Ask Sail: Are Self-trackers Worth It?

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
You lose no power in a rig with a well-designed self-taking headsail

You lose no power in a rig with a well-designed self-taking headsail

Q: I’m seeing more and more self-tacking jibs out on the water (and in the pages of SAIL) these days. I can’t help thinking these boats are all hopelessly underpowered, especially off the wind, when compared to boats with even slightly overlapping headsails. But I could be wrong. How much extra power do you get from an overlapping headsail (as opposed to, say, a 150 percent genoa) compared to a typical self-tacker?

— Bradley Connor, San Diego, CA

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

When a yacht designer comes up with the sailplan for a design he/she has a certain amount of sail area that can be incorporated based on the righting moment of the boat. In the past, there was a feeling that a big headsail and a small mainsail was the way to go, in part because mainsails were a pain to deal with. However, as hardware changed and mainsails became easier to manage, designers found that it was better to concentrate the sail area there rather than the headsail. They, therefore, increased the sail area of the mainsail and moved the mast forward to keep the center of effort (CE) in the correct place. The net result is that you have the same sail area as before only distributed differently, so no, the boats are not underpowered. Also, except in all but the lightest of conditions, overlap is overrated. The 50 percent that wraps back around aft of the mast only causes the boat to heel once the wind comes up. Self-tacking jibs also more than pay for themselves in terms of convenience.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

November 2018

Related

sailingabove-2

Swan Flyer: A Hot New One-design

In a racing scene that’s bristling with innovation, legacy builder Nautor’s Swan refuses to be left behind in its quest to dominate the champagne end of one-design sailing. Arriving hard on the heels of the radical Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed ClubSwan 50, the ClubSwan 36 offers a ...read more

Maiden sets out for Uruguay during the 1989-90 Whitbread race

Making Maiden and the 1989-90 Whitbread Race

As recently as the late 1980s, the idea of an all-female sailing team in the Whitbread Round the World Race (the predecessor to the Volvo Ocean Race) seemed laughable to many. How could women handle the competition? They weren’t strong enough. They wouldn’t be able to take the ...read more

01-LEAD-J99

Four Very Different New Boat Designs

Following up on the J/121, which won a SAIL Best Boats award in 2018, the new J/99 represents a similar concept in a smaller package. Specifically, the new 32-footer’s deck layout and rig have been optimized for smaller and even doublehanded crews, with an eye toward meeting the ...read more

Dinghy Suggested CROP

Ask Sail: Dinghy Dilemma

DINGHY DILEMMA Q: We are in the throes of choosing a dinghy, and I would like to ask if you would recommend buying a RIB with a double-skinned hull rather than a single-skinned hull. Which provides better handling or stays drier? Also, aside from the heavier weight of a ...read more

Groupe Beneteau charging its boats in NEOLINE vessel

Transporting Sailboats Under Sail

Transporting sailboats under sail? That sounds like a cool concept, and it’s one that looks set to become reality in 2021 when shipping company Neoline brings its sailing cargo ships into service. Groupe Beneteau has committed to transporting boats between Europe and the United ...read more

01_vor120612_ross_0644

Sailing Master Ken Read

Images trigger memory. Preparing to interview the golden boy of American sailing, I thought I would find a picture that would show Ken Read at the peak of his sailing career, his heyday, to share and have a warm and fuzzy start to our conversation. It was a commanding image from ...read more

New-engine-being-lifted-over-stern

Know how: Replacing the Auxiliary Power System

One of the most complex tasks undertaken during Passion’s refit was the complete replacement of her auxiliary power system—engine, V-drive and fuel tanks. I needed more horsepower, which drove the need for more fuel capacity and a larger V-drive to handle the higher engine ...read more