As far as setting, gybing, and dousing is concerned, we found the A-sail was the easiest to handle, followed by the Parasailor2, and then finally the S-sail.
While the S-sail showed a slight speed advantage, it required the most hands and concentration to fly, making it great for race crews, but too much work for shorthanded cruisers. Also, because it requires more running rigging, it is the most demanding of the three sails, especially when it’s windy.
The A-sail gets our nod as the best overall downwind sail, mostly because of its simplicity, its ease of handling, and its higher, faster sailing angles. Plus, A-sails are a snap to gybe, which is a key reason why these sails have become so popular. That said, the Parasailor2 is now found aboard many boats taking part in the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Because of its ability to float in front of the boat when sailing DDW, the Parasailor2 would be aboard our boat if we ever decided to go offshore.
Lastly, it’s important to note that we tested the Parasailor2 without a mainsail. It’s possible we could have coaxed a bit more boatspeed with the main up; that said, many Parasailor2 owners prefer to fly the sail without the main, as it is so stable that it doesn’t require the additional balance of the main.
If you’re considering acquiring a new downwind cruising sail, we recommend that you add a spinnaker sleeve to the kit, as this allows you to easily contain the sail and lower it in a controlled manner. The only real drawback to using a spinnaker sleeve on an A-sail is that, on a masthead rig, it may jam up between the sail’s masthead sheave and the forestay so that you won’t be able to pass the sail through the slot when gybing. If you’re unsure of the clearances involved, contact your rigger.
Taming Your Kite
When it comes to cruising kites, spinnaker sleeves are the way to avoid dramas. Forget about tricky, sometimes-soggy takedowns or scary gybes. You simply hoist the sail in its sausage-like sleeve, then, when everybody is ready, one person goes forward and hauls on the sleeve’s trip line to raise it and release the spinnaker. A sleeve takes the worry out of gybes and takedowns too. Instead of trying to deal with a fussy sail and a complicated maneuver, one crewman goes forward and slides the sleeve down over the spinnaker, collapsing it, while another eases the sheets. Should the wind come up substantially while you’re flying your kite, you’ll be very happy that you’ve invested in a sleeve.