full #2 jib. It was probably blowing 20 with gusts close the the 30’s, but fortunately we made it into shelter before the low got here. Tomorrow’s forecast is for gusts to 52 kts! Hello Hauraki Gulf